Starfish Therapies

May 17, 2010

No Kid Left Inside – How to Encourage Outdoor Play

Ok, here is part 2 of some of the topics I was going to address in my ‘No Kid Left Inside’ talk.  Once again, the power point is linked at the bottom but if you are unable to access it please let me know and I will email it to you.

So we’ve looked at some of the reasons that kids aren’t outside but that doesn’t solve the problem.  I did address a few solutions in Why Kids Aren’t Outside, but I will attempt to provide you with even more solutions in the paragraphs that follow!

One of the biggest solutions to getting your child to go outside and play is to go outside with them.  If you are setting a good example they are more likely to follow.  They want to model your behaviors.  They want to play with you.  I know this isn’t easy with the busy lives we all lead but some things you can do is opt for an hour walk with your kids instead of going to the gym and getting on the treadmill.  Or, you can go on family bike outings on the weekends or after work/school instead of riding the stationary bike.  Create an activity that you can do together like planting a small garden, even if its a window sill garden.  This can be used to explain nature and get them even more interested in science.

If scheduling really does become a problem look into hiring a caregiver with the express purpose of taking the kids outside.  Maybe its an older kid in the neighborhood or a babysitter.  Whoever it is the kids will learn that when this person is around they go outside.  Maybe take turns with some of the families in your neighborhood for watching the kids in the yard, or at the park (if a yard isn’t an option).  Even if its once a week to start and you switch off weeks.  Kids have more fun if there are other kids playing too.  You could start with inviting the neighbor kids over to play and build on it from there.  Another great idea is to create a weekly park day where you get together with other families that you are friends with at the park.  The kids know that this is the day they go to the park, its supervised and you get to have quality adult time as well!

If you don’t know other kids/families in your area because you go to a different school, get involved with the local library or YMCA or the bookstore and meet some families.  All it takes is one connection and you can start meeting more.  If your child doesn’t want to go outside when given the choice, make the choice simpler.  Only give them two and both of them are outside.  For instance, do you want to go on a bike ride or go play on the play structure?  I utilize this in all areas.  This way they have some control, and even think its their idea.

If you are worried about getting in extra educational time make it a nature exploring trip.  Take things like magnifying glasses or a bag to collect leaves and then you can look them up when you get home.  If you are making a garden, you can follow up with how plants grow.  If its raining take a look at what role water plays in the environment.    Go on a scavenger hunt in the back yard, or the local park or the neighborhood.  Get the kids involved by having them each add a few items to the list and then everyone has to go find them.  You can talk about the items afterwards.

Make the outside an inviting place to be.  Maybe invest in some outside only toys such as a wading pool or sand box or sports equipment.  Even sidewalk chalk and bubbles are simple and fun.  If its a public place and needs some help getting it cleaned up get others involved and organize a clean up day with your neighbors and the kids.  It will teach them about trash, recycling, responsibility and they will feel some pride/ownership of the area they have cleaned up.

Be willing to get dirty.  How much fun do you think your kids will find you if you are willing to jump in the puddles with them the next time it rains, or build a mud pie, or run through the sprinkler?  Maybe find an area where it will be okay to dig and go searching for treasure.  We used to think we could dig through to the other side of the world when we were outside digging!

Getting kids outside doesn’t have to be a big process.  You can start small with 15 minute increments.  Maybe instead of finger painting inside, you take it outside.  Or instead of drawing on the paper you practice with the sidewalk chalk.  Learning to ride a bike, tricycle or scooter is a simple and easy way to get outside.

I would love to hear other ideas that parents and caregivers have for getting kids outside!  I will follow up with more ideas for outside activities as well as why getting outside is so beneficial.

No Kid Left Inside

January 4, 2010

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009

I always loved David Letterman’s Top 10 lists so I decided to create my own for the Top 10 Blog Posts in 2009. This is based on the number of times they were viewed.

10. Early Intervention and Budget Cuts in California

9.  Bike Riding

8.  Having a Ball with Core Muscle Strength

7.  Fun Ideas For Sensory Exploration

6.  Why is W-sitting a Four Letter Word?

5.  How Resilient is Your Child?

4.  Buns of Steel

3.  Why is w-sitting Being Promoted in Advertising?

2.  Do Video Games Promote or Hinder Child Development?

1.  Sensory Exploration in Today’s Society

I’m looking forward to see what posts will be top for 2010!  Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

December 7, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

With the holidays upon us I thought I would offer some ideas for gifts for your little ones.  I will be referring to some old posts throughout that may have touched on some toy/gift ideas!

The first two posts are the Motor Smart Toys and Tips.  Both the first and the second one offered great toy ideas and ways to use them to not only have fun with your child but to encourage gross motor skills.  Strategies for Tummy Time and To Crawl or Not to Crawl both offered ideas as well.

Bike Riding offers several ideas for wheeled toys for your children.  Along with the ones mentioned in there I have a few more suggestions.  For kids who need increased support and assistance with bike riding check out Freedom Concepts Tricycles.  For those that need some help and aren’t able to use a typical tricycle at this time but have some trunk control there are the Me Too Trikes.  In addition to the Skuut there are a multitude of other pedal-less bikes out there.  For scooters I like Radio Flyer or Razor (which both come in all different levels).

For fine motor or sensory toys and ideas check out Fun Ideas for Sensory Exploration or 50 Toys in 50 Days also more ideas on Let Kids Play.

Some other ideas of our tried and true favorites have been listed on our website under Helpful Products, as well as other places to go looking for toys.

For iphone or ipod touch owners check out the games at Duck Duck Moose.  Looking for something to keep kids occupied during the holiday meals that are sure to pop up?  Check out Hello Hanna‘s great placemats!

I would love to know your child’s favorite toy or toys, or any ideas you have to share with parents, aunts, uncles, friends, etc who are looking to find the perfect gift for the special little ones in their life.  Please post your ideas for all to share!

October 12, 2009

Bike Riding

Bicycle and tricycle riding are a great activity for kids of all ages.  It’s fun and is an excellent source of exercise.  Besides the obvious cardiovascular exercise there are some other benefits that you may not be aware of.

(Just an FYI I am talking about your children in this post although a lot of the benefits are just as applicable to adults!)

In terms of leg strengthening (which is the most obvious), it will help to develop stronger calf muscles, quadriceps (or thigh) muscles and gluts (see ‘Buns of Steel‘ for why this is important).  It also engages your child’s core trunk muscles, and their arms.  When they are having to really work to pedal, for example when they are going up a slight incline, they really grip and pull on the handlebars with their arms to counteract the increased leg movement.  This causes their abdominals, including their obliques (those elusive muscles that we do twisting situps to workout), and their arms to kick in.

Bike riding will also work on your child’s posture.  Its really hard to ride a bike while slumping.  Its a little easier to ride a tricycle in a slumped position but that’s only if the child is being pushed.  When they are doing the pedaling they are almost forced to sit up straight!  I have watched one of my kiddos who normally sits in a slumped low tone posture, literally straighten up and stay up straight the minute he starts pedaling his bicycle.  Since posture muscles need endurace, bike riding is a great way to increase their endurance so it will carry over into other activities.

The reciprocal (alternating) motion of the legs used for pedaling also engages both sides of the brain.  In addition to this, it reinforces a great movement pattern that is essential for walking, crawling, and ascending and descending stairs.  In addition, for children who have increased tone (hypertonia), the continuous motion of the pedaling can help to regulate the tone.

The most versatile tricycle I have seen for teaching your kids how to pedal is the Little Tikes 3-in-1.  It gives different support options as well as the ability to lock out steering and provides assited pedaling.  If you have ever attempted to teach a child to ride a tricycle without the locked out steering and assisted pedaling you will be amazed at how much easier it is on you with these options!  Once they master the tricycle the little mini two wheelers are great.  It changes them to a more upright position which is actually easier to pedal with than the typical recumbant position on a tricycle.  Check out Motor Smart Toys and Tips for how to use a jump rope to save your back while teaching bike riding!  The Skuut or pedaless bike (there are other brands and designs now that function the same way) is also great for working on balance that can translate over into bike riding without training wheels.

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