Starfish Therapies

January 3, 2011

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2010

Its the end of the year and its time for my Top 10 Blog Posts of 2010.  Based on readership these were the posts that got the most views this past year.  If you want to compare to last year check out Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009!

10.  Repetition and the Beauty of ‘Redo’

9.  Standing Straight and Tall

8.  Climbing:  The Catch-22

7.  Having a Ball With Core Muscle Strength

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

5. Buns of Steel

4. Strategies for Tummy Time

3.  Do Video Games Promote of Hinder Child Development?

2.  Glossary of Sitting

1.  Sensory Exploration in Today’s Society

There you have it, the Top 10 for 2010!  If you have any ideas for 2011 please share them, I always look forward to ideas for new posts!  Happy Holiday Season to everyone!

October 28, 2010

Animals Galore!




So, to go along with my post from last week I was looking at other imaginative ways to encourage play and gross motor skills (oral motor as well if you throw in the animal sounds!).  Well, one of my favorite is to pretend to be animals.  You can do animal parades, animal races, animal charades, Simon Says animals, etc.  Here are some of the animals I use and I will do my best to list some of the gross motor benefits for each animal.

Bear: Have your child walk on their hands and feet so they are bent in the middle.   Walking this way helps to stretch out hamstrings and calf muscles.  It also helps with balance, upper extremity weight bearing, total body coordination, core strength and leg strength.

Rabbit/Kangaroo: Have your child hop on two feet, for added effect you can have them hold their hands up in front of their chest since both animals have tiny arms.  This works on jumping, endurance, and leg strength.

Dog/Cat: Crawling on hands and knees (although they could also be mouse or hamster, etc).  This works upper extremity weight bearing, total body coordination with reciprocal movement, core strength, weight shifting, leg strength, and head and neck strength.

Lizard: Have your child ‘commando’ crawl on their belly.  This works on reciprocal total body coordination, weight and pelvis shifting, upper and lower extremity strengthening, and core strength.

Crab: Have you child sit on their bottom and put their hands behind their tush, then lift their tush off the ground by pushing through their arms and legs.  Basically they will be making a table with their body.  This one is really challenging because of the motor planning so don’t let your child get discouraged.  Even if they start out scooting along and dropping their bottom keep encouraging them over time to use their arms and legs to walk with, without their bottom hitting the floor! This really works their coordination, reciprocal movement, core strength, upper extremity weight bearing and leg strength.

Snake: Have your child lie on their belly and and use their arms to push up their chest and then pull themselves along.  It can look like the old break dancing move ‘The Worm’ but even the lift and pull will work to start.  This works on upper extremity weight bearing, coordination and core strength.

Duck: Have your child squat down so that their feet are flat on the floor but their bottoms are not on the floor.  Have them walk in this position (and add in arm flapping for good measure).  This really works on balance as well as stretching calf muscles, coordination, endurance, core muscle strength and leg strength.

Frog: Have your child squat down so their hands and feet are touching the floor with their knees bent.  Have them hop forward (use circles for lily pads if you can).  This works on leg and core strength, and jumping.

Bird: Have your child lie on their stomach and lift their head, arms and legs up in the air.  If they can flap their arms also that’s an added bonus!  This works on coordination, and total body strength.

Flamingo: Have your child stand on one foot.  Make sure you take turns between feet.  This works on balance, core strength, endurance.

These are just a few.  Please feel free to add your own if I have forgotten some animals and variations that you and your children use!

September 16, 2010

Scheduled or ‘Over’ Scheduled

I know it has been a while since I posted and I apologize but it makes a great topic for this post. I was so scheduled for the last month or so that I didn’t have time to do much of anything except work. It got me thinking about kids and how scheduled their lives are these days. I notice our society (and I am guilty of) thinking more is better and that’s not always the case. Just as I like and need down time to read or make plans with friends, kids need time to be kids. This is when they get to develop and explore skills that they have been working on, whatever that may be. For instance if a child is always in skilled therapies when do they get a chance to integrate and practice the skills in their everyday life? When do they get to just be a kid?  Even kids not in therapy are often ‘over-scheduled’ and miss out on free play time where they get to figure out what happens next and develop their imagination, play and social skills.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying kids shouldn’t have routine or structure but sometimes ‘therapy vacations’ are good, or just a vacation can be good. This doesn’t mean its time for them to sit in a chair all day in front of the tv or video games or computer but rather they get to play with their siblings or mom and dad, or just do something completely new. There are some great ads on the radio right now for adults to do something new daily or weekly (such as drive a different way to work, or eat with your opposite hand) to keep their brain challenged. Well kids are the same way. New or novel environments and situations allow them to challenge themselves organically rather than on a structured setting. For kids that are receiving therapy, this chance at a break or a novel environment provides their bodies and brains get a chance to integrate skills they have been learning and then give them the opportunity to ‘play’ with their new found skills.

So, just like every once in a while we adults need to take a mental health day or take time to unwind, your kids need it too. They may surprise you and create some unexpected results as a result!

July 19, 2010

Screen Time: How Much is Too Much?

With the rise in electronic gadgets and media that is educational, more and more children are spending increased amounts of time in front of the television, or the iphone, or the ipad, or the computer. While it is great that there are educational benefits to the programming that is available, don’t overdo it.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has a policy statement out with their recommendations for screen time.  They say no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming per day, remove televisions from kids rooms, and for kids under 2 discourage screen time all together in favor of more interactive activities.  In fact they also issue a statement that has them strongly opposed to television for kids under 2.  They aren’t saying that there aren’t benefits but that the benefits of watching tv have not been shown.

What I found even more interesting was in a blog post by Your Therapy Source.  An article that will be published in Pediatrics found that there is an association between screen time (tv and video game use) and attention problems later in childhood.

I am also amazed at how well some of the little kids do with navigating an iphone!  They are better than I am.  There are some great options out there for kids to use (such as Duck Duck Moose) on it but make it a special treat or for that occasion when you need to keep your child occupied and there aren’t any other options.  Once again, moderation is the key!

There are so many ways to interact with your child and encourage active participation rather than in front of a screen.  Maybe create your own show to put on for your family.  Play board or card games, do creative play with their toys.  I could go on and on with ideas for things to play with your kids or to encourage them to amuse themselves.  I would love to hear some of the ideas that are out there already.

May 24, 2010

No Kid Left Inside – Benefits of Outdoor Play

Here is the last part of my talk.  We’ve talked about why kids aren’t outside playing and ideas for how to get them outside playing.  In this post I’m going to talk about the benefits of getting them outside and playing more.  The three main areas I’m going to look at are:  Physical, Social/Emotional, and Educational.  A lot of the benefits cross multiple areas but I will do my best to break them down!

One of the obvious physical benefits of getting kids outside to play is the increased exercise they will be getting as opposed to sitting in front of the screen.  Increased exercise allows them to burn off extra calories which decreases their risk of obesity.  In addition, if they are outside playing they have to stop to have a snack whereas if they are sitting in front of the tv or computer its a lot easier to just snack compulsively!  The decreased risk of obesity also brings with it decreased risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.  In fact research shows that kids who play outside an average of 90 minutes a day in good weather have less risk of heart trouble later in life.

Vitamin D is also an important part of growth and development.  It helps to absorb calcium and to control rennin and protein associated with high blood pressure.  It is derived 90% from sun exposure and almost impossible to get an adequate amount from food and vitamins alone.  Getting kids outside increases their exposure to sun and their natural production of vitamin D.  Just make sure they get some sunscreen as well!

Playing outside can help kids to blow off steam and excess energy which can lead to improved sleep and better behavior.  In addition the physical activity helps to build small and large muscles, strengthen bones and condition the lungs.  Fresh air and exercise improves overall health by building strength, endurance and coordination.

Social emotional benefits of playing outside may not be as clear cut.  One benefit is that it allows kids to move freely, make noise and self-express themselves in ways that may not be encouraged inside.  It also encourages logical thinking and the ability to reason through highly interactive activity such as building sand castles, playing games with friends or exploring nature.  Other things that are encouraged or stimulated through this type of play is healthy risk taking, stretching of the imagination, and exploration of what interests them while discovering what they like to do.

Time spent playing outside with peers helps to create social skills that are needed to create healthy friendships.  In addition, they physical play (which creates the physical benefits) help them to gain confidence and are more motivated to try new things as their skills improve (running, climbing, throwing to name a few).  Qualities of leadership and cooperation can also begin to develop.  When children are sure of themselves and what they can do they are more likely to interact with others.  Also, cooperative style playing encourages kids to play with others and work in groups.  This also leads way to the development of conflict resolution when the need arises.

Unstructured play allows kids to develop their own styles of play while enhancing and supporting creativity and imagination.  In fact in this article it tells us that ‘several studies have shown that regular unstructured playtime in nature makes kids smarter, calmer, more self-disciplined, more cooperative and happier.’

Sensory benefits fall under multiple categories but they need to be mentioned.  Playing outside stimulates movement and sensory exploration.  There has also been found to be a link between getting kids outside to play and a decrease in severity of ADD symptoms.

Last but not least are the educational benefits.  Being outside in nature is a great way to introduce science and/or enhance their exposure to science.  They also get to explore with their five senses.  In fact its been found that kids who play outside are better prepared for their education as compared to their peers who primarily play video games or watch tv.  In addition to that, children learn from motion, its how they develop their perceptual abilities so if they are sitting in front of a screen they lose many of the experiences they gain from being outside.

I hope this has brought a glimmer of awareness regarding the benefits of outdoor play and exposure for kids.  Once again, I’m attaching my power point presentation and if you aren’t able to access it and want a copy please send me a request.

No Kid Left Inside

May 11, 2010

No Kid Left Inside – Why Kids Aren’t Outside

I was supposed to do a talk on this topic today and had my power point presentation ready and everything and then slowly but surely the RSVP’s backed out.  So I decided to blog about the topic.  I have attempted to link the power point presentation to the end of this post, if it isn’t there please let me know and I will email it to you.  I am breaking my blog up into several different posts.  This one deals with why kids aren’t outside as much these days.

I was reminiscing recently with a mom about how when we were kids we were outside playing all day long, especially once school was out for the summer.  I remember wanting to go back out after dinner and negotiating my curfew so that I could stay out until the sun went down – in the summer this was much later than the 6pm I normally had to be home by!  We were commenting that we noticed a trend with kids over the last decade or so and its that they don’t play outside anymore (ok, that was a blanket statement but it seems to be more true than not these days).  The following paragraphs will look at some of the reasons for this trend.

Today we live in an electronic world.  Kids, and adults alike are spending increasing amounts of time in front of a screen, whether its tv, video, computer, telephone, ipod/ipad/iphone, etc.  There’s no escaping it.  Even sending kids to their room isn’t a punishment anymore!  In the article ‘How TV Affects Your Child‘ they take a look at the number of hours kids are spending in front of a screen thanks to a study from the Kaiser Family Foundation.  For example, 2/3 of kids under the age of 2 spend at least 2 hours, kids under 6 spend at least 2 hours, and kids 8-18 spend at least 4 hours in front of the screen.  The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement on their recommendations for the amount of screen time a child should be getting.  Kids under 2 shouldn’t be watching any tv and kids older than 2 should only be watching 1-2 hours of quality programming a day.  I know in this day and age its hard to limit screen time, especially when that’s what a child is interested in but you can work to create a balance.  For every hour of screen time they get a day, they have to spend an hour outside.  It may be tough but stick to it and you may start to notice a shift!

Safety of neighborhoods is another big reason cited for not letting kids go outside to play.   I don’t know if neighborhoods are actually less safe than they used to be or if the media plays a big role in this perception.  This article has a section (The decline of neighborhoods and loss of children’s outdoor play groups)  that talks about some of the changes that have occurred. I do think that there are more families with both parents working and working longer hours, which means that they are home less.  In years past neighbors created relationships with each other and watched out for each other s kids.  In addition, there is fear of physical injury to kids who are playing outside and parents often look to control the risk by keeping kids indoors in a more controlled environment.  This has its own set of risks as 1 in 3 kids are overweight or at risk for becoming so which increases their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Piggybacking on the topic above is the change in kids and adults schedules and how busy they are these days.  Many kids have extracurricular activities and enrichment classes that keep them indoors or they have parents that work and aren’t home to oversee them outside.  It may mean taking time to reassess the importance of getting your kids outside versus the benefit of one more scheduled indoor activity.  Maybe look at getting a babysitter with the express purpose of playing with your kids outside while you are at work.

In addition, a lot of kids aren’t comfortable or familiar with unscripted play anymore.  They are used to enhanced digital worlds being brought to them in a regimented fashion that they haven’t exercised their imagination and play muscles.  And, dirt has gotten a bad rep over the years and less kids and adults are willing to get dirty.  We live in a world of anti bacterial protection and dirt is considered bad.  Unfortunately or fortunately, playing outside involves dirt and mess!

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!

August 9, 2009

Do Video Games Promote or Hinder Child Development?

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In an age of technology where video games are becoming more and more prevalent, I often wonder what the effects of video games are on a child’s development.  There is a mixture of information out there and I found a few articles that look at everything from physical development to their creativity and imagination to the importance of play for kids.  These articles still didn’t answer my questions and I think that’s because there is good and bad that can come out of playing video games.  The Wii Fit encourages kids to start exercising which is a good thing these days with childhood obesity on the rise, however what are they missing out on by not getting out and playing outside or actual sports?  Are they missing out on quality social interactions with their peers?

I have also always wondered if the ability to restart a game when it doesn’t go the way you want it to carries over into a child’s ability to handle obstacles that go along with gross motor development?  There isn’t a restart button in life but we can pick ourselves up and keep going.  I often see kids who are learning a more complex task like jump rope or monkey bars, or even riding a tricycle/bike want to give up after they haven’t mastered it on the first few tries.  It takes enrollment skills to keep them going, such as pointing out what they did master and encouraging them to go for the next step.  I think this relates back to developing a child’s resilience.

I do know that video games can improve hand eye coordination but do we then encourage our kids to go out and utilize that hand eye coordination away from the video console?  It can be as simple as playing catch, or frisbee, or hopscotch.

I think the conclusions I’ve taken away from looking at the information out there as well as observing a plethora of children is that video games can be a good tool although the question is how much are they being used and what other tools are you utilizing with your child to encourage their fitness and physical development?  Does anyone else have thoughts on this topic?

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