Healthy Habits for 2013: Teaching Your Children the Importance of Health and Fitness

It is often that a new year means a new start and new goals for the upcoming months! My co-workers and I have recently had the family exerciseprivilege of attending a presentation related to how to improve upon the foods we are consuming and the exercises we are participating in so that we can increase our energy levels and overall health. I want to share this knowledge with you. As adults (parents, teachers, therapists), we have a huge influence on the lifestyles the children around us are going to live. We need to make sure that we are teaching our children well so they can learn to make their own healthy choices in the future. Here are a few simple facts to keep in mind for yourself as well as your family:

5 Tips For A Healthier Lifestyle:

  • When you are grocery shopping or cooking a recipe at home, the most important item to lconsider the serving size that the nutrition label provides. This will not only help you determine if there are enough servings for your entire family, but it will also help you determine how much of an item you should actually be consuming (e.g. ½ cup compared to 1 cup is a big difference)!
  • As a general rule, try to fill your grocery cart with items that are primarily from the perimeter of the grocery store, including fresh produce (e.g. fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and poultry). This will help your family eat more fresh food instead of processed items.
  • As a reminder, vegetables offer an abundant amount of vitamins and minerals;however, when you overcook your vegetables, you will not get as much vitamins out of them. Try to eat the majority of your vegetables raw instead of overcook in order to gain the greatest benefits.
  • Keep in mind that our bodies are designed to consume food. We need food for energy as well as for survival. With this in mind, rather than instill the newest fad diet into your family’s lifestyle, try to focus on the importance of eating significant amounts of protein and other foods that will give your body the nourishment it needs to make it through the entire day. It is recommended to never skip meals or count calories too intensely.
  • Encourage your family to drink plenty of water throughout the day. This can easily be done by sending a water bottle with your child to school in his/her lunchbox or backpack. Water keeps us hydrated and helps our bodies run more smoothly.

As you see above, there are many simple tips that we can use in order to live a healthier lifestyle as well as encourage those around us to be healthier too, especially children. Try implementing some of the strategies above and see if you notice a difference in your overall energy level! In addition, stay tuned for my next blog regarding fun ways to get your children to be more active. As always, if you have any questions or concerns or wonder how this can be more individualized for your child and family, please reach out to one of our nutrition therapists for additional guidance.


Does Your Child Have Poor Body Awareness?

Body awareness relates to knowing where your body is in a defined space. It is also linked to our proprioceptive system (the input that body awarenesswe get from our joints and muscles). Children who have poor body awareness may have a difficult time in functioning at a certain age level due to the subsequent difficulty that they may have when learning new tasks.

Here are a few signs that signify poor body awareness in children:

  1. Prefer to be in small rooms as opposed to wide open spaces. They may also prefer confined spaces, such as forts, closets or being under blankets. Children with poor body awareness feel more secure in small spaces rather than open areas because they have a better idea of where they are in space.
  2. Do not like to be in the dark or do not like to close their eyes. In order to make up for the fact that he or she has poor body awareness, children may rely on what they see in order to know where they are. If he or she is in a dark room, they may not understand where they are in that defined space.
  3. Like big bear hugs. Due to their decreased processing of proprioceptive information, children may prefer to be squeezed tightly because it gives a lot of input to their joints and muscles.
  4. Have difficulty mimicking movements, such as hand games or licking lips. When someone else shows them something they want the child to imitate, a child with poor body awareness may not understand how to move their body in the same way because they have a harder time understanding where their body parts are and how much to move them.
  5. Has a hard time learning new gross motor activities, such as jumping jacks. Gross motor activities rely heavily on the input children get to their muscles and joints when jumping on the ground or climbing. Since children with poor body awareness have a difficult time processing that feeling to their body, learning these activities are more difficult for them. As a result, these children may need to look in the mirror to learn new gross motor tasks. This is because children have to see what they are doing in order to learn how to manipulate their body in that manner.
  6. They may seem clumsy. Children who trip over objects or their own feet do so because they don’t know where their body parts are.

These issues occur because children usually compensate by using their vision in order to know where they are. In order to improve body awareness, occupational therapy can help to improve their ability to process the feeling of movement to their joints and their muscles. In order to learn new tasks, compensatory strategies can be used in order to help them keep up with their peers, such as using visual cues to help them learn new activities or breaking down tasks to make them simpler until they have mastered those skills.

Overall, occupational therapy can help identify solutions for children in order to improve their body awareness so that they may be more coordinated, confident and safe when performing age-appropriate activities!


Let the Games Begin: How to Help Your Child to use Games in a Different Way

As I mentioned before in my previous blog, it is important for parents to consider traditional board games as well as hands-on toys forlegos this holiday season. While new technology is impressive, traditional board games and hands-on toys continue to be an ideal way for children to work on a variety of skills allow them to explore their environment and pursue their own personal interests. One common struggle that parents may encounter is that their children may become ‘bored’ with their toys after a short period of time, therefore, this proves to be a perfect time to help your children think of alternative ways to play a game.

Below are a few suggestions as to how to break down a game and address different skills:

  • Easel: While an easel is a great place for your child to draw pictures and paint, it can also be used for practicing your child’s spelling words, playing Tic-Tac-Toe, Pictionary or Hangman and for creating a visual schedule. Similarly, have your child use  clothes
    pins or clips to hang his or her paper onto the easel to address their hand strength, pincer grasp and upper body strength. These skills will benefit their handwriting and other fine motor tasks.
  • LEGOs: It is often that children will have plenty of ideas of what they would like to create using their LEGOs, whether it be pirate ships, castles or spaceships. In addition, parents can challenge their child’s visual skills by building a structure and then asking the child to copy that identical structure using the exact same colors and placement of the LEGOs. This activity will help your child improve upon copying complex designs as well as tracking skills(to move his eyes left to right and up and down). Tracking skills ultimately help your child improve his or her visual skills for reading and handwriting (as both activities happen left to right).
  • Puzzles: It can be difficult for children to want to sit down and work on completing a puzzle as puzzles can be challenging and they often require patience and attention to detail. With that being said, try mixing it up a little bit for your child by creating a scavenger hunt with the puzzles pieces. One person is the ‘hider’ who hides the puzzle pieces and then can provide “hot/cold” verbal cues to help the ‘finder’ locate all of the missing pieces. Similarly, the ‘hider’ could create a Treasure Map in order to help the ‘finder’ locate the missing puzzle pieces or the ‘treasure’. Creating a Treasure Map enhances creativity, problem solving, planning and executing skills (completing a task start to finish). Similarly, it helps to improve fine motor and visual motor skills to create the map. Overall, a puzzle helps to address your child’s visual motor skills, problem solving skills and the skill of being able to politely request help when needed.

As you can see, many of your child’s games and toys can be used in a variety of ways and not only what is printed in the instruction manual. Similarly, there are various strategies to use in order to improve your child’s fine motor, gross motor, attention and motor planning skills with a fun and simple family game night. Please contact your child’s occupational therapist for more individualized ideas for your particular child. Let the games begin!