Oftentimes, playgrounds are overlooked as just places where children can run around and  burn some energy. While this is true, playgrounds are also a great environment to practice your child’s gross motor skills, such as balance, trunk control, motor planning, bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, and strength. Below are several ways to use various pieces of equipment at your local playground to improve your child’s motor skills. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

Here are 8 tips for motor skill activities at the park:

  • Monkey bars: challenge your child to hang from the monkey bars for as long as he can. This will help develop his hand strength, upper body strength, and endurance. Similarly, have your child practice chin-ups or pull-ups on the monkey bars. Your child can also practice crossing the monkey bars by placing both hands onto the same bar or alternating hands (one on each bar).Child is rolling down a slide
  • Prone down slide: have your child ride down a slide on his stomach like Superman (head first, with arms and legs extended). Once your child reaches the bottom of the slide, help your child wheelbarrow walk across the playground, as he will already be in the correct position (support your child at his ankles, knees, or hips, depending on his skill level).
  • Zip line: when crossing the zip line, instruct your child to lift his knees towards his chest the entire way. This will help develop his core muscles, along with his motor planning and upper body strength.
  • Rock climbing wall: choose which color of rock your child is or is not allowed to use to help him get up the wall (e.g. do not use the blue rocks). Rock climbing addresses upper body strength, bilateral skills, trunk control, motor planning, and problem solving.
  • Fireman pole: challenge your child to climb up the fireman’s pole as high as he can, with the goal of reaching all the way up to the platform. This will help increase his upper body strength, bilateral skills, and motor planning.
  • Pull-up bar: have your child hang upside down on the pull-up bar (with legs hanging over the bar, and head inverted). This will address his vestibular system, as his head will be tipped out of its normal alignment, changing the position of his ear canals (e.g. going on a roller coaster). The vestibular system is important for balance and body awareness.
  • Lily pads: work on your child’s opposition by challenging him to step onto the lily pad with one foot and the opposite arm (e.g. step with right foot, grab with left arm), then switch. Opposition is needed for ball skills used in sports such as baseball and soccer. This activity will also help address his balance and motor planning.
  • Tunnels: have your child army crawl through the tunnel (on his belly, propped up on elbows/forearms, and using upper body to propel self forward). This will address motor planning, upper body strength, and trunk control. Similarly, if the tunnel is large enough, challenge your child to complete different animal walks through the tunnel (e.g. crab walk, seal walk).

Note: Make sure to monitor your child during the above activities to keep him safe, along with  others at the park. Stay tuned for my next blog on ways to work on social skills at the park.

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In today’s Webisode, a Pediatric Behavior Analyst explains techniques on how to encourage your child to do homework. She will cover various approaches to help the parent understand the child’s behavior and assist him to want to do homework as a result.

In this video you will learn:

  • What goals can a parent set to help the child do homework
  • The significance of adaptive behavior with the approach to homework
  • Ways to help your child want to do homework

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. Today I’m standing with Behavior Analyst Katie

Katie, can you give us some pointers on how to encourage a child
to do homework?

Katie: Yes. To help your child get more involved with their homework,
some things that you can do are create a schedule in which
there’s an exact day and time that your child will do the
homework. Looking at weekdays, they can do their homework right
when they get home from school or maybe they want to do it after

Another thing is the weekends. It is usually best to have your
child do homework on Friday so they’re not rushing on Sunday
night trying to get it done. With this schedule of the time, you
definitely want to have your child involved. Have them pick out
the time and just be creative with that. With that being done,
you do want to stick to having that schedule and always do
homework at that time.

Even with a schedule, there might be situations where your child
will want to do something else. He might want to go play
basketball or play Wii. In those situations you want to use
‘first/then’ directives. You’re still going to stick to that
schedule. You’re going to tell your child, “First you can do
your homework, and then you can go play basketball.”

Another thing that can be helpful is having a designated area to
do homework. To do that, pick an area in the house. You want to
find somewhere where there aren’t a lot of distractions, maybe
in the kitchen doing it at the table or at the computer or
office studio. Those would be great choices. Even going to the
library and having his homework be done there. With your
designated area, you do want to go ahead and have all the
utensils that the child would need; pencils, paper, markers,
whatever they would need, so they’re not wasting time and
prolonging the homework process.

Another thing that can be done is providing praise for your
child and giving them encouragement, “Great job doing your
work,” and, “I like how you’re being so studious.” With more
challenging things, you can do things in regards to giving them
tangible reinforcement. Maybe they had a really big task or a
really big project that they spent a lot of time on and were
nervous about. You can do an extra little, “Let’s go get some
ice cream,” or, “You got an A on that test. I’m so happy. I know
you wanted this toy,” just a little more reinforcement. You
don’t always want to give that reinforcement because you want
them to be doing their homework on their own, but that’s just
helpful for harder subjects or things that they might struggle

Another thing is that when your child is doing homework, you
should also be quiet. You don’t want to be doing things that are
going to be fun and exciting that your child would want to do.
Try to avoid playing on the computer, doing Wii Fit, and things
of that nature. At that time you can be paying your bills or
responding to emails, something that’s just a little more low-
key and your child won’t want to be involved with.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much. Those are actually really
wonderful tips. Thank you to our viewers, and remember, keep on

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at LearnMore.me. That’s LearnMore.me.


Is it hard to help your child “turn-off” her brain before bedtime?  Does your child constantly get out of bed or struggle to fall asleep at night?  Oftentimes, it is hard for a child to understand what her body is feeling and vocalize what she might need in order to feel more balanced and organized.  Overall, children truly benefit from a daily bedtime routine that helps their bodies find a consistent sleep cycle.

The following activities will make for a smoother bedtime transition and help your child’s mind and body become more relaxed:

1)      Use a visual schedule: Pictures and cues can help your child see what is included in each step of the routine and help you both talk about the plan and keep a consistent bedtime routine (e.g. first is bath time, second is brushing teeth, third is story time, fourth is turning the nightlight on, fifth is hugs and kisses, etc).

2)      Prepare for the next morning:  Help your child get ready for the next day (e.g. lay out her outfit, pack her lunch, and organize her backpack).  This will not only help your child be more independent, but also will eliminate the morning rush.BEDTIME

3)      Keep a bedtime notebook/journal: Keep a notebook near your child’s bed, and help your child write down the day’s events, anything she might be worried about, and any thoughts that are running through her head.  If she is a younger child, have her describe her feelings by drawing pictures or using one or two phrases.  If she is an older child, have her use complete sentences or bullet points, and possibly write out her thoughts independently.  Jotting down what is fresh on her mind will ideally help to eliminate any anxiety that might keep her from falling asleep.  It can also serve as a “to-do” list or reminder of what needs to be done in the next day or two.

4)      Heavy work:  Have your child engage in heavy exercise activities to help fatigue her mind and body, and  get out all the excess energy.  Heavy work can include: animal walks (e.g. crab walk, wheelbarrow walks, bunny hops, seal walks, army crawls), exercises (e.g. jump-roping, push-ups, sit-ups, Superman position (on stomach, with arms and legs extended and lifted off of the floor), Silly bug position (on back, with arms crossed over chest and head and legs flexed into body), and everyday activities (e.g. pushing/pulling wagon or stroller, carrying/pushing full laundry basket).

5)      Take a warm bath: Oftentimes, warm water serves as a great muscle relaxer, and can help melt away some of the stress and worries of the day.  Try using a soothing lavender scent, which can help your child further unwind.

6)      Lotion massage: Help your child apply lotion after bath time and/or before putting her pajamas on.  Provide your child with either a gentle or firm massage, depending on her preference, as the lotion rubs into her skin, as some children show aversion to light or deep touches.  Massages help relax the muscles and decrease stress and tension.  http://www.target.com/p/JOHNSON-JOHNSON-Bedtime-Lotion-15-fl-oz-15-oz/-/A-13682492#?lnk=sc_qi_detailimage

7)      Make a “kiddo sandwich/hotdog”: Provide your child with proprioceptive and tactile input by creating a “sandwich/hotdog” using large pillows and blankets (e.g. have the child lay on top of a large pillow or pile of pillows and cover her body with another pillow, providing “squishes” to add the sandwich ingredients; or roll your child snugly in a blanket like a hotdog, providing “squishes” to add the ketchup and mustard, etc).  This will help increase her body awareness and calm her body down.

8)      Set a timer: Set the timer on the microwave or use a regular timer to show your child how much time she has before bed, or more specifically, how much time she has left to complete a certain bedtime activity such as reading a book.  This will ideally help to eliminate the battle of “just one more book” or “just 5 more minutes”, because there is already a pre-determined amount of time set aside.   http://www.american-classroom-supply.com/nsearch.html?query=time+timer

9)      Listen to calm music: Help your child set a sleep timer on her alarm clock or simply play a CD , either while she lies in bed or as she begins her bedtime routine (e.g. reading a book).  Quiet lullaby music can help a child let go of the thoughts running through her mind and help her get in a more relaxed state.

10)   Weighted blanket/sleeping bag: Cover your child with a weighted blanket in order to provide her with extra tactile and proprioceptive (body awareness) input.  A weighted blanket helps provide an evenly distributed weight and a calming effect.  http://funandfunction.com/sensory-integration-everything-weighted-c-65_235_237.html

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Note:  If you have more specific questions regarding your child’s sleep patterns, please contact one of our neuropsychologists for further evaluation.  Similarly, if you have questions as to how to apply the above strategies to your own child, feel free to contact one of our occupational therapists.

Tips to Improve Washing and Grooming for the Sensitive Child

Often, children get frustrated when they try to bath, wash, and groom . They don’t always know what to expect, depending on the specific sensory challenges they face. Allergies, poor balance, and fear of water are just a few of the issues they may deal with as they approach these tasks.

Here are some useful tips to help your child adjust to daily washing and grooming activities:

  • Try using a visual schedule, including picture symbols for each task. Setting predictable routines will help your child know what to expect for everyday self-care tasks.Little boy resistant to taking a bath
  • Use a heavy washcloth and slowly apply deep pressure to clean the face and body. Do the same while shampooing. Slow deep pressure is more organizing than light touch.
  • Allow the child to choose shower or bath. If your child is fearful of balance-related activities, try showering rather than bathing. If your child has poor standing endurance or visual perceptual difficulties, bathing may be more tolerable for your child.
  • Dim the lights and minimize sound if your child is easily overwhelmed.
  • Use unscented soap to decrease sensitivity towards smell. This may also help with skin irritation if your child’s skin is sensitive.
  • Use a small hand towel (again, with slow deep pressure!) to dry, as it is less bulky and easier to manage. Dry off in front of a mirror and talk about each body part as you dry it to increase your child’s body awareness.
  • Use motivators and music. Praise small accomplishments and make bath time fun with toys/ games!

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What To Expect When You Are Expecting… Special Needs

With the new movie “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” coming out based on the pregnancy bible, it is important for expectant mother’s and father’s to also familiarize themselves with the possibility that they may have a child with a special need.  Of course, the last thing we want to think about when we are What To Expect When You're Expectingpregnant is a special needs child. However, a pregnant couple can just keep in mind what to look for or ask when they are expecting:

5 Steps to take when you are expecting a baby:

  1. If the ultrasound is anything but normal, or if they see anything that raises concern, find out what can be done immediately upon birth.  You may also want to set up meetings with a therapy clinic to talk with experts and specialists.
  2. Read up on parenting, behavior management, and normal child development so that you know what to look for when the infant arrives. You do have a pediatrician, but you are the expert on your own child and even pediatricians will depend on you, the parent for providing any concern or red flags. The American Pediatric Association is a great resource as is the state association, such as the Illinois Pediatric Association.
  3. Tell your best friends and your family to let you know if they ever think something is off or up with your baby once it comes. Ask them beforehand, you may be too emotional afterwards.
  4. Eat well, exercise per doctors orders, keep yourself happy and calm, and avoid alcohol and non-advised medicine, see your OBGYN for regular pre-natal visits and stay out of trouble!
  5. If you are an expectant mom, expecting an adoptive baby, use expert websites such as the Children’s Research Triangle  in Chicago, or Northwestern Family Institute, to know what to be looking for in your child. You may not have been there for the first months and need to be a super-detective when it comes to you child.  Read the blogs here, to learn everything you can about child development!

While you need to enjoy your pregnancy, reality and knowledge is always a good thing to have just in case.  No parent is ever fully prepared for a special needs child.  However, have any knowledge prior to a diagnosis, will only help you make the right decisions for your child and family.

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How To Set Technology Rules

In the past few years, Ipads, Ipod touches and other tablet devices have given children the ability to text, talk, and surf the web younger than ever before. Children as young as 5 and 6 are using electronic tablets and Ipod Touches to not only play games, but also to take pictures, make videos as well as face-time and send texts using apps such as text-free or text-plus. These devices are opening a whole new world to children, but parents must be aware of how their children are using these devices and also create rules to ensure the children are using this technology safely and appropriately. As a teacher, I have put together a list of guidelines that may help your family create rules about the use of technology in the home.

 Technology Guidelines For Children:

Texting: Set specific hours and times that texting may take place. For example, texting is allowed after school until 7pm. Phones, ipods and tablets need to be turned off at night. Be nice with texts.girl on computer You may not send mean messages or use texting to talk about other people in a mean way. Remember, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all-this rule applies to texting, too!

No texting times: No texting during dinner and family time, and no texting during homework time. Parents need to also follow these rules and model appropriate behavior such as not texting while driving.

Videos/Photos: No sending videos or photos without permission. This helps children understand that they cannot just send anything to anyone. Children may think it is funny to take a picture of a friend in an awkward position and then send it on to a friend, but may not realize that the picture can then be sent to many more people or even posted on the web.

Facetiming/Skyping: Ask a parent before facetiming or video chatting with a friend. Remember, when we Skype or Facetime we invite another person into our home. We need to be sure that our house is “open for visitors.”

Internet: Ask permission before searching on the web. This includes Googling and searching on You Tube. It is best to keep the family computer in a central location to monitor what your children are viewing on-line. Limit use of wireless devices behind closed doors. If your child has an Ipad or Ipod you can go to the Apple store or call Apple customer service to have certain restrictions put on their device to prevent them from looking at inappropriate websites.

You Tube: Tell mom or dad before going on this site. It has become popular for kids to post on You Tube and other similar sites. You may want to limit this or make it a “no” item in your house. A similar rule can be applied to Facebook or other social media sites even those geared to younger children such as Club Penguin.

Account sign up: Do not sign up for anything, give emails or other personal information to any site on line. Do not order apps or other software without permission. Children learn emails and passwords quickly. It is important to explain to them the danger of giving out personal information or typing personal information into the computer. They may not understand that this information can be used by other people to do harm.

Technology has grown dramatically in the past few years and our children have access to many wonderful devices; however, this new technology is presenting a whole new parenting issue. Parents need to be aware of how their children are using these devices and help them to understand the dangers as well as the benefits.

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MOMMY-ITIS! What is it?

As moms, we share our brains with our children or our husband daily. They rarely are just our brains to do with what we please! So, what good tips can  you remember while using YOUR mommy brain so that you don’t spend your child’s childhood with MOMMY-ITIS?

How to handle your “Mommy Stress”:

  1. When you think about your kids, and what they did to make you angry, sad or stress you out: manage yourself. Focus on what you can do to make things better, not always trying to fix them. stressed mom with lots of kidsDo you need a better schedule? Do you need more breaks or more help at home? Do you need to communicate better with your husband to get the child behaving better? Do you need to meet with an expert to get parenting advice?
  2. Don’t REACT, ACT! Manage it!  We all have bad things happen to us, we just don’t have to be victimized by it. So, when the hubby is in a bad mood or the kids are obnoxious, don’t raise your tone and get all negative with everyone….get control! Use your positive and happy parenting and personal skills to make change in the present!
  3. Mom you probably get on your own case more than anybody! Do you think that If you are tough enough on yourself it will make you better? No! this is not good thinking! Be happy! You can set standards and have high expectations but you don’t need to beat the you know what out of yourself! Craziness does not get a good response! Look at yourself in the mirror and enjoy your age, your health, your being! Tell yourself you are trying hard and things are not horrible and you are happy to be alive and given privileges and chances to make your children good people with good lives! Be positive and use constructive language with yourself, don’t bring yourself down!

Be happy and get over your MOMMY-ITIS! THIS IS YOUR RX!

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Daddy’s Home!!! How To Keep A Positive Attitude After A long Day At Work

(This article is meant for fathers-but of course Moms, you can read too)

Like most of you dads out there, I work very hard each day. I rarely take a lunch break, and don’t take a lot of days off. That’s just how I am wired. I father home from workam confident that many of you fathers out there are the same way. It’s in our blood, it’s how we were raised, and we’re proud of our work ethic.

I am first and foremost, the proud, doting father to a 5 year old girl and a 2 year old boy. I would do anything for them at any time, just like you would do anything for your child at any time. Our young children don’t know why we work and come home tired. We do it for them, but they won’t understand it until they have kids someday.

There have been times when I’ve come home from a hard day, and not been “there” for my kids. I was tired or stressed or just not in a good mood. That’s normal, but how we react to feeling like that is critical. When I think about those times, I cringe. My kids are waiting for me. Should it be their problem that I had a busy day? I promised myself, not so long ago, that I would try my hardest to walk in the door each night with an over exaggerated, flamboyant, happy entrance that would help to ensure my kids never lose the “Daddy’s Home!!!” excitement.

5 Tips To Relieve A Bad Mood Before Coming Home To Your Kids:

  • On the drive home, turn the radio up loud, roll down the windows and sing a long.
  • Eat something ( I go with candy, but I don’t condone candy eating).
  • Do not answer the cell phone.
  • If driving helps, do what Supertramp says and “Take the Long Way Home”.
  • Think about your kids, and how fun it is to play with them when you get home and of course how great it feels to see their happy faces at your arrival.

Following these tips will not only ensure a stronger, healthier relationship with your children, but it will also help you feel better about yourself and your day!

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Five Things to do in a Week for a Mom to Keep her Sanity

Moms need a break from it all. We need time to enjoy our kids while we are with them and time to re-energize and re-set for the next day. So, here it is:

5 things a mom can do to keep her sanity: stressed mom

1) Make a daily schedule.

2) Write goals for herself and a plan for reaching them with dates on it to have some accountability.

3) Exercise daily or at least three days a week. The natural endorphins are key.

4) Communicate with your spouse! If you are not getting what you need and always giving what your spouse needs, trouble looms ahead. Communicate in every way, from the spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional, tell it like it is.

5) Have a girls night out once or twice a month. Not only is it fun, relaxing and bonding, it is nice to hear what your girlfriends have planned, have going on, and have on their minds that may validate or help you be a super person, mom and wife!

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Parent Self-Care: How to care for YOU while you care for your child

Some parents feel guilty if they purposefully take time away from their kids to pursue their own interests. On the other hand, turning yourself down from these opportunities may mean you have less and less to give of yourself to your kids. Mothers who make time to pursue relaxing activities and/or favorite hobbies not only feel happier day to day, but their kids feel it too! It has a calming effect on your children and also provides you with more energy to tend to daily tasks. You need time to re-energize from the world’s hardest but most rewarding job! Here are some pointers for getting started. Please add a comment below if you have your own great idea to add!

How To Care For Yourself When You Have Children:happy parents

  • Seek out hobbies that “feed your soul”
  • Revisit your old childhood hobbies and passions
  • Wake up earlier or go to bed later than your family for alone time
  • Take bubble baths or extra long showers
  • Trade massages with your partner (or go professional)
  • Take long walks (alone or with a companion)
  • Call at least one friend per week
  • Organize “Moms only” nights with friends
  • Date night with your partner
  • Eat healthy and exercise
  • Write in a journal
  • Practice meditation and mindfulness

*Kvols, K.J. (1998). Redirecting children’s behavior. Seattle, Washington: Parenting Press, Inc. a

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North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s).  Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses.  No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT  to people submitting questions.  Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.