Why Downhill Skiing is a Great Gross Motor Activity for Children

As I stated in my previous blog, many sporting events are not only enjoyable to watch for entertainment purposes, but they can also child skiingbe a perfect gross motor and extracurricular activity to get your child involved in with his peers. Both individualized and team sports incorporate many different skill sets that help your child to follow the guidance and leadership of another adult (i.e. the coach; an instructor).

Below are some examples of skills that downhill skiing could address for your child:

  • Balance:  Downhill skiing requires a significant amount of balance in order to efficiently set-up the boots and skis (e.g. clicking ski boots into skis), safely get onto a tow rope and/or a ‘magic carpet’ ski lift and prevent themselves falling down the ski hill.  Downhill skiing requires the child to maintain a relaxed posture going down the
    hill, rather than a stiff posture. A relaxed posture provides the child a reduced chance of falling. It can also better maintain his/her center of gravity.
  • Bilateral skills:  Using both sides of his/her body, including his hands and feet, in order to control and utilize the skis and ski poles.  Also, when getting onto the chair lift, a child is required to place one hand onto the back of the chair lift and use the other hand to hold the ski poles, therefore, the child utilizes both hands at once for different purposes in order to have the greatest success.
  • Timing and sequencing:  Being able to anticipate how often to complete turns when going down the ski hill in order to slow oneself down and remain in control. He/She will also need to understand where the other skiers are on the ski hill and move accordingly.  Similarly, when getting on and off of the chair lift, a child must use the correct timing and sequencing in order to prevent missing the chair lift and/or not getting off the chair lift in time.
  • Safety awareness and body awareness:  Being able to avoid crashing into another skier and being mindful of where your body is in space, so that you remain in control and make it easier for other skiers to know where you are going.  In addition, being mindful of where your ski poles are so that they don’t poke another skier and/or so you don’t drop them while on the chair lift or halfway down the ski hill.

As you can see, downhill skiing is not only a great form of exercise and a way for your child to learn a new hobby, it also helps your child improve many skills that are needed throughout daily life.  Similarly, the earlier your child learns how to ski, the easier it will be as learning a novel task as an adult can be more challenging. This is due to the fact that adults tend to be more cautious and over-analyze the task at hand. Feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher, occupational therapist or physical therapist to see if downhill skiing or other gross motor activities will be best for your child.  See you on the slopes!

Skills Addressed When Making Paper Snowflakes

Even though the holidays are over, there are plenty of winter projects that you can create with your children at home! I always like to snow flake projectremind parents that there are numerous activities that you likely participate in at home already that incorporate a variety of age-appropriate skills and help your child grow and learn. One such activity is making paper snowflakes. Paper snowflakes can be as simple or as complex as you would like them to be and will certainly make your house appear to be more festive this winter!

Paper Snowflakes

Materials: paper (colored or plain), scissors, pencil, decorations (e.g. sequence, glitter, markers) and a hole puncher. Use string if you want to hang them like garland.

Directions:

  1. Fold the paper at least 2 times (e.g. in half and in half again)
  2. Use a pencil to draw out particular shapes if you have a design in mind
  3. Cut out various shapes from the creased sides of the paper
  4. Open up the folded paper to see your snowflake
  5. Add decorations as you like and/or punch a hole in the top and hang from string like garland

Skills Addressed:

  • Folding paper- The child has to line up the edges and produce a crease
  • Cutting- The child has to manipulate his scissors to cut out various shapes within the folded paper (which also addresses hand strength)
  • Bilateral skills- The child has to hold and turn the paper in one hand and manipulate the scissors with the other hand
  • Visual Motor skills- The child must be able to visualize how many shapes are able to fit within the crease of the paper and if the scissors will be able to fit to successfully cut out the shapes
  • Creativity- The child has the chance to use his/her imagination to make his snowflake look however he would like it to look. Encourage your child to be as unique and individualized as possible- there is not a ‘correct’ way when making crafts!

As you can see, crafts provide more than just a ‘time-filler’ for you children! Crafts help to address fine motor skills, visual motor skills and direction-following. Try using a theme or a topic of interest for your child and watch his imagination take flight! Feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or occupational therapist if you have any questions or concerns that are related to your child’s fine motor or visual motor skills.

New Years Resolutions: A Chance for Kids to Make Goals and See Their Achievements

We frequently set goals for ourselves; parents set their sights on goals for their children and therapists identify skill areas to build upon girl setting goals for the children they work with. There is a reason why we make a new years resolution with each year that passes- it is motivating to set your sights on something new. Goal setting can be fun; encourage kids to join in!
Make goals less of an obligation and more of a motivation by encouraging children to speak for themselves. You will be surprised with what they come up with. As children are not usually asked to set goals themselves (and in fact it is quite an abstract question at that), below is a framework for discussing goal-setting with children.

How To Goal Set With Children:

  • Present goal setting as a form of “wish list” for children. These wishes can be as big as they would like them to be, such as what a child wants to be when they grow up, getting a pet that they have been desperately asking for or earning more of an allowance each week. This makes a goal tangible and relevant to every child.
  • Get more specific by organizing these wishes into certain areas of life. Examples are listed below:
    • Personal- practice piano 30 minutes per day.
    • Social- limit phone calls to 30 minutes on school nights.
    • Family- plan a family activity at least every two weeks.
    • Academic- clean out my backpack before bed every night.
    • Physical – learn to pass the ball to teammates during soccer practice.
  • Set short-term goals that are to be attained before reaching larger, more long-term goals. Short-term goals should be a part of an action plan (a specific description of what a child must do to get to the ultimate goal).
    • For example, before a pet joins the family, a child must show responsibility by independently making their bed and sorting their laundry.
    • Make these goals measurable so that a child knows “when” and “how” this goal is achieved.
    • Mark progress! If a child remembered to do laundry 3 days out of the 5 days, this is a HUGE improvement from before the child started doing laundry- celebrate it.
      • Think of how exciting that trip to the scale was when you’ve lost your first few pounds- it keeps you going. Help your child keep going by celebrating baby steps.
      • Charts, stickers, announcements via white-board or at the dinner table serve to encourage children and keep them on track.

Including a child in setting their own goals can lead to greater outcomes through increased motivation and personal investment in each goal. It empowers kids and changes the conversation from “you have to do” to “what do you want to do? How can you make it happen?” Keep in mind that goals can be individual or family-wide. Take advantage of this New Year to start healthy and fun habits at home by setting goals that require the whole family to work together.

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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!

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Physical Activities to Get your Child Moving | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist will explain creative ways to help your child get up and get active!

In this video you will learn:

  • What indoor games are best for encouraging physical activity with your child
  • What outdoor activities increase muscular activity
  • What gaming system is best for enhancing your child’s activity

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 you’re host, here’s
Robyn.

Robyn: Hello, and welcome to Pediatric Therapy TV. I’m your host Robyn
Ackerman, and today I’m standing here with Leida Van Oss, a
pediatric physical therapist. Leida, can you tell us some
physical activities that we can use to get our children
moving?

Leida: Sure. When you want to get your kid moving and active, it’s
really important that it’s something that’s fun to them. So
if they’re really interested in doing board games, there
are a couple different board games you can do, such as
Hullabaloo or I Can Do That by Cat in the Hat or Twister.
If they like to go outdoors, then do something like a
sport, like swimming or soccer, or if there’s snow on the
ground, you can build forts or go sledding. But it’s really
important to pick something that they’re going to be
interested in so that they get really active.

If they really like video games, there are a lot of good active video
games you can do, especially with the new system, the
Kinect. Things like Just Dance or Dance, Dance Revolution
are all really good games that incorporate the video game
aspect with being really active.

Robyn: All right. Well, thank you so much for those tips, and thank
you to our viewers, and remember, keep on blossoming.

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.

5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions

While discussing the topic of New Year’s Resolutions, health-related resolutions must be the most popular. With this in mind, hownew years resolution many of these resolutions are actually kept through the year’s end?   This is a list of healthy resolutions that involve small changes and have a significant impact on health.  These resolutions are achievable if you are able to make them a priority. One or more of these habits can become your new lifestyle in 2013.

5 Healthy New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Eat vegetables at least twice a day. We are aiming to be realistic. Many individuals do not get veggies at least once per day. Eat one of these fresh veggies as opposed to cooked or canned. If you are already eating vegetables twice a day, increase it to three times per day. For the kids, the goal is to offer vegetables at least twice a day and model the good habit. Here are some ideas to incorporate more vegetables into your diet:
    1. Roasted vegetables. Chop a variety of colors, such as red or green peppers, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, etc. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and any of your favorite spices. Put in the oven at 375 until softened and slightly browned. Great for dinner or leftover for lunch.
    2. Have plenty of prepared vegetables available for quick snacks or lunches. This can be sliced carrots, pre-washed salad greens, sliced or diced broccoli and cauliflower, snow peas, sugar snap peas or roasted vegetables leftover from dinner.
    3. Spinach or other baby greens blended in smoothies.
    4. Stir fry a variety of chopped veggies with meat, shrimp or tofu and your favorite sauce.
  2. Switch to whole grain. Once you make the switch from white to whole grain, your body will thank you. When you are used to eating whole grain products, your taste preference will adjust and the difference will not be as noticeable. Whole grain contains the fiber and nutrients that have been stripped from “white” grain products. The fiber slows the glycemic load of the carbohydrates that are digested into the blood stream so that your blood sugar does not spike and then drop as drastically after meals. Fiber also keeps things moving along in the gut as well as indirectly lowers cholesterol.
  3. Eat out once per week or less. This probably means you will need to revamp your grocery shopping routine so you always have food for meals in the house. It also means you will need to do some time management and planning so that you are able to prepare meals each week. In addition, you may need to get new recipes that will fit into this lifestyle change. Although cooking may seem more time-consuming, eating from home is one of the healthiest habits you can have. Eating out most often means consuming calories, more sodium, more additives and spending more money.
  4. Eat three meals per day, including breakfast. Eating breakfast gives your body and brain fuel to get through the day. In addition, individuals that do not eat breakfast each day tend to overeat later in the day. Aim to include whole grains, fruit and protein at each breakfast.
  5. Schedule an appointment to see a registered dietitian. All of the above ideas are great recommendations for anyone but by meeting with a dietitian, you will receive a personal assessment of your current health status. You will also receive a nutrition plan that is created just for you and your family in order to improve health and quality of life. Our dietitians can provide meal planning, recipes, grocery store meetings and in-home cooking demonstrations. They can also recommend dietary changes to improve gastrointestinal problems, food sensitivity issues, weight issues and more.

To schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, click here.

 

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How to Make School Breaks Easier on Your Child and Your Family

School breaks can be a fun and exciting time for children, but they may be chaotic, stressful and dysregulating for them as well. The messy houseschool day is full of structure and predictability. While some kids may enjoy the continuous free time that vacations offer, other children may thrive during the school year and may regress academically, behaviorally and in their overall daily functioning and independence.

Here are some suggestions to help your child stay happy and continue to feel great during vacations from school:

  • Create a Daily Schedule: Outline a basic daily schedule for your child to follow. This can include an early time for them to wake-up, any household responsibilities they may have and activities that are planned for that day (grocery store, mall, movie theater, etc). Depending upon the age of your child, you may want to include precise times for the day. Pictures of the basic plan may be sufficient. This provides a level of predictability
    and structure that your child is accustomed to during a typical school day.
  • Provide responsibilities: Assigning your child specific responsibilities will give them a tangible task to not only be responsible for, but something they can also be proud of as well. It will also be a way for them to feel successful. When children are in school, they often have a classroom “job” as well as being responsible for their individual belongings. This helps them to improve their confidence and feelings of success and pride throughout the day. These feelings can easily be transferred to the home environment by assigning household chores (cleaning or organizing) For older children, writing the grocery list and having them help at the market are acceptable responsibilities.
  • Physical activity: Participating in heavy physical activity is a great way to help your child get and remain regulated. The school day offers multiple opportunities for kids to get up and move their bodies (recess, gym class, etc.). It can be simple to incorporate physical activity into your child’s day:
    • Animal walks
    • Push a full laundry basket around the house (to make it more fun setup a race course to push the laundry basket through)
    • Jumping jacks
  • Provide assignments/projects: Kids are accustomed to sitting at a desk and completing assignments each day that they are in school. They are given the opportunity to learn new information and then show what they know through their work sheets, quizzes and projects. This is another great structured activity that can also improve self-esteem and confidence in your child. A simple way to get assignments or projects for your child is to ask their teacher for any worksheets or ideas of tasks that can be done at home (worksheets, flash cards, reading). You can also incorporate more hands-on activities such as cooking, easy at-home science experiments, etc. If your child’s teacher does not have anything to help you, you can search the Internet for age/grade-appropriate projects and assignments.
  • Projects (younger kids vs older kids) cooking, art, science

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6 Fine Motor Toys

When your child has challenges in some domain of their development, you may have questions as to what toys you should purchase art easel that will captivate your child’s creativity, allow for hours of good fun and facilitate the opportunity for your child to expand their skills.

Below is a list of toys that may enhance your child’s fine motor development this holiday season:

  1. An Easel: Easels are frequently used throughout the therapy gym to enhance fine motor skills. Their inverted plane helps your child stabilize their wrist in the correct position while completing fine motor tasks. Allow your child to exercise their creative side by coloring, drawing and writing with paint, markers, crayons and colored pencils.
  2. Piano Keyboard: Keyboards are an excellent way for your child to solidify their ability to isolate finger movements. This fine motor movement pattern is important for your child as they learn to complete self-care tasks and as they learn to manipulate their pencil. Provide your child with a workbook to teach them some of the basics of
    keyboarding skills. Simple songs to begin playing include “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.”
  3. Mr. Bucket Game: This game is a wonderful way to work on turning your child’s wrist to the sky and to the floor as well as utensil manipulation.
  4. Operation: Gather around the table to see who has the steadiest of hands in this hilarious family board game. Children of all ages can work to improve their hand strength and fine motor precision while using tweezers to remove silly game pieces from the body of their “patient.” Don’t get too close to the sides or you’ll hear a big “buzz!”
  5. Scramble: This game will allow your child to practice their fine pincer grasp as they race time to fit all of the pieces into the game board before the timer runs out. As an added bonus, it gives your child the opportunity to practice their ability to visually discriminate between shapes.
  6. Wipe Clean Board Book: This booklet allows your child to become the teacher while practicing their letters and numbers on a dry erase board. These boards offer the opportunity for a great number of repetitions while first learning to write. These repetitions will lead to improved overall fine motor control and letter formation at school as well as on paper!

These are just a few examples of games and toys that could be used to enhance your child’s fine motor development. For additional examples, feel free to ask your skilled occupational therapist. Happy Holidays!

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10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break

School is out for a few weeks, but that doesn’t mean your child has to stop working on language concepts. Using these 10 tips, you can winter girlwork with your child to promote his or her language skills in a fun and meaningful way!

10 Ways to Promote Language Skills During Winter Break:

    1. Narrate Everything: Explaining what you’re doing can help expose your child to the correct production of language concepts and verb tenses. Narration can also help to increase your child’s vocabulary size. Some examples include: “I am putting the eggs in the bowl” or “I cracked the eggs”, etc.
    2. Make Lists: Creating a list of items can help increase vocabulary. If you create lists with your child of grocery items, gifts needed, or even locations, it can help to promote language development and thought organization.
    3. Build Vocabulary: Targeting and explaining new winter words can help to improve your child’s vocabulary. Saying things like, “look at the snowman,” “the icicle is hanging from the tree,” or “look at those children sledding,” will reinforce the new words and encourage usage.
    4. Read Aloud: Reading aloud to your child is extremely beneficial for language development. When reading stories, emphasizing and reinforcing new words will enhance vocabulary skills, and asking questions while reading encourages understanding (e.g., what did the Polar Bear see?). If age appropriate, ask your child to retell the story (or part of the story). This will allow him or her to use new vocabulary words in context.
    5. Emphasize Pronouns: Many children struggle with correct usage of pronouns, so emphasizing pronouns at family functions can help reinforce correct production. Some examples include: “look what he is doing,” “she made the cake,” or “I hope we get to watch the movie!”
    6. Take Turns: Playing holiday games can promote your child’s ability to follow directions and learn about turn-taking. Games are a great way to target these language skills, and you can reinforce turn-taking and direction following by saying things like, “my turn” or “your turn.” Children may also benefit from posing the question, “whose turn is it?” and then allowing time for them to answer with “mine” or “yours.”
    7. Promote Social Skills: Pragmatic language, or the social use of language, can be targeted during winter break as well. Preparing your child to use appropriate greetings when family arrives, demonstrating appropriate volume during family gatherings, and discussing the social rules of gift exchange can be very beneficial to children who may be struggling with how to act in social situations.
    8. Ask “Wh”-questions: Asking your child questions throughout the day is a great way to encourage language skills, including naming and understanding functions. Questions like, “what do we use to make a snowman?” or “where do your gloves/hat/scarf go?” or “who baked the cookies?” can all help to enhance language skills.
    9. Use Sequencing: Discussing the appropriate sequence of actions for winter activities can not only target language concepts (e.g., first, next, last), it can also target your child’s awareness and planning. Asking your child to sequence how to get ready to build a snowman or wrap a present will allow him or her to list the steps required using many different language concepts.
    10. Find Similarities/Differences: Examining the similarities and differences of winter concepts as they relate to summer or other seasons can solidify a child’s understanding of seasons, as well as develop winter vocabulary. Asking questions like, “how is snow different from rain?” will target various cognitive/language skills and promote language development.




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Decorating for Christmas | 5 Activities to Improve Handwriting Skills

All children may benefit from exercising their fine motor muscles. Fine motor skills (coordination, grasping, precision) as well as fine stringing ornamentsmotor strength and endurance are strongly associated with handwriting legibility, endurance and speed. Additional skills, such as bilateral coordination, visual-motor integration (eye-hand coordination) and manual dexterity (manipulation speed) contribute to producing legible writing as well. Legible handwriting, of course, is pertinent in order to successfully complete written schoolwork and assignments. The holidays offer a plethora of opportunities to exercise little hands—here are just a few!

Holiday Activities To Improve Handwriting Skills:

  • Stringing popcorn—this activity can strengthen your child’s fine pincher grasp abilities and improve bilateral coordination—both of which are vital skills for handwriting. If your child is too young to use a needle, have him or her string holiday colored beads onto a shoelace to add a bit of homemade flair to your tree. This will also provide a finger flexion frenzy for your child.
  • Stringing ribbon or hooks onto ornaments—This activity requires a significant amount of visual motor coordination as well as fine motor control. Use ribbon to increase the difficulty—tying the string in a knot requires additional fine motor control, bilateral coordination and visual-motor control. In order to work on manipulation speed, make this into a game and see who can string the fastest!
  • Hanging ornaments on the tree—this activity requires your child’s visual and motor systems to cooperate together in order to successfully place an ornament on the desired branch. You may provide verbal directions to your child, such as “hang this ornament on the branch that is below the yellow light and above the green bulb ornament” in order to work on visual perception as well as discrimination skills!
  • Replacing light bulbs on light strings—this activity requires fine motor control and strength to grip the light-bulb (various sizes may be appropriate—the smaller the bulb, the more difficult it is to grip!) and twist it into place. It’s also fun to watch the lights pop on when all of the new bulbs are in place!
  • Wrapping presents—Wrapping is an activity that requires a lot of fine motor precision (correctly folding the paper and fine motor endurance) holding the paper in place for taping. In addition, wrapping requires bilateral coordination (cutting the paper and working with both hands to hold the paper down and tape). You may increase the difficulty of the activity by having your child tie ribbons on the package and work with two hands to curl the ribbon with scissors or peel the backing off of stick-on bows (which requires a lot of control). The gifts may not look perfect, but with the assistance of your little elves, you’ll have them wrapped in no time at all!

There is a wide selection of activities that you’re already planning on doing for the holidays that can help to fine-tune your child’s individual muscles. Not only are these activities fun, but your child will always remember how she helped you decorate the tree—memories in the making. Happy Decorating!

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