Fun Ways to Help Your Children to be More Active

As I stated in my previous blog, as adults (parents, teachers, therapists), we have a huge influence upon the lifestyles that children family yogaaround us are going to live by.  We need to be sure that we are teaching our children well so that they may learn to make their own healthy choices in the future.  A huge part of living a healthy lifestyle is to exercise and remain active.

Here are a few simple movement activities to try with your family at home:

  •  Set-up an obstacle course outside or throughout your home.  Incorporate a variety of skills. Some of these skills will be easy for your child and some of them will be more challenging.  This will help your child to feel a sense of accomplishment and will also help him/her to set new goals for himself/herself.  Skills can include, but are not limited to: dribbling a playground ball, catching a tennis ball with one hand, balancing on one foot with hands on hips, skipping or galloping, grapevines, log rolls, somersaults, push-ups and jumping jacks.
  • Have a family yoga session!  Lay out yoga mats or towels for everyone and take turns leading each other through various yoga poses (e.g. downward dog, plank, boat pose and warrior II pose).  Try to increase your flexibility and longevity each time!  By talking each other through the poses, this will help your child work on his/her body awareness and direction-following skills.
  • During family game night, take movement breaks after every round and/or after every person takes their turn of the board game (e.g. superman pose, silly bug pose, jumping jacks, sit-ups, and lunges).  This will not only help to ‘wake-up’ your bodies, but it will help to build strength and endurance in a carefree way as well!  Similarly, it might take some of the emphasis off of winning and losing as your children become more concerned with who gets to pick the next movement activity!

As you can see, there are several easy ways to incorporate movement and exercise into your family’s daily activities!  Make sure you are demonstrating the importance of exercise and fitness to your children by making it a priority in your own life.  Stay tuned for my next blog regarding teaching your children the importance of goal setting.   Please reach out to your child’s occupational therapist or physical therapist if you require more individualized ideas for gross motor and strengthening activities in your home.


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.


Engaging Your Newborn Baby: 5 Simple Tips for Interacting with Your Baby

As a new parent, chances are that you have spent countless hours just gazing into your newborn’s eyes. However, between nonstop feedings, washing copious amounts of laundry, all of those diaper changes , and trying to sneak in a nap, some new parents may feel left in the dark when it comes to play time.  As your baby starts to become more interactive daily, you may quietly think to yourself, “Well, now what?”.

mom and infant playing

Here are some simple activities you can do with your baby throughout the day to help lay the appropriate foundation for language development:

Never underestimate the power of a smile

Babies love to look at faces. Even at an early age, they are able to be easily engaged and will focus on exaggerated facial expressions for a brief period of time. Therefore, take moments throughout the day to block off some face-to-face time. You will be amazed at how attentive your baby is during these times, and you will see him/her start to attempt to imitate the facial movements you make (especially with your tongue). They’ll get a kick out of seeing you smile, and how can you resist staring back at that adorable little toothless grin?

Turn bath time into play time

Bath time provides many opportunities for sensory exploration, so help maximize this time as much as you can by offering various textures of objects (washcloth, bubbles, water toys etc.) that contain different sensory properties. Talk about how the items look and feel, and even sing to your child during this time as well. Your baby will be calmed by the warmth of the water and soothed by the sound of your voice. Also, try to time bath time immediately before putting your child to bed in order to establish a nighttime routine.

Introduce books

You will help to facilitate a lifelong love of reading and literature when you introduce books at an early age. Provide your child with plenty of soft books and board books, which contain many bright and colorful pictures. Touch and feel books are perfect for this age, as they allow your child to be more interactive as well. Also, keep the books brief, as your little one is not exactly ready for a novel anyway. Short and simple books containing repetition are perfect for infants.

The importance of exercise

Any PT will tell you about the importance of tummy time, so help make this activity more fun and interactive for your child by providing various toys and objects for them to interact with. Try placing a child-friendly mirror directly in front of them, as your baby will love looking that the “other” baby staring back. Also, help encourage babies to follow your voice by moving to either side of them. Even at a young age, children are able to identify their parent’s voices, so by simply changing your position in relation to your baby, you will be enhancing this skill. You can also play simple games, such as peek-a-boo when facing your child, in order to keep them engaged.

Talk, talk, talk

Talk to your child throughout the day, especially when completing familiar activities such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner. Doing so will help to expose your child to the language associated with these activities. Though the “conversations” with your baby will seem very one-sided at first, over time you will notice that your baby will attempt to chime in when you are speaking. You will be able to quickly observe the give-and-take, as your child will quiet when you begin talking, then “comment” after you speak.

As a new parent, it can be completely overwhelming trying to juggle all of your responsibilities, so just remember to breathe! Don’t feel as though you have to do everything right off the bat. As you and your baby settle into a routine, you will notice that you are able to find some extra time to sneak in these activities.  By introducing just a couple of these ideas throughout the day, you will quickly notice that your child becomes more engaged during these times and will start to anticipate the activities as well.  Congratulations and welcome to the exciting world of parenthood!

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How to have a just right ‘Engine Level’

As I discussed in my previous blog, a child’s body is typically functioning at one of three ‘Engine Levels’.   Ideally, the goal is to be at the ‘just right’ level, in which your child can accomplish the most and focus on the task at hand. It is important to remember that each child’s ‘Engine Level’ runs differently, and is affected differently.  Therefore, different strategies work differently for each child.

Here are a few strategies which might help your child to reach a just right level:Little boy practicing a yoga position

  • Listen to calming/quiet music
  • Get a drink of cold water/drinking through a straw (e.g. water bottle)
  • Chew gum or a crunchy/chewy snack
  • Take a walk, or get a breath of fresh air
  • Excuse herself to the restroom
  • Exercise/heavy work
  • A big bear hug/joint compressions
  • Yoga breaths (e.g. inhale through nose as long as she can, exhale through mouth like blowing out birthday candles)
  • Rub a small amount of lotion or scented hand sanitizer onto hands (massaging lotion into her skin can be calming, and a nice scent can help to ‘wake-up’ or ‘calm’ her body)

Try the strategies above, and note whether or not they help your child’s mind and body to feel more organized and ready to take on the tasks expected of her.  By incorporating this ‘Engine Level’ lingo into your child’s vocabulary on a daily basis, your child will ideally be able to better understand how her body is feeling, and what she can do when she’s feeling “off” or over/under aroused.  Please reach out to your child’s therapist with any further questions as to how this program can be incorporated into your family’s routine.

Reference: Williams, Mary Sue and Shellenberger, Sherry. (1996,) “How Does Your Engine Run?:  A Leader’s Guide to The Alert Program for Self-Regulation”.  Therapy Works, Inc.

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Exercise Hydration: What is the Right Beverage for my Child?

With so many sports beverage and enhanced water products on the market, it’s good to know when they are actually useful. Many of these products have an ingredient list quite similar to soda, which is not something you typically would give your child or athlete after a workout. However, there are circumstances where nutrient and electrolyte replacement is very important for children and teens.

Child drinking a glass of water

Carbohydrates are an important nutrient to replenish because glycogen is the fuel which gets used up from muscle and liver stores during physical activity. Electrolytes, specifically sodium, potassium, and bicarbonate are important for nerve conduction and respiration. Some amounts are expired through sweat and given off with heavy breathing that comes with intense physical activity. For these reasons, carbohydrates and electrolytes need to be “replaced” after intense, continuous workouts lasting longer than 60 minutes, and can be achieved with electrolyte replacement beverages. This would apply to long distance runners, college or elite athletes in training, and swimmers, soccer, or basketball players who are doing continuous intense cardio training for more than an hour during workouts.

However, for most people hitting the gym for an hour or so, or kids playing in team sports or outside at the playground, nutrient and electrolyte replacement can be achieved from eating a normal, well-rounded diet. Eating a balanced meal or snack within an hour after physical activity is sufficient in this case. Drinking additional sports drinks will only provide extra calories and sugar (or diet sweeteners), and often artificial food coloring.

Use this table as a guide:

Commercial (or homemade*) electrolyte replacement beverage

  • Intense continuous physical activity lasting an hour or more such as running; drink 16-32 ounces of electrolyte replacement beverage. 30 grams of carb should be consumed for every 60 minutes of intense continuous cardio, within 30 minutes of activity. Electrolyte replacement is important if intense physical activity is in extreme heat, when sweating is excessive.

Chocolate milk (carb + pro + electrolytes)

  • College or elite athletes in training for several hours per day who need a quick, small meal + electrolyte replacement during or after long workouts lasting several hours. These athletes should consult with a dietitian who specializes in sports nutrition.

Coconut water

  • Natural electrolyte replacement beverage; high in potassium and lower in sodium and sugar than commercial electrolyte replacement beverages. Appropriate for moderate-high physical activity with sweating, such as spinning class, kickboxing, “boot camps”, outdoor sports in heat with continuous cardio 30-60 minutes, etc.

Water + well-rounded diet

  • As needed during and after any level of physical activity. This is all that is necessary for low or moderate physical activity such as playing outside, playing team sports, hitting the gym for 30-60 minutes, etc. A rule of thumb is 1 oz water for every 2 lbs body wt (50 oz/day for 100 lb person) daily. Increase as needed in heat or more strenuous activity.

*Recipe for homemade electrolyte replacement beverage, from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 1/2 cups cold water

  1. In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water.
  2. Add the juice and the remaining water; chill.

Recipe makes 1 quart.
Per 8 ounce serving, recipe provides: 50 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 110 mg sodium, 43 mg potassium.
Compared to original Gatorade per 8 ounce serving: 50 calories, 14 g carbohydrate, 110 mg sodium, 30 mg potassium.

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Yoga and Pilates for the Whole Family

Why Yoga and Pilates Can Help Your Child:

The practice of yoga and pilates has become increasingly popular among adults. It seems like there is now a yoga or pilates studio mom and daughter doing yogaon every corner– right next door to the Starbucks on every corner! In fact, yoga and pilates exercises are actually just as beneficial for kids as they are for adults. Not only do the exercises build a stronger core, improve balance and increase concentration, they also assist to calm the body and promote control. Next time you decide to work out by doing yoga or pilates, have your child join in on the fun!

Resources for yoga and pilates activities for home:

Yoga Pretzels cards: 50 Fun Yoga Activities for Kids and Grownups (Authors: Tara Guber and Leah Kalish)

GiggleYoLates DVD: yoga and pilates exercises for children (Author: Angelique Micallef-Courts)

My Daddy is a Pretzel cards: Yoga for Parents and Kids (Author: Baron Baptiste)

Fit Kids DVD: exercises for kids (Author: Denise Austin)

Integrated Yoga: Yoga with a Sensory Integrated Approach book (Author: Nicole Cuomo)

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5 Ways to Get Moving with Your Kids

Why not get moving with your kid instead of sitting around watching tv?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of going to a movie?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of baking a cake?

Why not get moving with your kid instead of playing on social media sites and tweeting?

Listen, watching t.v. can be fun, movies can be enriching, baking can be bonding, and tweeting can be exhilarating, but, it is so important to move and it puts everyone in a good mood. Here are five ideas to get you boogying with the boys or get flipping with the females!

 5 Ways To Get Up and Moving With Your Child:

1) Make an obstacle course. Winter? Make it inside. Use pillows, exercise equipment in the house, tables can be tunnels, brooms for jumping over, step stools to do step ups, etc. Think out of the box! Summer? Go outside and have fun with big rocks, bikes, jump ropes, etc. as part of the most fun obstacle course you have ever seen!family swimming

2) Turn up the music and dance! Winter? Dance Dance Revolution OR just boogie to the beat at home! Summer? Bring the music outside to the backyard and have fun!

3) Choose to swim in a pool durin downtime. Winter? Go to the YMCA, Lifetime Fitness, or if someone has an indoor pool in their building, ask to borrow it. Take a daytime room in a nearby hotel! Summer? try different pools and even hire a high school or college swim coach to get everyone doing laps! Have your own pool? Turn on some music and a timer and swim for exercise and fun!

4) Bike! Winter? Did you know you can buy a bike stand for your bike and bike as if you were outside all winter or on a rainy day? Summer? Get outside! Get lost a little and find your way back! Try different destinations each time!

5) Get back to your youth. Play a game of tag, freeze dance, red rover, simon says, mommy please, and other wonderful games that require you to move your body!

Your endorphins will be running wild! It will make your family so much happier!

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How to Use a BOSU for Exercise with Children

BOSU BallA Bosu, also known as a “blue moon” during Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy, is a great piece of exercise equipment for adults and children alike. A Bosu helps to work on balance, trunk control, strength, endurance, motor planning and body awareness. A Bosu is flat on the bottom and round on the top; and it can be used either with the flat side down on the floor or with the round side on the floor. Even a more simple body position, such as lying in prone (on stomach) over the Bosu, with your hands flat on the floor, and arms and shoulders supporting your body in an extended position, really helps to work on your upper back and neck strength, endurance, and weight bearing through your upper body. Listed below are several activities to try out at home or at the gym; let the workout begin!

Standing Exercises with a Bosu:

The activities below can be used in a standing position on top of the Bosu, either with both feet on the Bosu, or balancing on one leg to really challenge your balance

  • Balloon volleyball: see how long you can keep the balloon in the air before it hits the ground and before you lose your balance
  • Catch: use a variety of size/weighted balls to throw and catch with a partner; by mixing it up, you will more greatly challenge your center of gravity
  • Crossing midline: have game pieces to the right side and left side of the Bosu, have child use opposite arm/hand to pick-up game pieces reaching across their body
  • Inverted bowling: stand with head between legs, using one hand lightly to support self if needed, and using the other hand to toss/roll the ball towards the pins (you could also create your own bowling pins using plastic cups, toilet paper tubes, empty plastic bottles, etc.)

Yoga Poses with a Bosu:

The activities below incorporate traditional yoga poses on top of the Bosu. To start off, try out the yoga pose on the floor next to the Bosu first, and then build-up to maintaining the yoga poses on top of the Bosu once you are ready to challenge yourself. See pictures below for examples of these positions.

  • Boat: Seated on Bosu, lean backwards slightly and lift legs into 90 degree angle, with arms lifted straight in front
  • Plank: Place both hands or both elbows onto the top of the Bosu, tuck toes under and lift back and bottom towards theceiling,keeping your entire body in a straight line like a table
  • 4 point (contralateral limb extension): Place your right knee onto the center of the bosu, and place your left handonto the Bosu for support; then extend your right arm and left leg, keeping your head and neck neutral with your spine **Then make sure to switch sides, placing your left knee onto the center of the Bosu, and using your right hand for support

  • Airplane: Step onto the center of the Bosu with one foot, resting the opposite foot lightly on the floor until you are ready to lift it off the ground behind you; lean slightly forward, bringing arms out to the side like airplane wings, and then slowly lift the leg (resting on the floor) up behind you

Note: Make sure to have adult supervision when trying these activities, as it is easy to lose your balance. Also, it is always a good idea to have mats or pillows nearby, in case you fall. Lastly, ask your occupational therapist or physical therapist if you have any further questions on how to correctly position your body for the exercises above.


10 Uses for an Exercise Ball with Children

I am sure many of you have either seen or used an exercise ball before, whether at your child’s therapy appointment or at your own session at the gym!Exercise balls are a simple and easy piece of “equipment” for you and your child to use at home in a variety of ways. Exercise balls help to strengthen the muscles; and increase endurance, motor planning, body awareness, and postural control. Exercise balls come in multiple colors and sizes, and really help to challenge balance and multi-tasking of the whole body.

10 ways to for your child to incorporate an exercise ball:

1. Seated at the kitchen table: have your child sit on an exercise ball during mealtime or homework time; make sure that your child’s feet are flat on the floor, with knees bent to 90 degrees, approximately hip-width apart; and remind your child to keep a tall posture with the shoulders relaxed and down, rather than rounded forward.

2. Seated on ball during television shows or video games: have your child sit on an exercise ball while attending to a favorite television show/movie or while playing a video game, rather than lounging on the couch. Make sure your child is a reasonable distance from the television and furniture, and has a clear area around the ball in case balance is lost.

3. Standing back to back with a partner: have your child work on trunk rotation, visual skills, and timing by standing with a partner with their backs facing towards one another, a few feet apart; work on passing a ball from left to right, and then right to left. The larger the exercise ball, the harder this activity will be, as more upper body and trunk strength will be required.

4. Standing overhead ball reaches: have your child stand hip-width apart while holding the exercise ball in his/her hands, tapping the exercise ball to the ground directly in front of feet, and then lifting the ball overhead towards the sky. Make sure to engage the abdominals by keeping them tight (e.g. as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach), which will also help to protect the back.

5. Inverted (upside down): have your child select a favorite board game, or use beanbags or other items to pick-up, while seated on the exercise ball. Place the game pieces or beanbags behind your child to retrieve. Slowly roll your child forward by holding onto his legs and have him get into an upside down position with head tipped over the exercise ball. Then have your child reach overhead with both arms for the game pieces or beanbags and return to a seated position in a slow and controlled manner, using the abdominals rather than momentum.

6. Prone (on stomach) for nose touches: have your child lay his stomach over the exercise ball with feet on the floor spread more than shoulder width apart behind the ball and hands placed behind the head; lean forward touching your nose to the exercise ball (or as close as you can get) and then bring yourself back up, focusing on keeping your back straight, making a line with your entire body.


7. Prone (on stomach) for contralateral (opposing) limb extensions: have your child lay on his stomach over the exercise ball with hands and feettouching the floor; next extend the right arm and left leg while keeping the other two limbs lightly resting on the ground for support; hold for 5-10+ seconds and then switch to left arm and right leg.


8. Supine (on back) for ball passes: have your child lay down on his back on the floor or on top of a blanket or mat; place the exercise ball between feet, making sure to squeeze the exercise ball tightly with feet and legs and lower legs to floor; next raise legs off floor, above the torso, and grab the ball with hands; lastly lower legs together slowly and reach exercise ball overhead with arms. Do as many reps as possible in a slow and controlled pattern.


9. Supine (on back) for hip bridges: have your child lay down on his back on the floor or on top of a blanket or mat; place heels on top of the exerciseball, with arms on the floor next to torso; next, raise hips and torso off of the floor and either hold as a static position for approximately 5-10+ seconds, or do repetitions by lowering the hips about an inch or two above the floor and then back to the sky again.


10. 4 point position (hands/knees) for child’s pose stretch: have your child get into a hands and knees (puppy dog) position on the floor with the exercise ball directly in front of body; next lower hips/bottom towards heels and place arms on top of exercise ball to stretch forward overhead on the floor while lowering the head towards the floor as well.



Swim Your Way To A Stronger Body

Summer is quickly approaching, and swimming pools can be used for much more than tanning and floating! Get those muscles and joints working with these simple games that you can play with common pool toys.

The following activities target strength, endurance, body awareness, trunk control, breath control and motor planning. As always, make sure safety is your first priority:

1. Noodle Races: sit on foam noodles, using your arms to pull yourself across the length of the pool .

**Try a variety of movements with your arms such as front crawls, breast strokes, and doggy paddling to incorporate different reaching and pulling methods. You can also sit on a tube or raft rather than a noodle to play this game!

2. Noodle Volleyball/Basketball: sit on foam noodles, passing a beach ball back and forth or aiming for a hoop.

**Try to keep the ball in the air without hitting the water for as long as possible. This is a great challenge that incorporates hand-eye coordination. Read more

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