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Gross Motor Skills and Dance

Dance has always been a fun and exciting recreational activity for children of all ages. Along with the enjoyment of dancing to upbeat music and the social experience, dance is also a great way to help develop your child’s gross motor skills. Read on for 4 aspects of your child’s motor skills that can be facilitated with dance lessons and performance of any style.

4 Gross Motor Benefits to Dance:

  1. Balance-Many dance moves incorporate balancing on one leg, standing with feet right next to each other or standing with one foot in front of the other. All of these positions are challenging for your child’s balance systems, which help to strengthen her balancing abilities.
  2. Coordination-While learning to dance, your child will begin by learning different dance moves and positions. Most positions involve different placement of all 4 limbs, which requires a lot of coordination. Also, once your child learns a dance routine with multiple dance positions sequenced together, she will need to coordinate the entire routine. Read more

The Benefits of Ride-On Toys

Today our guest blogger, Full Throttle Toys, Inc. owner Matt Westfallen, gives us the 411 on benefits of ride-on toys.

Around Chicagoland, summer is in full swing. Along with the extra hours of summer fun and sun comes the worry thatfull throttle our kids are losing the skills they acquired during the school year. Worksheets and flash cards will help, but there is another fun way to help kids with some of the “intangibles” of learning.

When used safely and properly, battery operated, ride-on toys have been proven to provide children with opportunities to practice many early learning skills that are rarely taught in school yet are vital for balanced growth.

Skills that Can Be Developed by Using Ride-On Toys:

  • Gross and Fine Motor Skills: Battery-operated, ride-on toys provide many ways to develop gross and fine motor skills. By operating the vehicle on various types of terrain, opening and closing doors or manipulating the dashboard, children will be using both fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
  • Exercise and Exploration: While playing with a ride-on vehicle toy, not only will children be burning calories, they’ll be outside exploring their world.
  • Sense of Balance: While operating ride-on toys, children will also develop an improved sense of balance. Children who have played with ride-on toys find it easier as they grow older to ride bikes, and to use roller blades and roller skates, because they have learned to distribute their weight while operating vehicles on various surfaces.
  • Spatial Play: It is also important to note that spatial play is stimulated when your children are out exploring the outdoors in a ride-on vehicle. This type of play will improve observation skills and stimulate their imaginations. Read more

Recreational Activities to Promote Gross Motor Skills

It is often that parents ask me for recommendations for suitable physical extracurricular activities for their children that will also help to gymnasticsfacilitate the gross motor skills we work on in therapy. Extracurricular activities are a great way for your child to socialize with his or her peers and physical activities are the perfect way to make sure your child is getting sufficient exercise each day. I strongly recommend any activity that your child is interested in because the best results occur when your child is invested in what he or she is doing.

On the other hand, if your child does not have any preference or is open to trying new things, there are 2 extracurricular activities that I strongly recommend families to look into:

  • Gymnastics– This is a great activity for a variety of reasons. For example, gymnastics focuses greatly on a variety of gross motor skills, such as balance and jumping in a variety of different positions and on a variety of different surfaces. This helps your child generalize these skills so he/she will perform better in our constantly changing environment. Gymnastics also helps with core, arm and leg strengthening and works on coordination between different body parts.
  • Swimming– Swimming is another great activity that targets core and arm and leg strengthening. Along with strengthening, swimming is helpful for working on your child’s bilateral coordination. A majority of swimming strokes require different movements from the arms and legs simultaneously as well as at  different times.

Regardless of what recreational activity your child chooses to participate in, they all are positive for your child’s physical and social development. On the other hand, if you have concerns about your child’s physical functioning, please contact a physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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Are Premature Babies Delayed?

The term premature refers to any infant that was born earlier than 37 weeks of gestation. Premature births occur in 10% of all live births. Premature babies (“preemies”) are at risk for multiple health problems, including breathing difficulties, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, and delays in their gross and fine motor skills.

Premature baby

Why are babies born pre-term?

The cause of premature labor is not fully understood. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of premature labor: a woman that has experienced premature labor with a previous birth, a woman that is pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc), and a woman with cervical or uterine defects. Certain health problems can also increase the risk of premature labor, including diabetes, high blood pressure and preeclampsia, obesity, in-vitro fertilization, and a short time period between pregnancies.

What are the effects of being born pre-term?

In addition to multiple medical complications, a baby that is born before 37 weeks of gestation is at risk for developmental problems in gross motor skills, fine motor skills, sensory integration, speech and language skills, and learning. The baby may take longer to reach specific developmental milestones or need help to reach those milestones. The earlier babies are born, the more at risk they are for having delays. Each child is different as well, and no two preemies will be delayed in exactly the same manner.

If you or your pediatrician suspects that your baby is developmentally delayed, there are a variety of professionals that can assist your child in achieving his or her full potential. A physical therapist can help facilitate development of gross motor milestones such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, or jumping. An occupational therapist can help develop fine motor skills such as object manipulation, hand-eye coordination, and reaching, as well as sensory integration. Speech therapists can help improve language skills and articulation.  Consult with your pediatrician or talk with one of our Family Child Advocates to receive more information on setting up an evaluation with a skilled therapist at NSPT.

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10 Signs at School Suggesting a Student May Benefit from Physical Therapy

Children develop and improve their gross motor skills significantly during their early school years, between three and ten years of age. A lot of gross motor development occurs at school while playing at recess or doing activities in gym class. School offers the opportunity to recognize if a child needs extra assistance from a physical therapist in expanding or improving their gross motor skills.

Physical therapist treats child

Here are some tips for teachers that will help determine if a child would benefit from physical therapy:

  1. The child prefers to sit and play instead of run or participate in gross motor activities during recess or gym class.
  2. The child has difficulty jumping, skipping, or galloping when compared to their peers.
  3. The child has an atypical gait pattern (for example, they walk on their toes or they are “knock-kneed”)
  4. The child prefers to w-sit (with their knees bent, feet by their bottom, and bottom on the floor) instead of crossed-legged on the floor.
  5. The child frequently trips, falls, or bumps into objects.
  6. When walking up and down the stairs, the child does not alternate their feet, instead placing both feet on each step.
  7. The child is unable to kick a soccer ball.
  8. The child is unable to catch or throw a playground ball.
  9. The child runs significantly slower than his peers or has difficulty running for more than one minute.
  10. The child complains of pain or tightness in their ankles, knees, hips, or back.

If you see any of these characteristics in children at school, they may benefit from a physical therapy evaluation. Without fully developed gross motor skills, a child is going to have difficulties keeping up with their peers during recess or gym class. It will also affect their ability to participate in gross motor games and sports. Also, it is important to note that many children will exhibit the above behaviors and may or may not require physical therapy (PT) intervention therefore it is important to consult with a PT first.

Navigating Early Speech & Language Milestones: What to expect between age 1 and 2

Parents often wonder if their child’s skills are developing typically.  Between gross motor skills, fine motor skills, speech-language skills, social-emotional functioning, and overall growth, there’s a lot to keep track of!  In fact, it might feel overwhelming.  Mother communicating with infantIt’s important for parents to remember that every child develops at their own rate, with some skills emerging faster, and other skills taking more time.  When considering your child’s development, referring to developmental milestones can be an excellent guide.  In Part 1 of this blog, we reviewed speech and language milestones to expect during the first year of your baby’s life.  In Part 2, we’ll review communication milestones you might expect to see between age 1 and 2.  If you begin to feel concerned regarding your child’s development, seek help from a licensed professional right away.  A trained therapist will give you accurate information, ease your worries, and if needed, give your child any help they might need.

Speech & Language Skills Emerging Between 1 and 2 Years

1 – 1½ years

Your child might:

  • easily understand his own speech
  • use a variety of words (between about 3-20) to communicate
  • understand between 50-75 words to communicate
  • be able to point to various objects or body parts as you say them
  • be able to follow simple 1-step directions
  • use words that contain a consonant + vowel (e.g. “bo” for boat)
  • be eager to imitate words they hear others say
  • use some jargon when they’re communicating
  • request things by pointing or vocalizing
  • let you know what they don’t want, by shaking their head “no” or pushing objects away

1½ – 2 years

Your child might:

  • be likely using more true words, and less jargon to communicate
  • be asking questions by using a rising intonation
  • begin to include sounds at the end of their words (e.g. hot)
  • use more than 50 words to communicate
  • understand about 300 words to communicate
  • begin to combine words into simple phrases
  • be able to follow 2-step related directions (e.g. “open the box and give me the bear.”)
  • begin to respond to yes/no questions
  • understand location concepts “in” and “on”
  • begin using words to tell you when they don’t want something (e.g. “no bed”)

For more information about speech and language development in childhood, visit the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association at http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/.

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10 Activities to Improve Balance

Balance is a great skill to help your child progress with their gross motor skills, leisure activities, and activities of daily living.

The following activities are various ways you can work on improving static and dynamic balance for improved performance in activities such as sports, games, self-care, and many more!

  1. Stand with one foot on the ground while the other foot is resting on a stool in front of the other foot. This is the primary skill in working towards balancing on one foot. If this is too easy, replace the stool with a ball that your child has to rest his or her foot on. Then, progress to just standing on one leg. To make it more challenging play a game (such as catch, zoom ball or balloon tennis) while balancing.
  2. Stand on top of a bosu ball. A bosu ball is an exercise ball cut in half with a flat plastic surface on the bottom. If your child gets really good at standing on top of the bosu ball, turn it upside down so that the ball is underneath and he or she is standing on the flat side. Once this is mastered, play catch while standing on the bosu ball.
  3. Stand on a balance board. A balance board is a flat surface made of wood or hard plastic that has a rounded or curved underside. This can be a very challenging activity just to stay upright!
  4. Simply stand on one foot! Make this into a contest with the whole family and see who can maintain their balance the longest.The person who wins gets to pick a family activity.
  5. Put two lines of tape on the ground and practice walking on a pretend balance beam. The space between the two pieces of tape could start large (6 inches) and progress to 4 inches apart. If your child steps out of bounds, he or she has to start again. By employing a balance beam that is flush with the ground, this will decrease any possible fear of falling. Once this becomes easier, utilize a real balance beam to work on more challenging balance skills.
  6. Sit on an exercise ball while playing a board game at the table. Don’t let your child put his or her feet on the ground while playing unless they need to make sure they don’t fall.
  7. Play hopscotch only while jumping on one foot. No switching feet is allowed! This makes the game slightly more challenging.
  8. Sit, kneel, or stand on a flat platform swing. Once you child can simply balance, play catch, zoomball, or balloon volleyball while sitting, kneeling, or standing.
  9. Stand on a trampoline with just one leg on the surface. To make this even more challenging, invite someone else to walk on the trampoline (or jump) while trying to keep your balance!
  10. Try any of the above activities with your eyes closed. Balancing with your eyes closed is significantly harder than having your eyes open. Therefore, if your child has mastered all of the above activities, make it one step harder to keep them challenged!

The possibilities are endless! Get creative and make these activities easier or harder depending on your child’s progression of skills.  By working on balance, your child will learn to use their muscles properly in order to adjust to changes in movement. This will set them up for success in playing games and sports with their peers! As always, ensuring your child’s safety during these activities is very important. Utilize pillows, mats, and adult supervision when practicing these activities.

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Differences and Similarities Between Occupational and Physical Therapy | Pediatric Therapy Tv

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric occupational therapist explains ways to distinguish between occupational and physical therapy and how they are similar.

In this video you will learn:

  • To determine the differences between physical and occupational therapy
  • How the two disciplines are alike
  • What types of therapies are used for the different disciplines

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, and I’m standing here with Lindsay Miller, a Pediatric
Occupational Therapist. Lindsay, people are often confused between physical
therapy and occupational therapy. Can you explain with the differences and
similarities are between OT and PT?

Lindsay: Sure. With occupational therapy, we usually work on independence
with self-care skills, and these are skills like dressing and bathing. We
also work a lot on fine motor skills as well. So that’s any sort of
movement using your hands and fingers like writing, coloring, using
scissors, using a fork and knife, those types of things. Traditionally,
physical therapists work on mobility, so that’s walking, running, jumping,
and other gross motor tasks that use the larger muscles of the body. In the
pediatric realm, occupational therapists also work on executive functioning
skills, so those are our thinking skills and our thinking processes, and we
also work on sensory processing as well, so that’s how children react
emotionally and behaviorally to their environment and their surroundings.
In the pediatric world, physical therapists also work a lot on mobility
again and also gross motor development. So that’s, can your child crawl and
can they get themself up into standing and those sorts of things.

Some of the similarities are that occupational and physical therapy both
can look at muscle strength, flexibility, range of motion, and muscle tone,
but the biggest difference is really how we look at those things and in
what context. So occupational therapists look at those muscle strength and
flexibility and those types of things and how they affect functioning and
daily life whereas physical therapists look at those things and how it
affects mobility and gross motor skills. So overall, there is some overlap
between occupational and physical therapy, but the biggest difference is
really how they look at it in terms of functioning.

Robyn: All right. Thank you so much, Lindsay, 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.

The Benefits of Fort Building

When it is chilly outside or on a rainy spring day it can be easy to run out of indoor play ideas for your children. A great activity which is often forgotten is fort building. This activity helps to facilitate development of many important skills for children.kids building a fort

 Benefits of Indoor Fort Building for Kids

  • Planning: deciding the materials to use and a plan for how to build the fort
  • Problem solving skills are required to build the fort and fix it if it falls apart
  • Teamwork if made with siblings or friends
  • Facilitates creative and imaginary play
  • Small spaces can facilitate a calming/regulating effect for some children
  • Improve core and upper extremity strength: create an obstacle course through the fort or play a game/read stories while laying on their stomach inside the fort

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