Posts

The Developmental Benefits of Practicing Ball Skills with your Child

Ball skills are oftentimes overlooked as an activity only for boys, or only for athletic children. However, ball skills are an important activity for children of all interests and abilities to practice consistently. Ball skills not only prepare children for gym class at school and extracurricular activities, but they help to address bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, timing, sequencing, motor planning, and attention. girl dribbling ballBall skills can include, but are not limited to: throwing and catching, dribbling, kicking, and aiming for a target. Here are some activities to try at home:

5 Ball Games To Play With Your Child For Developmental Exercise Purposes:

  1. Ball at the wall: Find a safe wall (e.g. outside), and have your child throw a ball at the wall and catch it in their hands. To make it easier, throw the ball at the wall, allow it to bounce once on the ground, and then catch it in hands. Use a playground size ball to start, and work towards using a tennis ball.
  2. Popcorn: Throw a ball overhead (towards the ceiling), trying to see how many times your child is able to clap their hands (while the ball is in the air) before catching the ball in their hands. For another challenge, see what words your child can spell while clapping their hands, before catching the ball.
  3. Dribbling: Set-up cones or other obstacles for your child to weave between as they dribble a ball using either one hand or alternating hands. If they bump into a cone with their body or the ball, have them begin at the start again to help them to work on body awareness and a slow and steady pace, rather than rushing through the activity. Make it into a relay by timing them or having them race a partner.
  4. Laundry-basket basketball: Have your child hold a laundry basket at about chest or trunk level as you toss beanbags or rolled up socks for them to catch. Make sure to make the throws unpredictable as the child becomes successful, to work on moving their body and keeping their eyes on the ball.
  5. Upside down basketball: Place a barrel or bucket and a few balls behind your child to serve as the hoop and the basketball. Have your child lay on their back over an exercise ball so that their head is inverted (upside down), as you hold onto their legs. Next, have your child reach overhead with both hands to pick-up one ball and toss it into the hoop as they remain upside down. Lastly, have your child squeeze their tummy muscles to pull themselves back up into a seated position on top of the exercise ball.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email! 

Winter Activities To Help Your Child With Gross Motor Coordination

Do Winter Blues have your Child down? Are they tired of being trapped in doors to escape the cold outside? Do they miss playing outside as they did in the days of summer?

Good news! Below are ideas of how to beat the winter blues by engaging in heavy work activities in the snow!child carrying sled

Heavy work activities provide children with proprioceptive and vestibular sensory input, while also increasing attention , focus, postural stability and gross motor coordination.

Heavy work in preparation for the snow:

  1. Have your child gather coats, scarves, and gloves into a basket for the entire family. They can then “deliver” the items to each family member by pulling the basket around the house.
  2. Ask your child, to help carry out any equipment; sleds, shovels, etc.

Heavy work activities in the snow:

  1. Build a snow man! Start with a small ball of snow and roll it around to make it bigger. Help your child lift the giant snow balls to build the snowman.
  2. Make snow angels. Lay on the ground with arms and legs extended, while moving them into your body and away over and over. Stand up and admire your angel!
  3. Draw in the snow using arms and legs. Practice letters, numbers, shapes, or even play a game of tic-tac-toe.
  4. Shovel the side walks together.
  5. Log roll races. Lay on the ground with legs straight and arms reaching straight over your head and roll!
  6. Sledding down a hill or pulling each other on a sled
  7. Build a snow fort. Using snow, build a fort using shovels, buckets, etc.
  8. Snow ball fight. Gather and make snowballs, then have playful snowball fight with entire family

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

Gross Motor Exercises for Kids in a Hotel

Staying in a hotel does not leave a lot of room to play which may leave a child bursting with energy! Here are some tips to provide an outlet for kids to have fun during hotel downtime while also improving their gross motor strength, coordination and to help with self-regulation.

11 Hotel Activities Concentrating on Gross Motor, Self Regilation and Coordination:

1. Assist parents in carrying luggage to and from room. This provides heavy work to help with self regulation.

2. Animal walks or races with siblings in hallways. These activities have many benefits, including self-regulation, core strength, endurance, motor planning and bilateral coordination.boy sitting on luggage

3. Crab walks- With body facing upwards, use hands and feet to hold up body weight, while walking on all fours with tummy facing the ceiling and keeping torso held up. This can be done forwards, backwards or even sideways!

4. Bear walks- With body facing downwards and hips bent, walk slowly on all fours with both arms and legs straight.

5. Frog jumps- Begin crouched down in a bent knee position, with knees pointed away from each other. Place both hands on the floor between knees and propel self up with the strength of the legs. Hop forward with both feet together; come down with hands and feet touching the ground at the same time.

6. Be creative! Have your child come up with their own animal walks.

7. Wheelbarrow walks in the hall way. Have your child lie on their stomach while grabbing their feet and raise their feet into the air. The “wheelbarrow” moves by walking on his/her arms while holding their stomach tight. This activity provides heavy work for self regulation, as well as motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength and upper body strength.

8. Yoga poses- Choose a pose such as tree, plank or boat and see how long your child can hold it for (example: tree, plank, or boat. While holding a sustained contraction as in yoga poses, your child will be increasing their postural control, balance and as well as providing a self-regulation strategy.

9. Jumping Jacks or wall push ups. These easy exercises can be done anywhere to address not only self-regulation, but also bilateral coordination and motor planning.

10. Play “Simon Says”. Show your child a pose and see if they can recreate. This is a great way to increase your child’s motor planning and bilateral coordination. Make sure to incorporate both sides of the body with your poses!

11. Have your child lay on the floor to make numbers or letters with his/her body to address motor planning and bilateral coordination.

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!

OT Skill Olympics | Fine and Gross Motor Skill Building Games

Children love games and competition, and parents love when their children are active and engaged with their siblings and friends. What better way to combine social skills, turn-taking, and fine and gross motor skills than with new creative activities? Below are a few new ideas to try incorporating with your family before the summer is over. Who will win the “gold” wheelbarrow racemedal at your OT Skill Olympics?

These activities help to address several occupational therapy skills, such as: motor planning, body awareness, hand-eye coordination, trunk control, grasping, and balance.

1. Dizzy bat baseball: The batter-up places his forehead onto the baseball bat and spins around in circles with the baseball bat on the ground and hands wrapped around the neck of the bat (approximately 10 spins). After the batter is done spinning, the pitcher pitches the ball like in a typical baseball game, and the batter runs his bases.

The challenge: to maintain balance and eye-hand coordination after making yourself dizzy!

2. Ping-pong ball races: Each player has a spoon and a ping-pong ball. They players can create many variations. For instance, players could walk across a balance beam while holding the spoon/ping-pong ball; set-up several cones or markers, and weave between the cones; or skip/gallop/bunny hop from one end of the room to the other while holding the spoon/ping-pong ball. The players could race one another or time one another using a stop watch.

The challenge: to keep the ping-pong ball on top of the spoon the entire time, holding the spoon with only one hand if possible.

3. Hula-hoop “ring of fire”: This activity should be done inside where lots of pillows and blankets can be used to jump onto. One or two players hold the hula hoop a few inches over the pillows/blankets, and another player must “dive” through the “ring of fire” onto the pile of pillows/blankets. The players can continue to raise the hula hoop a little bit higher each time; however, players should make sure to have their arms out like superman, so that the arms can help to protect the head and neck.

The challenge: to “dive” through the hula hoop without touching it with your body.

4. Relay races: Set-up two cones or markers to illustrate the starting line and the finish line. Have players choose a variety of different styles to get to the finish line: crab walks, bear walks, inch worms, wheelbarrow walking, or prone (on stomach) pulling self on scooter board or skate board.

5.Inch worms: start in the downward-facing dog yoga pose, with hands and feet on the ground, and hips and bottom raised in the air; next walk hands forward as far as they will go without falling, and then keep the hands where they are, and walk feet forwards to meet up with the hands.

The challenge: to maintain the proper body position the entire length of the course, from start to finish (e.g. crab walks: hips and bottom should be lifted off of the ground).

 Try a couple of these out and then leave a comment below with what worked best!

Gross Motor Skills on the Playground

Through play, children explore and learn about the world. While doing so, they also learn the gross motor skills that they need in order to successfully navigate their surroundings. Children also learn about sensory information, which allows them to react appropriately to the environment. Gross Motor Skills Blog

Children take in sensory information by touching different textures, experiencing different smells, and hearing different noises in their environments. A great place for children to practice and develop gross motor skills without even knowing it is on the playground!

Great sensory and motor activities for your children on the playground include:

Slides

Slides help in the development of the vestibular system, as the body is in motion and the head can be placed in different positions. It is also a great motor activity, as it requires the child to climb the stairs of the slide, balance on one foot and shift his weight during stair climbing.

Climbing Wall

Climbing a rock wall is great practice for coordination of the upper and lower extremities, as the child has to figure out where to place his hands and feet, and in what sequence. The wall also helps the child develop his upper body and finger strength. Some playgrounds have moveable structures to climb (for example, made out of rope or chain link), which require even greater coordination skills and balance, as the body is required to shift its weight accordingly as the structure moves. Both of these activities also provide proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles.

Tubes

Children can crawl through tubes on all fours, in a bear crawl or in the crab walk position. This helps a child develop core strength and body coordination skills.

Swings

Swings are a great source of vestibular input, as the body is in motion while the feet are off of the ground. Pumping your feet also helps to develop sequencing and motor coordination skills.

Monkey Bars

Monkey bars help to develop upper extremity and hand strength, as well as coordination. If the child hangs upside down on the monkey bars, it also provides great vestibular input!

See-Saw

The see-saw requires coordination, sequencing and cooperation of two children at the same time in order to make the see-saw move. Balance and core and upper body strength are required to hold oneself up on the see saw.

Spring Rider

A spring rider is a seat on a spring that rocks back and forth. It provides great proprioceptive input into the body’s joints, as well as vestibular input while the body is in motion and the head is placed into different positions. A child also needs to coordinate his body movements in order to make the spring rider move, and core and upper extremity strength is required to hold on to the rider.

The playground is the perfect place for children to develop their gross motor skills – skills they will need for everyday activities. These skills can help prepare them for school, as they will need the core strength to develop proper posture for table top activities, and coordination skills for writing and cutting. Gross motor skills will also prepare children for sports and cooperative play with their peers. Movement activities can help to regulate the nervous system, so that a child can be better able to pay attention during class or when doing his homework. Most importantly, movement activities encourage a healthy lifestyle and help children build confidence, as they are able to participate in a variety of activities with peers and become more self-sufficient in their daily tasks.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist

Arts and Craft Ideas To Improve Fine and Gross Motor Skills

toddler coloringToddlers learn about their world by using their senses, manipulating objects and experimenting.  Toddlerhood is marked by an explosion of development in all areas, including fine motor skills, or “hand skills”.  One fun way to promote fine motor skills every day (and on Valentine’s Day in particular) is through crafts!

Here is a short, craft-friendly guide to fine motor milestones:

  • Scribbling and making horizontal or vertical lines – 2 years old
  • Squeezing out glue – 2 years old (though squeezing out an appropriate amount of glue is a skill that will not develop until much later!)
  • Snipping with scissors – 2 ½ years old (with constant supervision!)
  • Drawing circles and a rough cross – 3 years old
  • Stringing large beads – 3 years old
  • Cutting on a line – 3 ½ years old

Unless you are hoping for updated living room walls, your toddler will need constant supervision, direction and demonstration throughout all of these projects.  When these tasks are completed, everyone’s heart will be warmed when you see your child beaming with pride at what has been created.

A few fun and simple craft projects to try with your toddler this Valentine’s Day:

  • Make a valentine for family members, classmates, or neighbors.  Young toddlers will be satisfied with simple tools such as finger paints or crayons.  Older children may want to add glitter, stamps, or stickers. Read more