Gross Motor Skills

  • Play Positions: Hands & Knees

    Play positions. What are they, and why are they important? Parents typically understand the importance of playtime for their children, […]

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  • Yoga Benefits for Youngins

    In recent decades
    yoga has become increasingly more mainstream as a form of exercise. Most
    fitness centers offer a variety of classes, and more often parents are allowing
    their children to participate with them. It may seem strange to think a child
    would have the discipline to attend or enjoy an adult class, but many young children
    are being exposed at a early age to yoga in schools that understand and value
    the benefits.

    As a pediatric
    occupational therapist, I have been incorporating elements of yoga with my
    young patients for years to help with skills such as concentration, coordination,
    flexibility, strengthening, self-control, balance, relaxation, and body
    awareness. Since many yoga poses have corresponding animal names, I find it
    easy to get children to imitate poses and engage in challenging poses for
    extended periods of time. The increased use of muscles not typically practiced
    in traditional play allow a child to benefit physically as well as the mental
    health boost that comes with stress relief and increased confidence.

    Some common yoga
    postures with animal names include: cat, cow, down dog, and dolphin.  These and many others are easy to search
    on-line and can be completed separately or in a sequence. Although it is
    important to practice intensive yoga with a trained instructor, parents can
    easily incorporate simple poses into play without much worry. For assistance in
    learning more, many product brands also sell flash cards that are created
    specifically for use with children including YogaCards by Think Fun and
    Yogarilla by Super Duper Publications.

    I hope you find
    this insightful. If your youngin struggles with coordination skills, balance,
    strength, or flexibility that has negatively affected other skill areas, consider
    consulting with an occupational therapist to develop a plan for your child.
    Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play
    Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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  • Tips for a Pain-free Back-to-School

    The summer is quickly coming to an end, and soon
    children all across the United States will start complaining about something
    more painful than homework when they head back to school. According
    to one study of American students ages 11 to 15 years, 64% reported complaints
    of back pain related to heavy backpacks. In fact more than half of students
    carry a backpack that is heavier than the recommended guideline of 10% of the
    student’s total body weight and thousands of backpack-related injuries are treated
    at hospital emergency rooms, doctor’s offices, and clinics each year.
    Thankfully, a study published in 2002 on the effect of backpack education on
    student behavior and health showed
    nearly 8 out of 10 middle school students who changed how they loaded and wore
    their backpacks reported less pain and strain in their backs, necks, and
    shoulders. Hence, the American Occupational Therapy Association created the
    annual School Backpack Awareness Day and will celebrate it on September 16th.
    Here are some tips they provide for a pain-free back-to-school for your child. 

    Warning signs of
    a backpack that’s too heavy:

    · Difficulty
    picking up or taking off the backpack

    · Tingling
    or numbing of legs or arms

    · Pain
    when wearing the backpack

    · Red
    strap marks on the front of the shoulders 

    Ways to improve
    backpack wearing:
     

    · Pack
    heavier items in the back and center and lighter items in the front

    · Load
    with no more than 10% of child’s weight to prevent spinal damage or falls

    · Carry
    with both straps in use at all times and snug to the back

    · Put on
    by bending and lifting using the knees instead of at the waist

    · Adjust
    to keep it below the shoulders and up to the top of the hipbones 

    I hope you find these tips helpful. If your child has pain
    or shows weakness from carrying his or her school load after making adjustments,
    consider consulting with your pediatrician about the possible need of
    occupational or physical therapy services. Have a playful day! 

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist,
    award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information
    about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com
    or email
    info@playapy.com.  

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  • Finding Balance in Fall

    Fall is a time of year when parents are searching for balance between all the changes in their children’s daily lives. Schedules are shifted around to fit in new activities and driving routes. It also can feel like an unsettling time for children as they adapt as if they are standing on one leg. Although many parents realize that balance is important for emotional well being, they don’t often know how well a child should balance him or herself when actually standing on one leg as compared to figuratively. 

    A simple method to determine good balance in a child is if they can stand on one foot for as many seconds as they are in age.  For example, a child should be able to stand on one foot for at least four seconds if he or she is four years old.  Difficulties with balance could be due to several reasons involving proper function of the eyes, ears, sensory system, muscles, joints, etc. A difference between the two legs can also be a sign of abnormalities that need to be assessed.  Decreased balance skills can go unnoticed and often are attributed to clumsiness but should be taken seriously and not assumed to be just a stage out of which a child will eventually grow.

    I hope you find this tip helpful. If your child is having difficulty with balance skills, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or physical therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

     

     

     

     

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  • Great Exercises for the Great Outdoors

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    June is National Great Outdoors Month.  It also is the start of summer for school children.  Although it is good to give your child a break for the traditional school environment, parents sometimes make the mistake of not encouraging further development of skills over the long days of summer.  When children return to school, the transition can be difficult not only in terms of attention, but also for the tiny muscles of their hands that haven’t worked out in over two months.  You can help your child by providing some fun outdoor activities that also work to improve or maintain the stability of the shoulders, which is needed for good posture and handwriting skills when they return to their desk in the new school year.  When you are outdoors this summer, try these four examples of smart play made simple.

    1. Use Sidewalk Chalk- Draw pictures on the ground pushing the chalk across the rough texture of cement.  This promotes good hand strength as well as drawing and writing skills.
    2. Play Tug of War- Have partners hold onto a rope or belt on opposite ends being careful not to fall.  This increases strength and endurance throughout the hand and up to the shoulders.
    3. Practice Wheelbarrow Walking- This partner activity of children walking on their hands while their feet are raised off the ground can improve coordination and shoulder stability.  Get a group together for a race.
    4. Play Balloon Volleyball- Blow up a balloon and tap it with your fingertips keeping it off the ground as long as possible.  This activity can build endurance, control of the muscles, and reaction time to moving objects.

    If your child is having difficulty with coordination, strength, or endurance, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational or physical therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary.  Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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