Expert Advice

Expert Advice, Tips & Affirmations from Pediatric Therapists
  • 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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  • May is Correct Posture Month

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    One of the most common functional limitations that occur in children is poor posture.  We often hear advice given to adults especially with the increased use of technology in the recent decades.  Many parents, however, are often surprised when it is pointed out in their children.  Since May is National Correct Posture Month, here is a list of 5 signs of poor posture and 5 ways to improve it.

    5 Signs of Poor Posture

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    1. Rounded back and shoulders when sitting or walking
    2. Protrusion of the shoulder bones when back is straight
    3. Complaints of pain from massage
    4. Decreased endurance or upper body strength
    5. Inability to maintain good posture upon request

    5 Ways to Improve Posture

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    1. Bring awareness to it and give praise when it is good.
    2. Practice wheelbarrow walking and overhead ball exercises.
    3. Participate in sports like swimming and basketball.
    4. Spend time with back relaxing over a ball or with tummy on floor.
    5. Maintain postures practiced in yoga, tai-chi, and ballet.

    It is important to always lead by example and be aware of your own posture as a parent.  As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so consider your own history of back problems.  If your child is demonstrating poor posture, you should consult with your doctor about having a physical or occupational 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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  • Why Do Kids Need Occupational Therapy?

    Since March is Women’s History Month and April National Occupational Therapy Month, I would like to take this opportunity to explain my often-misunderstood profession that is more than 90% female.  Occupational therapy (OT) is close to 100 years old in the United States.  It is a holistic health care profession that aims to promote health by enabling individuals to perform meaningful and purposeful activities across the lifespan. Starting in the 1970’s, occupational therapists (OTs) were hired in school settings to provide therapeutic services for children with disabilities to participate in regular school settings.  Nowadays, OTs treat children in various settings including the home to address delays or difficulties involving the occupations of children, which include play, learning, and self-care. Occupational therapists typically evaluate and provide treatment in the areas of cognition, fine motor, functional mobility, social interaction, visual perception, coordination, sensory processing, and activities of daily living such as dressing, feeding, toileting, etc.  OTs often work with children with developmental delays, ADHD, autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, learning disabilities, prematurity, chromosomal abnormalities, poor handwriting skills, and injuries particularly associated with the hands, shoulders, or brain.  

    If your child is having difficulty with age-appropriate play, learning, and self-care skills, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational 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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  • Are All Shapes Created Equal?

    Learning and drawing basic shapes are generally associated with common preschool protocol just as much as circle time and two-hour naps.  Some people can recall a memory from that time in their lives but are hard-pressed to recollect specific details such a favorite shape.  This is probably because in the minds of many a shape is a shape is a shape, and the only special about them is their name.  Shapes, however, actually should be introduced in a specific order when learning to draw them.  This is determined by the ease of formation based on the development of pre-printing skills.  It is important to note that the direction of how shapes are formed help to shape (pun intended) future writing and reading skills.  Shapes are formed in a top to bottom and left to right direction.  Below you will see a list of seven basic shapes from the simplest to the most complex and the verbal directions you can use to help encourage the correct formation. 

    1st Circle: Counter-clockwise line. Say, “Curve around.”

    2nd Oval: Counter-clockwise line. Say, “Curve around.”

    3rd Cross: Two intersecting lines. Say, “Zip down. Lift up.  Zoom Across.”

    4th Square: Four intersecting lines. Say, “Zip down. Zoom across.  Lift up. Zoom across. Zip down.”

    5th Rectangle: Four intersecting lines of different size. Say, “Zip down. Zoom across.  Lift up. Zoom across. Zip down.”

    6th Triangle: Two diagonal lines. Say, “Slide down. Lift up. Slide down. Lift up. Zoom across.”

    7th Diamond: Four diagonal lines. Say, “Slide down. Slide down. Lift up. Slide down. Slide down.”

    Remember to consult with your pediatrician for a prescription to see an occupational therapist if your child is demonstrating delays in drawing or handwriting skills. 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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  • Eye Dominance? Yes, It Does Exist!

    Most people do not realize we all have a dominant eye.  Typically it is the same as our dominant hand or foot, but not always.  Eye dominance helps to aid in eye-hand coordination, handwriting, cutting, dressing, and other skills children need to develop properly.  Sometimes a parent may think a child is doing something awkward or wrong when really he or she is using a different eye than expected in certain activities.  It should be noted that having an opposite dominant eye verses hand can cause drawing diagonal lines, shapes, and letters more difficult initially.

    You can check for eye dominance after age three through two simple methods.  The easier way is by having your child look through a small hole like a magnifying glass, toilet paper roll, or a rolled up piece of paper.  Then demonstrate to your child how to look through it, and hand it to him or her.  They should put it up to their dominant eye.  However, sometimes their eyes may not be organized enough, and they may place the tube between the eyes.  If your child is old enough to demonstrate this activity without any physical help, they should at least have a preferred eye.  

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    Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

    The second method is to cut a small one-inch hole in the center of a piece of paper.  Then have your child hold it with the hands on opposing sides and bring it up to the face to look through the hole.  It helps if you demonstrate and say something like, “I can see you!  It’s your turn.  Can you see me?”

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    Remember to consult with your pediatrician for a prescription to see an occupational therapist if your child has visual concerns affecting their learning or play skills.  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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