An exercise ball is a fun piece of equipment that we frequently use in physical therapy for strengthening and balance exercises. It comes in a wide ranges of sizes and can be easy and quick to purchase for home. Here are some fun activities you can do at home with use of an exercise ball...
Trunk Strengthening in Sitting
This is a great exercise for kids of all ages! Help your child to sit on the exercise ball and stabilize them at their hips. Gently bounce them up and down. This is great for bringing about body awareness, as well as teaching your child to engage their core muscles to maintain their sitting posture. You can also rock your child forward and back, side to side, or along a diagonal for them to work on their balance and core strength.
If you have an older child you can have them sit on the ball while performing school work or any table time activity. Just make sure their feet are planted on the floor while on the therapy ball. Give cues to have them sit up tall in order to increase core strength and improve posture.
Prone Walk Outs
With a smaller sized ball, have your child lay on their tummy on the ball. Then have them walk out forward on their hands so that the ball rolls toward their knees, then have them walk their hands back. Try having them complete a puzzle or a game in this position by walking their hands forward to obtain a piece and then walking their hands back to put the piece into the puzzle.
Having your child lay on their back and propped up on their arms (make sure their arms are on the floor). Encourage your child to bring both legs up to 90 degrees in the ready position. Stand in front of them with a medium sized therapy ball. Lightly toss the ball towards their feet and have them kick it back to you. This will help their core and leg strength.
On a smaller sized ball, have your child lean the ball against the wall with their back. Have them sit down and pretend they are sitting in a chair. Repeat this movement for leg strengthening and balance. This can be incorporated with a throwing and catching activity in which the child catches the ball in sitting and throws when standing.
With medium sized ball, stand about 5 feet away from your child. Encourage them to use both hands and lift the therapy ball above their head then throw it forward and bounce on the ground one time. You can play throw-and-catch and see who can make the louder noise! Make sure to watch your child’s posture and encourage them to stand up tall without leaning back or arching their back in order to engage their abdominals and increase their core strength.
For Questions & More Information
If you have any questions on ball sizing or need more information about any of these exercises feel free to ask one of your friendly OTG Physical Therapists. You can work with your child and their therapist to think up more fun games to play at home with the therapy ball.
Written by: The Physical Therapy Dept. at Oceanside Therapy Group
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Children can be difficult to shop for once hitting a certain age where they no longer show interest in all the toys and games that they once couldn't put down. Now that the holidays are around the corner, and relatives are inquiring about what to get your kids, you find yourself stumped. You're just not sure what will be worthwhile and keep your child's interest for more than a few days. What will keep their minds stimulated so that they are learning something AND having fun. What are the best educational gifts out there that promote learning in a fun way? Our therapists at Oceanside Therapy Group have given us their expertise when it comes to toys, games, and activities that are perfect to get your child for the holiday season.
Card & Picture Games
Zingo is a game of bingo works on picture identification, incorporates turn taking, and visual/matching skills. Card games are always good for fine motor and manipulation skills. Kids can work on shuffling, dealing the cards, counting, and holding the cards. A simple game of Uno is fun, but 2 other great games are Blink and Spot It. These games work on visual perceptual skills, matching, and sorting by color/shape/number, etc.)"
Board Games & Interactive Games
Cranium Hullabaloo - sold on Amazon and Ebay - Hullabaloo is great for auditory processing, visual-motor, and gross motor skills. Headbandz & Apples to Apples - These games help with social skills and turn taking. Mancala: It’s a strategy and cognitive processing game. Chinese Checkers is a great activity for fine motor skills, problem solving, and turn taking.
Other Resources for Toy Ideas
Written by Oceanside Therapy Group
Wondering what to buy your child this holiday season? The OTG Speechies compiled a list of their favorite toys that can provide a variety of ways to expand speech and language development during play at home! Hear from our expert team on their favorite picks that promote learning and play that are perfect gift ideas for your little ones or other family members. Many of these can be purchased online or locally in some of their favorite stores.
Jessica: My two favorite toys are Mr. and Mrs. Potato head and Pop-Up Pirate.
1. Mr. and Mrs potato head helps kids identify and label body parts on themselves and objects. It helps children understand where body parts our located and can describe what we use them for. (e.g. eyes are for looking, ears are for hearing, etc). You can also put the body parts in the wrong places on purpose which is very silly!
2. Pop-Up Pirate! helps build turn-taking skills with children. Since it is random when the pirate pops, there is no predicting who wins until he pops. It helps kids understand the concepts of winning/losing and helps promote appropriate social skills (e.g. what to say when we win/lose, what to say to others when they win/lose, etc.). Additionally, kids are able to label and count the colored swards they put inside the barrel.
Shari: Two of my favorite toys are baby dolls and echo-microphones.
1. Baby dolls encourage children to act out familiar routines and engage in pretend play, and both boys and girls love to play with them! Baby dolls often come with accessories like clothing, brushes, strollers, bottles, etc. but even if they don’t, use familiar toys and items from around your home to facilitate pretend play.
2. Echo-microphones are so fun and so affordable! Echo-mics amplify your voice when you speak into them without being too loud. Kids love to sing and talk into them and just be silly. You can find them at stores like Walmart and Target, or online through Amazon.
Kylee: My favorite toys to encourage language are Interactive books (lift the flap books) and farm houses/farm toys. These items are usually very inexpensive (especially if you buy them used) yet great tools to encourage your child to use language.
1. Lift the flap books are a great way to get your child interested in books and keep them engaged while reading. Reading with your child is a great way to increase your child’s language skills. Interactive books help your child to understand cause and effect concepts (e.g. opening a flap reveals a picture) and are great reinforcers for when your child does use language. Books are also a great way to work on pointing and increasing your child’s vocabulary. My favorite lift the flap books are “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle, and “Where’s Spot?” by Eric Hill
2. Farm houses/farm toys are another great and simple toy that encourage pretend play and language in children. Examples of pretend play that can be targeted are: making the animals eat/drink, putting them to bed, and making animal sounds. You can also introduce location words (e.g. putting the pig on top of the house, or inside the farm) and even fact based yes/no questions (e.g. is this a pig?).
Maegan: Two of my favorite toys for promoting speech and language learning are Pop the Pig and Play-Doh.
1. Pop the Pig is an interactive game that every child loves (for ages 4 and up due to the presence of small toy parts). Roll the die to see what color hamburger you should choose, look at the number on the back of the hamburger, and then feed and pop the pig’s head until his belt pops off! Pop the Pig promotes turn-taking, color identifying and labeling, counting, preposition understanding and labeling (just place or label the hamburgers around the pig before a turn) and verb use to describe actions (e.g., “I am feeding the pig, I am popping the pig”). If your child is working on speech sounds you can also have him/her practice speech sounds in words, phrases or sentences before each turn. You can buy Pop the Pig online or find it at your nearest Target or Walmart.
2. Play-Doh is a wonderful hands-on toy that children of all ages (2 and up) enjoy. Play-Doh is great to work on direction following, describing actions (e.g., “I am rolling, cutting, squishing, etc.”), answering “what” questions to label what animal or object was made, preposition labeling and turn-taking with shared use of Play-Doh utensils. There are a plethora of Play-Doh store and food kits too, which add a layer of imaginative, pretend play. Additionally, Play-Doh can be helpful in talking about and identifying your child’s smooth and bumpy speech if he/she stutters. Besides being fun and versatile, Play-Doh is also inexpensive and can almost always be found on sale at HomeGoods, TJMaxx or Marshalls.
Amanda: My two favorite toys are the Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? book and the Just Like Home pretend microwave with foods.
1. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Book: The repetition of language in the Brown Bear book makes it easy for kids to sing along with me (yes, you can sing it instead of reading which makes it fun for kids!) and they can fill in the words as they become more familiar with the book. It's also great for learning basic animal vocabulary and colors. I use a magnet board and magnet pictures I found online and made to increase the interaction as we read.
2. The Just Like Home Pretend Microwave is always a hit with kids because it simulates a real microwave at home. You can push the buttons and watch the food go around inside as it “cooks” it. It's great for having kids make requests “I want + food item” and sequencing steps to cook the food. You can find it on Amazon!
Pam: Some of my favorite toys are dress up costumes and puppets.
1. Dress-up costumes are great for targeting pretend play skills, building vocabulary within a theme (e.g., firefighters, princesses, etc.), and can be used for social role-playing. WH questions can also be incorporated in play, such asking a child what they are wearing, who they are pretending to be, etc. Post-Halloween sales are a great time to find fun costumes and accessories.
2. Puppets are fun and engaging! They can be incorporated into any language activity and are sure to grab your child’s attention. They can be used to encourage interaction skills such as joint attention in a peek-a-boo game. You can model spatial concepts in a game of hide-and-seek by moving the puppet around the room and asking where the puppet is hiding. Also, puppets can make doing flashcards an exciting and silly activity by having your child feed the puppet a card after each turn.
Vanessa: Two of my favorite toys are Food Play Sets and a Doctor Kit.
1. Food play sets are one of my favorite toys to use in language building activities and to promote play skills. You can target food-related vocabulary and understanding and use of action words, such as “cut, roll, eat, slice, drink” etc. Melissa and Doug have a few great wooden sets that are fun and durable. They can be found at any big chain store, but I’ve always found the best prices at Marshalls/Ross/TJMaxx/Homegoods.
2. Doctor Kits are a great toy to practice pretend play skills, target functional vocabulary, and even get kids familiar with doctor visit routines to make the the real-life encounters a little less stressful. You can practice taking turns playing the doctor/patient and incorporate body part vocabulary in your game (“Let me check your ears/mouth, etc.).
Written by: The Speech and Language Dept. at Oceanside Therapy Group
Physical Therapists are highly-educated, licensed health care professionals who can help patients reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. Physical Therapists teach patients how to prevent or manage their condition utilizing treatment techniques to restore function and prevent disability. Importantly, physical therapists work with individuals to prevent loss of mobility before it occurs by developing wellness-oriented programs supporting healthier and more active lives.
Common Exercises in Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy treatment and fitness-related programming/education are critical for conservative management of pain per recent CDC guidelines. Walking, step-ups/downs, and sit-to-stand-go (Up n Go’s) are good functional activities that address strength, balance, coordination, and cardiovascular function. Please join OTG Fit Families and join our collaborative step program! It is fun, exciting, and rewarding!
A balance disc/tilt board/Bosu ball can be used strategically to address balance and sensory impairments. Many variations and uses of these tools can greatly assist restoration in function.
Treatment and prevention of strains/sprains. Theraband will provide resistance in specified ranges of motion as prescribed by your physical therapist to strengthen weakened muscles.
Walking and physical activity such as biking, swimming, and running have been shown to significantly improve physical, emotional, and social health for all ages. With our busy schedules and increased screen-time the challenge is finding the time and meaningful motivation to achieve a balanced lifestyle to stay active.
How many steps are recommended for children? Why is it important? What are some strategies to stay motivated as a family? Where can these ideas be implemented?
HOW MUCH WALKING IS RECOMMENDED FOR MY CHILD?
A systematic review from 2011 indicated that elementary school aged boys should be taking 13,000-15,000 steps/day and girls 11,000-12,000 steps/day. A pedometer is a portable device, such as a FitBit, that counts steps. This will give the most accurate reading of actual steps taken. The correlation of steps is in accordance to evidence-based recommendations of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity for children.
WHY IS WALKING SO IMPORTANT?
Increasing physical activity can lead to improved cardiovascular fitness, improved metabolism, and an increase in caloric expenditure, which can decrease the risk for obesity, improving the overall health of our children and families.
WHAT CAN FAMILIES DO?
OTHER FUN WAYS TO STAY ACTIVE
Written by: The PT Dept. for Oceanside Therapy Group
Source: Tudor-Locke C, Craig C, Beets M, Belton S, et al: How many steps/day are enough? For children and adolescents. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 2011, 8:78.
Do you have questions about your child's IEP?
If your child has an IEP (Individualized Education Program), you may have questions about its contents and what rights you have as a parent. On Saturday, September 30, 2017 from 9AM - 2PM, North Coastal Consortium for Special Education is hosting a workshop to help parents/guardians understand the special education process including IEP (Individualized Education Program) process, meetings, and components. This is a FREE workshop for parents/guardians/family attending NCCSE member districts (Download the registration form below for more details).
Resources for Families - NCSSE Website
Kindergarten is a big step in every child’s life. It’s exciting and possibly the first real experience a child has in a classroom setting. With the new school year fast approaching, many parents may be wondering if their child is ready and how they can help their child be successful in their first year.
Below is a checklist of skills your child should have or should be working on as they enter kindergarten...
What your child should understand:
• Understands ordinal words such as, “first, next, and last”
• Understands time concepts such as, “yesterday, today, and tomorrow”
• Understands spatial concepts such as, “under, in back of, next to, in front of”
• Follows 2-3 step directions in the correct order with qualitative concepts such as, “Pick up your pencil and draw a circle on your paper around something you drink
• Understands most of what is said at home and outside environments
• Recognizes 8 basic colors and shapes
• Recognizes first and last name
• Recognizes some letters
• Sits still and listens to a story
• Pretends to read a book
• Good attendance
Speech and language your child should use:
• Says all speech sounds in words, although it’s okay if mistakes are made on later developing sounds such as L, R, CH, SH, TH
• Says alphabet
• Says days of the week
• Says or shows age
• Sings songs or nursery rhymes
• Counts to at least 10
• Names some letters, numbers and colors
• Uses pronouns such as, “I, me, you, mine, yours, he, she, him, her”
• Answers simple WH questions such as, what, where, when, who, why
• Uses sentences with action words such as, “jump, play” and “get"
• Tells a short story
• Keeps a conversation going
• Talks in different ways depending on the listener and place, such as speaking in shorter sentences to younger children or talking louder outside than inside
Let’s set our kids up for success! If you have any questions or need any suggestions, please reach out to your OTG SLPs.
By: Oceanside Therapy Group's Speech/Language Department
“Four to Five Years.” ASHA, http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/45/. Accessed
25 July 2017.
Parents often want to know at what age they should be encouraging their child to grasp the pencil correctly. While it is important to facilitate the development of a functional pencil grip, it is crucial to understand the normal development of a pencil grip to avoid forcing your child to use a grasp he or she may not be ready for.
Typically, the development of a pencil grip in young children follows this predictable course:
An efficient and functional pencil grip is one that allows the child to write neatly in a timely manner without fatiguing the hand muscles. Poor pencil grasps engage the incorrect hand muscles, leading the child to fatigue quickly and produce messy handwriting.
How Occupational Therapy Works on Pencil Grasp Development
Occupational therapists facilitate the development of a functional pencil grasp through the use of various therapeutic activities and exercises. Sometimes the use of an adapted grip is implemented to facilitate a functional tripod grasp. There are many grips to choose from so please consult with your child's occupational therapist on this matter.
Activities that facilitate the development of a tripod pencil grasp...
-Coloring with small or broken crayons is a great activity as it facilitates the use of the thumb, the index, and middle finger as there is limited space for the other fingers to come and join the party
-Coloring on a slanted surface - this promotes the wrist to extend backwards, which facilitates controlling the writing tool with the finger joints instead of using the entire hand
Manipulating Theraputty or Play-Doh is a good activity to strengthen those hand muscles needed for sustaining a pencil grip during writing activities. You can hide beads in Theraputty and have your child find them. Other ideas include:
-Attach clothespins to the brim of a cup
-Operate trigger spray bottles
Fine Motor Control and Finger Isolation
-Play Lite Bright
-Roll 1/4 inch balls of clay or theraputty between the tips of the thumb, index, and middle fingers
-Pick up small objects (pom poms, pegs, cheerios) with a tweezer or tong
As a child's postural control and shoulder strength improves, the child's ability to control the pencil with the fingers will begin to emerge.
If you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact your occupational therapist.
Written By: Nalleli Reyes, MS, OTR/L for Oceanside Therapy Group
Case-Smith, O (2010). Occupational therapy for children. Missouri: Mosby Elsevier.
Fleming-Castaldy, R. P. (2014). National occupational therapy certification exam: Review & study guide. Evanston, IL: TherapyEd.
Core Muscle Strengthening
On a day-to-day basis, whether our children are at school, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy we are told that they need to “strengthen their core.” But what are core muscles? How do we strengthen them? Why do some children “W” sit? What can we do to help?
What are core muscles?
Core muscles are a group of muscles in your stomach, back, pelvis, and trunk that help provide stability and create movement. When these muscles are not working properly they can cause back pain, decrease balance, cause difficulty with coordination and poor posture.
The muscles of the core are as follows...
-Pelvic Floor Muscles
All of these muscles work together to compress the abdomen, provide trunk rotation and movement, and help create upright posture and support your spine. These muscles help provide your child with stability, balance, body awareness, and the ability to move around in space, which impacts bilateral coordination, stair climbing, balance, navigating obstacles, and upright sitting and standing, and more!
How can I tell if my child has a weak core?
A weak core can have effects that trickle down to many other developmental skills from balance to posture to pencil grip and more.
Signs of a Weak Core
-Sitting: slumping, fidgeting, leaning on one hand, difficulty with fine motor tasks, W-sitting.
-Transitions: difficulty rolling, crawling, moving from lying down to sitting, and moving from sitting to standing.
-Balance: Difficulty with balance and unsupported sitting, frequent falls, and difficulty with one leg standing.
-Coordination: Difficulty running, performing jumping jacks, crossing midline, and ball skills.
Why is W-sitting bad?
W-sitting is when a child sits on their bottom with their knees bent and feet positioned outside of their hips and this makes a "W" shape.
When W-sitting is a child’s go-to sitting position they are at risk for...
-Lack of cross body movements
-No hand preference
-Increased muscle tightness
-Limited core strengthening
What can I do to help my child’s core strength?
There are many ways to help children of any age strengthen their core muscles.
-No W-Sitting: Make sure that your child is not sitting in W-sitting position and correct with “fix your feet”. Sitting on the floor in long sit, side sit, or legs crossed sitting helps increase core strength and improve trunk mobility.
-Play Time: Encourage your child to play in unstructured, spontaneous play where they are running, climbing, lifting, rolling, pushing, pulling, moving, and engaging in whole body movements.
-Planks: Have your child get into a push up position and hold. Make sure that their body is making a straight line from head to toe. Encourage by having a contest with family members!
-Bridges: Have your child lie on their back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Have them suck their belly button into their spine and push through their feet to raise their bottom up off the floor. Encourage by rolling a ball or cars under the bridge.
-Super Hero: Have your child lie on their stomach on the floor and try to lift their arms, upper chest, and legs off the floor like they are a flying super hero.
-Wheelbarrow Walks: Hold your child’s feet and legs and have them walk forward on their hands towards a target. Try to have a relay race with friends!
For more ideas about core strengthening at home or with any questions about core strength or W-sitting, make sure to talk with a physical therapist!
Written by: "KC" Karen Albiston, PT, DPT for Oceanside Therapy Group
Drobnjak, L., Heffron, C. (2015). The Core Strengthening Handbook. The Inspired Treehouse, LLC.
What Is W-Sitting? (Copyright © Pathways.org) Pathways.org. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://pathways.org/blog/what-is-w-sitting/
Core Exercises: Guidelines and Examples. (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics). Healthychildren.org. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/fitness/Pages/Core-Exercises-Guidelines-and-Examples.aspx
Frequency, length, and duration of therapy will vary according to the needs of each child. In order to achieve therapy goals, consistency is the key. It can be difficult to incorporate a therapy schedule into your weekly routine on top of all the other responsibilities and commitments you may already have. However, the more regular your child's attendance, the more likely he/she will make therapeutic progress.
Having the ability to communicate with your child's therapist regularly will help you to carryover a successful home program. Your pediatric therapist can give recommendations, tips, tools, and resources for your child's unique needs and personality to empower you, as the parent, to help your child thrive in the outside world with his/her peers. Parental involvement will positively impact your child's therapy progress.
Routine practice with therapeutic activities and exercises are crucial to gaining and maintaining new skills. Regression may become a concern if therapy is inconsistent. As a parent this can be frustrating and disappointing. For your child and therapist, that means more time spent re-teaching previously learned skills. Sticking to your therapy schedule and practicing learned skills at home will give your child the best opportunity to progress. When our children succeed, we all win!
Oceanside Therapy Group, Copyright 2017