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

Is Toe Walking Normal?

child on tiptoe.It is not uncommon for toddlers to walk on their toes or on the balls of their feet. This practice is often referred to as toe walking, a hereditary condition that may be seen when a child is learning how to walk. It is considered appropriate until the age of two, but if your child continues to toe walk beyond this point, it is important to have him/her evaluated by a physical or occupational therapist.

Toe walking is a common sensory-seeking behavior – children receive intense proprioceptive input to the calf muscle in their legs when they do it. This intensified input helps them to better prepare their bodies for play and learning. However, toe walking may be a sign of other sensory integrative difficulties and should be evaluated by an occupational therapist if accompanied by other symptoms (e.g. decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities).

If your child toe walks occasionally, it may be a sign of a sensory issue. However, a child who consistently toe walks may eventually develop shortened Achilles Tendons (also known as tight heel cords) and should be evaluated by a physical therapist.

Toe walking may be considered appropriate if:

• Your child is just learning to walk

• Your child is under the age of two years old

• Your child can walk with normal gait when you ask them to

Seek professional help for Toe Walking when:

• Your child toe walks past the age of two years old

• Your child toe walks the majority of the time

• Your child demonstrates decreased eye contact, decreased coordination, or difficulty with gross or fine motor activities

7 Activities To Keep Your Baby Active During The Winter

Active BabyThe leaves are changing, Thanksgiving is right along the corner, and the temperatures are dropping!  It is so important to keep your entire family active during the winter months, including your infants.  Many area community centers have “Mommy and Me” and “Gym and Swim” classes that encourage fine and gross motor activities.  Local music centers also have specialty classes just for the little ones.  There are still plenty of great activities that you can do indoors with babies to keep them active and achieve those gross motor milestones along the way.

Below are some fun activities to do with your little ones outdoors and indoors as the weather turns colder.

1)      After a diaper change when your baby is still on the changing table, ‘bicycle’ their legs in a rotating movement from their hips and knees.  This reciprocal motion is great for learning to crawl and walk!

2)      If you have a dog, include your babies in the daily dog-walking.  Quick, ten- to fifteen-minute walks with your kiddos that can walk or be pushed in the stroller get them (and you!) out into the fresh air.  As you are walking, talk to your children about the nature around them and how the seasons change the trees, grass and temperatures.  As a rule of thumb, dress your babies in one layer heavier then you would yourself. Read more

Child Development: Is My Child Normal?

Mom and Baby The number one reason that parents contact myself and the various therapists at North Shore Pediatric Therapy is to find out whether or not their children are developing and progressing at a normal rate. When should my child crawl? When should she start speaking? At what age should he be walking? These are all questions that we find ourselves answering on a daily basis. Parents often are not privy to this information. If only children would come with an instruction manual. Each child develops at a different rate, which is found to be dependent upon several factors including environmental influence (exposure to a variety of experiences) to genetic predisposition. That being said, there are stages of development that every child will reach in a hierarchical order. The main areas of development include a child’s motor ability and his or her language functioning. Language functioning can then be broken down into two main areas: receptive language, which is the child’s ability to listen to and follow auditory demands, and expressive language, which is the ability to provide comprehensive responses. Below is a chart for the major stages of motor and language development along with typical ages in which the child should reach the stage. Read more

Taking Off The Training Wheels

Trainig WheelsWarm weather is finally here and it’s a great time to gear up the family for bike riding.  Here are a few tips that will help ease the transition to a two-wheeler.

  1. First, make sure that the child’s bike is in good condition with properly inflated tires, working brakes, and that the seat is low enough that the child can stand on the ground when the bike is not in motion.
  2. A well adjusted helmet is essential for safety and some children may need elbow and knee pads for extra comfort and protection.
  3. The “run behind” method– where the parent follows the child holding underneath the bike seat to help them balance– is a proven technique for beginning the 2-wheeler process.
  4. Plenty of praise is essential and will keep your child motivated.
  5. The best way to teach your child to bike ride and enjoy overall fitness is to lead by example so plan some family bike riding outings today!

I would love to hear your Two Wheeler Success stories!