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5 Ways to Improve Fine Motor Skills with Valentines

It’s that special time of the year again. Bags of candy and cards adorned with hearts and kind messages line the aisles of our local grocery and convenient stores. Our kids wait with great anticipation for their classroom Valentine’s Day parties when they are allowed to pass out and receive cards; play games, and eat delicious sugar-filled treats. While this time of the year can be difficulty to enjoy as we’re trudging through the snow covered streets, try to take time to enjoy the season and help your child to spruce up her fine motor skills!

5 ways to turn Valentine’s Day into a platform for improving fine motor skills:

  1. Cutting: This year, instead of buying pre-made cards from the grocery store, help your children cut their own cards from their favorite colored construction paper. For the younger kids, cutting straight lines for a square or cutting across a piece of paper to create smaller squares is the first place to start. For kiddos who are older (4 ½- 6), try to encourage them to cut simple shapes including circles or hearts. If your child is up for the challenge, encourage her to cut out the shape using a hole-puncher. The resistance that the hole puncher provides and repetitive motion to cut the entire shape will surely improve your child’s hand strength. Cutting is an excellent way to improve hand strength, bilateral coordination, visual motor skills, and fine motor planning.
  2. Writing Name: Making Valentines cards is an excellent way for your child to practice writing her name. Practice and repetition is key in building new foundational skills. What a better way to provide repetition than asking your child to sign a card for all of her classmates? If a child needs more help, try to show her how you would write her name, letter by letter, on a separate piece of paper. In your child’s handwriting skills are advanced, encourage her to write a short message to her best friends. The more she practices, the better her handwriting will become!
  3. Gluing: Gluing is another way to promote fine motor skills and hand strength. If your child chooses to use a glue stick, encourage her to use her dominant hand with the same grasp pattern that she uses for writing and coloring activities with her pencils and markers.
  4. Stickers and Stamps: Placing stickers on cards can also help your child to improve her fine motor control. Bending and manipulating a sheet in order to peel the desired sticker from the page and manipulating the sticker to place it on her Valentine takes a lot of patience, bilateral coordination, and fine motor planning.
  5. Folding: Folding is a very challenging activity for a lot of kiddos. Practicing manipulating paper so that the sides match up while folding and stabilizing the two ends together to create a crease in the middle of the paper requires a lot of visual and fine motor planning.

Valentine’s Day, as with many other holidays, affords children an opportunity to practice their fine motor skills. There should not be any limits to their creativity in making cards for their friends. Encourage them to practice new and emerging fine motor skills this season as they’re creating their cards!

Promoting Bilateral Coordination of the Hands

When people initially think of coordination, physical activities (such as running, skipping, and playing sports) are usually the pb b and jfirst things that come to mind. In the therapy world, however, coordination can refer to several different things. In general, bilateral coordination is the ability to use both sides of your body together in order to perform an activity. Occupational therapists tend to think about bilateral coordination as both gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Bilateral coordination of the hands is required to perform most fine motor tasks.

Here are four examples of the way we use our hands together:

  1. Stabilizing the paper with one hand while writing or drawing with the other hand.
  2. Cutting paper with one hand and manipulating/turning the paper with your other hand.
  3. Using one hand to hold one side of you coat while zipping it up with the other hand.
  4. Tying shoes.

If your child is having difficulty using both hands together to perform fine motor tasks, here are some activities to have him/her practice in order to better develop the coordination of the hands:

  • Screwing on lids of jars and opening and closing Tupperware lids.
  • Scooping objects (e.g., rice or beans) with a cup with one hand and holding the bucket while pouring them inside.
  • Hand games, such as “Miss Mary Mack”.
  • Folding paper into paper airplanes or making fortune tellers.
  • Putting together and taking apart Legos.
  • Making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Stirring ingredients in a bowl while holding onto the bowl with one hand.
  • Rolling play-doh into a snake, flattening it into a pancake and rolling it into a ball.
  • Playing a card game, including shuffling the cards, dealing the cards and holding the fanned out cards with one hand.
  • Making a beaded bracelet by threading beads onto a string.

These are just some of the many ways you can encourage your child to use both hands while at home and at school. Improving the coordination of both hands will set your child up for success for fine motor activities that are important for your child’s educational success and independence with everyday skills.

Why It’s Important For A Baby Not To Skip Crawling | Pediatric Therapy TV

In today’s Webisode, a pediatric physical therapist shows how crawling is essential for an infant’s muscles and sensory input.

Read these useful tips on how to encourage your baby to crawl

In this video you will learn:

  • How crawling influences an infant’s muscles
  • What essential skills infants learn to master when crawling

How Does Play Help Meet a Child’s Therapy Goals?

Occupational therapists often use play as a means of helping achieve our clients’ goals. Many times, it may not look like our sessions are working on your child’s areas of need; however, when we are working with children, we often try to adapt play activities in order to help your child meet his goals. Play is a very motivating activity for a child to engage in with the therapist and work on some of his goals. Play may also mask the fact that children are working on a difficult skill by introducing fun into the activity. For example, if one of the child’s goals is to improve his handwriting skills, you could play a game that involves writing, such as Boggle, Scattergories, or crossword puzzles.

Therapist and child at Gym

Here are some play activities that OT’s use to help your child meet his goals:

  1. If your child needs to work on balance and coordination, we may play basketball while standing on top of a bosu ball (imagine standing on the rounded part of a ball cut in half).
  2. A child who needs to work on core and upper extremity strength could meet these goals by playing a game while lying on his stomach over a therapy ball, while balancing with his arms on the ground.
  3. In order to improve self-regulation for a child who has sensory concerns, we may start our session by playing on the gym equipment in order to help regulate his nervous system.
  4. To work on bilateral coordination and fine motor skills with a child who does not like drawing, we often use play-doh and have him trace shapes and cut them out with scissors.
  5. Another way to work on gross motor coordination is to practice climbing a rock wall, climbing a ladder, or swinging on the monkey bars.

Sometimes, however, it may be difficult to adapt the activity and make it fun for the child. In this case, the therapist may have the child participate in an activity to work on the skills he needs to improve, but use a play activity as a reward.  From the first example in which the child’s goal is to improve handwriting, the child may still not want to play the games that involve handwriting. Then, the therapist may tell the child that after handwriting, he can do an activity of his choice.

Hopefully, this blog provides a bit more insight into the therapist’s mindset while working with your child. The therapist is constantly thinking and problem solving about how to make an activity therapeutic and how to make it easier or harder based on the child’s ability to succeed at the tasks. If the therapist is successful, the child will not even realize the activities are working on their areas of need and will want to come to therapy every session!

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Dressing Skills: Developmental Steps for Kids

Dressing may seem like a simple task, but it is actually a task that requires multiple skill sets from children. Dressing requires skills girl dressing such as fine and gross motor coordination, body awareness, bilateral coordination, right/left discrimination, postural stability, and motor planning. As a parent, it can be difficult to know at what age a child should develop certain skills in dressing.

Developmental steps of self-dressing skills in children*:

1 year:

  • Pulls off shoes
  • Removes socks
  • Pushes arms and legs through garments

2 years:

  • Helps pull down pants
  • Finds armholes in pullover shirts
  • Removes unfastened jackets
  • Removes untied shoes

2.5 years:

  • Removes pull-down elastic waist pants
  • Unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on front button shirt

3 years:

  • Puts on socks and shoes (though it might be the wrong feet or socks upside down)
  • Puts on pullover shirts with some help
  • Buttons large buttons
  • Pulls down pants
  • Zips and unzips with help to place on track

3.5 years:

  • Identifies front of clothing
  • Snaps fasteners
  • Unbuckles belt
  • Buttons 3-4 buttons at a time
  • Unzips jacket zipper

4 years:

  • Removes pull over shirts without help
  • Buckles belt
  • Zips jacket
  • Puts on socks correctly
  • Identifies front and back of clothing

5 years:

  • Dresses alone
  • Ties and unties knots

6 years:

  • Ties bows and shoelaces

According to Jayne Shepherd (2005), achieving independence in dressing may take up to 4 years. During this time, parents gradually perform fewer of the tasks, and encourage their children to do more, with the ultimate goal of independence.

*Source:

Shepherd, J. (2010). Activities of daily living and adaptations for independent living. In J. Case-Smith, (Ed.), Occupational therapy for children (5th ed., p., 501). St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Mosby.

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Developmental and Therapeutic Uses for Playdoh

There are so many common household items and children’s toys that have great therapeutic value when used or playedLittle girl playing Play-doh with in certain ways.  Playdoh may seem like an item that children use solely for creative play, but it can be a therapist’s and parent’s go-to activity that is both fun and extremely beneficial to a child’s development.

Developmental Skills that can be optimized through the use of Playdoh:

  • Hand Strength Whether your child is smashing the Playdoh into pancakes, squishing it so it explodes through their fingers, or using the Playdoh tools to create a spaghetti dinner, the muscles in the hand are constantly working and the Playdoh acts as a resistive force.  This is a great activity for kids who have handwriting difficulties, complain of getting tired while writing, don’t have a clearly defined hand dominance or have overall fine motor delays.
  • Bilateral Coordination Activities that target bilateral coordination and are fun to do at home may be difficult to come up with, but Playdoh is a great solution.  Many kids who have challenges with bilateral coordination often have difficulty with daily tasks like using a knife and fork to cut food and tying their shoes.  Kids can roll the Playdoh out into a flat “pancake-like” shape and then practice using a knife and fork to cut the food into small pieces.  This is a safe way to practice cutting foods as plastic utensil can be used and doesn’t waste food.  Cookie cutters or actual Playdoh toys with imprints of real food can also be used to add another layer to this activity.
  • Practicing Writing and Drawing Writing or drawing shapes in Playdoh is a great alternative to traditional writing activities; it may be more motivating for some kids who have difficulty with writing tasks while offering a resistive surface which improves hands strength at the same time.  Roll out Playdoh (modeling clay can be substituted for older kids who may benefit from a more resistive surface) onto a cookie sheet or similar surface and use a chopstick, pencil, or even the child’s finger to write letters.  For kids who are just learning to write or have a hard time with letter formation, shapes can be substituted, or an adult or older child can make a light impression of the letter and the child can trace using their full force.
  • Tactile Sensitivities For children  with tactile sensitivities, they are often fearful of or hesitant to touch a variety of textures.  Playdoh is a great transition item to use to bridge the gap between common firm/hard surfaces which are often “comfortable” and the textures which a child is sensitive to, such a soft, sticky and/or mushy to name a few.  Playdoh is easy to clean up and can be used in a variety of ways (cookie cutters, incorporate it with a child’s trains or action figures, have a tea party, etc), making it the perfect tool to introduce to a child who may have tactile sensitivities.  A great way to progress after becoming comfortable with store bought Playdoh is to find a recipe online for making your own Playdoh at home. These are often quick and easy recipes using common household items and can usually be colored in a fun way; some are even edible making this a total sensory experience and a lot of fun!

Playdoh has so many uses besides being a fun and creative tool for play for kids, but because it is fun and so versatile, it is an invaluable tool for working on therapeutic goals at home. There really isn’t a wrong way to use Playdoh as long as your kids are having fun and using their hands to explore.

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How Household Materials Can Be Used For Occupational Therapy Goals

In occupational therapy sessions, we often use common materials and games to make our sessions therapeutic and fun.

Here are some ways that you can use materials and equipment that you may have lying around at home to help your children reach their occupational therapy goals:

Children play household games

  1. Board Games Board games are a great way to help your children develop their social skills and fine motor skills. Board games can be a way to improve eye contact, turn taking, and sharing. Many board games, such as Battleship, Trouble, and Perfection, involve small pieces that need to be placed into the game board. By having your child use his fingers to manipulate these pieces, it can help him understand how to hold small objects which can facilitate learning how to properly hold writing utensils. In addition to helping to hold small pieces, it can also assist your child to develop other fine motor skills, such as manual dexterity and in hand manipulation skills. For example, you can have your child hold onto several of the pieces with one hand and put them into the game board one by one. Using board games that also have cards, such as Sorry, can also help improve manual dexterity by means of shuffling, dealing, and manipulating the cards without dropping them or revealing them to the other players.
  2. Play-Doh Play-Doh is a wonderful tool to improve fine motor skills in children. Play-Doh can be used as a medium to practice writing, drawing, and cutting. You can trace different geometric forms (circle, square, and triangle) into the Play-Doh with a pencil and have you child copy the shapes in another piece of flattened Play-Doh and cut them out with scissors. Using Play-Doh to practice drawing and cutting is often a good precursor to writing with a pencil and paper as the texture of Play-Doh is more resistive which makes cutting and tracing easier. Play-Doh can also be used to help strengthen the small muscles in their hands by rolling it into a snake, ball, and flattening it into a pancake.
  3. Puzzles Puzzles can be used to help your children improve their visual-perceptual skills which is important for many school tasks, such as copying things from the board and finding items in their desk. The complexity of puzzles can very greatly, from simple large peg puzzles in a wooden form to 100 piece jigsaw puzzles. If you have an older child, using a complex jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to work on planning, sequencing, organizing, and problem-solving skills.
  4. Playground equipment Using the playground or the jungle gym in the backyard is the perfect way to help your children increase their core strength, upper body strength, and bilateral coordination. This will help build up the strength in your children’s larger muscles so that when they have to work at their desk or a table, their core and upper body will have the stability and endurance to sit and complete fine motor activities.
  5. Balls Playing catch, kicking, dribbling, and volleyball are just a few of the many ways balls can be therapeutic. All of these activities involve using eye-hand coordination, balance, and core strength which are great skills to have for a variety of gross motor and fine motor activities. These activities can also help with ocular motor skills as your child needs to track the object through space.

There are many types of equipment and materials used during therapy that can be adapted to meet the needs of your child. You can find these materials and many more around your house in order to improve your child’s skills so he or she can be successful in school and play activities!

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Physical Therapy Posts

the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2)

Understanding Physical Therapy Outcome Measurements: The Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, Second Edition (BOT-2)

Previous physical therapy blogs have explained outcome measurements used to assess gross motor development in infants and children up to age 5, including the Peabody Developmental Motor Scale, second edition and the Alberta Infant Motor Scale. When children age out of either the PDMS-2 or the AIMS, one standardized assessment option physical therapists have is the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2). The BOT-2 can be used to evaluate a wide variety of fine and gross motor skills for children, teenagers and young adults 4-21 years of age. This is a test that can also be used by occupational therapists, psychologists, adaptive physical education teachers, special education teachers and educational diagnosticians.

The BOT-2 contains a total of 8 subtests that look at both fine and gross motor functioning. When certain subtests are combined, they can give more specific information regarding the child’s Fine Manual Control, Manual Coordination, Body Coordination, or Strength and Agility. Administering all 8 subtests can allow the physical therapist to obtain a Total Motor Composite looking at the child’s overall performance with fine and gross motor functioning.

Below is a description of the subtests most commonly used by physical therapists in BOT-2 testing:

  • Bilateral Coordination: This section of the BOT-2 looks at a child’s control with tasks requiring movement ofthe Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency, second edition (BOT-2) both sides of the body. Tasks in this section will require the child to move his arms and legs from the same and opposite sides of the body together, in sequence, or in opposition.
  • Balance: The balance subtest evaluates the child’s moving and stationary balance. Tasks are completed with a variety of challenges to the balance systems, such as while on one foot, on a balance beam, or with eyes closed.
  • Running Speed and Agility: This section of the test looks at a child’s maximum running speed, running and changing directions, as well as stationary and dynamic hopping and jumping skills.
  • Upper-Limb Coordination: This subtest is used to assess the child’s ability to coordinate arm and hand movements and visual tracking of the task. The child is required to demonstrate skills such as catching, throwing and dribbling a tennis ball with one or both hands.
  • Strength: In the strength section of testing, the child is required to perform tasks designed to evaluate strength in the core, arms and legs. Strength is assessed in both static positions as well as with dynamic movements.

Based on the child’s presenting concerns, a physical therapist may evaluate the child using just a few or all of these subtests. The child’s performance on the BOT-2 will allow the physical therapist to identify areas of strength and areas of need in regards to the child’s gross motor functioning, and can therefore help to guide treatment. Because the BOT-2 has both age and sex-specific normative data, this test will help the physical therapist determine how the child is performing compared to peers his age. The BOT-2 can be re-administered periodically in order to monitor progress in the child’s functioning and performance with gross motor skills.

If you have concerns with your child’s performance in any of the categories listed above, click here to get scheduled with one of our pediatric physical therapists!

References:
Bruininks, Robert H., and Brett D. Bruininks. Bruininks-Oseretsky Test Motor Proficiency. 2nd ed. Minneapolis: Pearson, 2005. Print.