Posts

Fine Motor Skills: Is Your Child Lagging Behind?

Fine motor coordination is the capacity of the small muscles of the upper body to allow Blog-fine-motor-skills-Main-Portraitfor controlled movements of the fingers and hands. They include the ability to hold a writing utensil, eat with a fork, open containers, and fasten clothing. These small movements correspond with larger muscles such as the shoulder girdle, back, and core to provide stability for gross motor functioning and with the eyes for hand-eye coordination. Weaknesses in fine motor skills are often the result of poor hand strength and poor motor coordination.

Red Flags for School-Aged Children

As a former Kindergarten teacher, at the start of each school year, I received a group of children with an assortment of fine motor skill-sets. Because children have such different preschool experiences, their skills will vary based on the activities to which they have been exposed. If a child has had the opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, for example, he or she will likely be able to accomplish snipping a piece of paper by 2.5 years old. Fine motor development occurs at an irregular pace, but follows a step-by-step progression and builds onto previously acquired skills.

By the approximate ages listed below, your child should be able to demonstrate these fine motor skills:

2 to 2.5 Years

  • Puts on and takes off socks and shoes
  • Can use a spoon by himself, keeping it upright
  • Draws a vertical line when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Holds crayon with fingers, not fist

2.5 to 3 Years

  • Builds a tower of blocks
  • Draws horizontal & vertical lines when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Unscrews a lid from a jar
  • Snips paper with scissors
  • Able to string large beads
  • Drinks from an open cup with two hands, may spill occasionally

3 to 3.5 Years

  • Can get himself dressed & undressed independently, still needs help with buttons, may confuse front/back of clothes and right/left shoe
  • Draws a circle when given a visual example or after an adult demonstrates
  • Can feed himself solid foods with little to no spilling, using a spoon or fork
  • Drinks from an open cup with one hand
  • Cuts 8×11” paper in half with scissors

3.5 to 4 Years

  • Can pour water from a half-filled pitcher
  • Able to string small beads
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but moves forearm and wrist as a unit
  • Uses fork or spoon to scoop food away from self and maneuver to mouth without using other hand to help food onto fork/spoon

4 to 4.5 Years

  • Maneuvers scissors to cut both straight and curved lines
  • Manages zippers and snaps independently, buttons and unbuttons with minimal assistance
  • Draws and copies a square and a cross
  • Uses a “tripod” grasp (thumb and tips of first two fingers) to draw, but begins to move hand independently from forearm
  • Writes first name with or without visual example

4.5 to 5 Years

  • Can feed himself soup with little to no spilling
  • Folds paper in half with edges meeting
  • Puts key in a lock and opens it

5 to 6 Years

  • Can get dressed completely independently, including buttons and snaps, able to tie shoelaces
  • Cuts square, triangle, circle, and simple pictures with scissors
  • Draws and copies a diagonal line and a triangle
  • Uses a knife to spread food items
  • Consistently uses “tripod” grasp to write, draw, and hold feeding utensils while moving hand independently from forearm
  • Colors inside the lines
  • Writes first name without a visual example, last name may be written with visual
  • Handedness well established

By age 7, children are usually adept at most fine motor skills, but refinement continues into late childhood. If you notice your young child demonstrating difficulties in the above “red flag” areas, it may be time to consult with an occupational therapist. For at-home ideas to improve hand strength and fine motor abilities, read my other blog, Fine Motor Skills: Ideas for At-Home Improvement.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Meet-With-An-Occupational-Therapist
Resources:

Beery, K.E., & Beery, N.A. (2006). The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration. Minneapolis: NSC Pearson

Folio, M.R., & Fewell, R.R. (2000). Peabody Developmental Motor Scales, 2nd Ed. Austin: Pro-Ed.

Retherford, K.S. (1996). Normal Development: A Database of Communication and Related Behaviors. Greenville, SC: Super Duper Publications

The Power of Yoga for Children

Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise over the past few years. So much so that on every street corner there seems to be a new yoga studio advertising a variety of classes and programs. Yoga is practiced by people of all ages and skill level. The benefits of yoga, especially for children, are countless. Below are four of the reasons children should practice yoga.

1. Motor Planning

Yoga poses vary in complexity. While your child twists and turns their body to match the pose of the group, they are creating motor plans in their brain for these movement patterns. Creating and refining these plans are what help a child to improve their overall coordination. For children just learning the practice of yoga, try to practice poses where they hold the left and right sides of their body in the same position (down dog, cat, cobra). Once your child is able to efficiently assume these poses, try a few that require them to move the left side of their body differently than their right (triangle, tree, or warrior poses).

2. Strength and Endurance

Once your child has motor planned their way into a yoga pose, encourage them to freeze in that position for a predetermined duration of time without losing their balance or dramatically swaying from side to side. As their body endurance and balance improve, increase the duration they are required to sustain the position. Holding these static poses will help to improve your child’s muscle endurance.

3. Attention

Sustaining poses for predetermined durations can also help to improve your child’s attention. Holding the same pose with a steady and still body for even three seconds may prove to be a challenge. Try to choose a duration of time for your child to hold a pose that challenges their attention but that they also have a chance to be successful in completing. Once they master the ability to hold a pose for a shorter duration of time increase the challenge by a second or two to see if they can maintain a still and focused body.

4. Social Skills

Yoga can be a challenging form of exercise but it can also be a lot of fun. Working together with friends or classmates to practice and refine yoga skills offers vast opportunities for promoting social skills including flexibility of thought to participate group classes, active listening, turn-taking, imitating and replicating group dynamics, and identifying personal role in group activities.

In the coming weeks, especially while it’s still cold outside, look into kid-friendly yoga classes in your community. If you would rather, there are also some excellent videos and yoga cards that you can use in the comfort of your own home. “The Yoga Pretzel Cards” by Tara Guber and Leah Kalish are an excellent tool for practicing yoga with really colorful illustrations for kids to practice with. No matter the way or place you choose to do yoga, remember the cardinal rules for practice: breathe in, breathe out, and namaste.



 

6 Health Benefits of Basketball for Children

Ever wonder which team sport keeps boys and girls busy no matter their age, skill level, or the season? I recently had the opportunity to watch one of my clients play basketball with his middle school team, and it was so rewarding to see him transfer skills we worked on during physical therapy to the court.  Basketball is a high-intensity, high-agility activity that teaches children coordination, concentration, and cooperation.

6 Health Benefits of Basketball:

  1. Endurance: As with any high intensity sport, there are many cardiovascular benefits of basketball.  Between bouts of running, jumping, dribbling, and bouts of rests, kids are participating in total body interval training without even realizing it. Interval training boosts aerobic capacity, energy levels, and metabolism, which in turn helps kids concentrate more in school.
  2. Motor Control: The ability to control our limbs in space may come naturally, but being able to pass and shoot with precision during a basketball game takes special training and repetitive practice.  Performing drills on and off the court with a basketball enables children to grade their muscle forces, control the position of their bodies in response to an opponent or a pass, and plan out successful movement sequences.
  3. Ankle Stability: All the agility training, cutting back and forth, multidirectional running, pivoting, and turning within a basketball game are great ways to challenge our lower body muscles and joints, especially the structures surrounding our ankles.  Organized basketball teaches kids safe and successful ways to block, pass, steal, jump, and run without hurting themselves or others.  Ball sports such as basketball are great for reinforcing kids’ balance reactions and balance strategies and prevent future injury.
  4. Balance/Coordination: As with most team sports, basketball requires upper body coordination, total body coordination, and hand-eye coordination. Dribbling, catching, passing, and making baskets require planning, precision, and quick reactions. Walking backwards, turning, or running while dribbling a ball and at the same time paying attention to other players is a challenging but interesting exercise for coordination and body awareness.
  5. Agility: Basketball is a fast paced sport where athletes have to think fast on their feet and respond quickly to plays that could change momentum and direction at any minute.  Young athletes are working on mental drills in addition to physical techniques. Basketball enhances children’s agility due to the swiftness needed to dodge other players and make aggressive plays.
  6. Social Skills: The great thing about team sports is the level of discipline and communication needed for success at the games. Young athletes learn from an early age how to work in a team atmosphere, pay attention to others, and respond accordingly. An athlete needs discipline to attend practices and pay attention to the rules of any game.  Team sports prepare children for necessary social interactions later in life.  Through these sports, children understand shared responsibility, team work, how to deal with triumph and defeat, all of which are applicable throughout life.

Click here to read about the health benefits of another fun winter sport: hockey!

Health Benefits of Hockey for Kids

Many parents often ask me about the best sport to enroll their children in during the winter time. Hockeythe health benefits of hockey always comes high on my list of recommendations. Children as young as 5 years old can participate and benefit from this total body work out.

Health Benefits of Hockey:

Endurance

Hockey is a high-intensity sport that has many cardiovascular benefits. Between bouts of running, skating, and bouts of rests, kids are participating in interval training without even realizing it. High-intensity interval training has been known to boost aerobic capacity, energy levels, and metabolism. Read more

Gross Motor Skills and Dance

Dance has always been a fun and exciting recreational activity for children of all ages. Along with the enjoyment of dancing to upbeat music and the social experience, dance is also a great way to help develop your child’s gross motor skills. Read on for 4 aspects of your child’s motor skills that can be facilitated with dance lessons and performance of any style.

4 Gross Motor Benefits to Dance:

  1. Balance-Many dance moves incorporate balancing on one leg, standing with feet right next to each other or standing with one foot in front of the other. All of these positions are challenging for your child’s balance systems, which help to strengthen her balancing abilities.
  2. Coordination-While learning to dance, your child will begin by learning different dance moves and positions. Most positions involve different placement of all 4 limbs, which requires a lot of coordination. Also, once your child learns a dance routine with multiple dance positions sequenced together, she will need to coordinate the entire routine. Read more

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!

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Signs That Your Child May Need Occupational Therapy

Young Girl Writing in Her Exercise Book in the ClassroomAt school, you or your child’s teacher may be noticing difficulties in your child’s school performance. Although you may not be able to see your child work in the classroom, there are some things that you can look for outside of school that  suggest your child could benefit from occupational therapy services.

  1. Difficulty Focusing – If your child is having trouble focusing on her homework, it may be a sign that she’s also having trouble focusing in class. If she gets distracted by noises or people moving about at home, she might also have difficulty paying attention at school and may not be getting the most out of her education.
  2. Difficulty Starting Homework – Your child may have trouble with task initiation if she needs help from you to start her homework or if she   can’t start without having someone present.  Occupational therapists (OT), can help your child work on task initiation so she can be independent with her schoolwork.
  3. Math Problems Don’t Line Up – If your child is consistently getting the wrong answers with math problems, it may be because she has a hard time lining up the numbers correctly. This may be an issue with organization or spatial organization.
  4. Typing Difficulties – Does your child have trouble remembering where the letters are on the keyboard, moving her fingers, typing quickly (in comparison to her peers), or staying error-free when typing? These are all components of manual dexterity and visual memory, which occupational therapists can help improve.
  5. Handwriting Issues – If your child has a hard time writing quickly and neatly, reverses letters, doesn’t form letters correctly, adds too little or too much space between words, or confuses upper and lower case letters, she may need OT to improve her handwriting skills.
  6. Messy Backpack or Folders – This may be a sign that your child has decreased organizational skills, which can affect her ability to complete the correct homework each day.
  7. Forgotten Homework – Your child may benefit from using a planner or calendar system to help keep track of when her homework and projects are due, as well as dates of tests and quizzes. An occupational therapist can help assess her organization and planning deficits and find specific strategies to help her manage her homework.
  8. Lack of Time Management – Does your child have difficulty scheduling her time? Does she spend the majority of her time on leisure activities, while not leaving enough time for homework and getting to bed at a decent hour? If your child is in middle school or older, she should be able to manage her time with little help from her parents.
  9. Poor Fine Motor Skills and Coordination – If your child has difficulty holding a pencil correctly, erasing completely, cutting, folding, or coloring, this may be an indication that your child could benefit from OT. Read our blog addressing daily activities for fine motor strength

These are just a few of the things that may indicate your child could benefit from occupational therapy. Occupational therapists can work on fine motor skills and handwriting, time management, manual dexterity, organization, spatial relationships, memory, and more. By improving these skills, your child will have a greater chance of succeeding in school!

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Sample Activities to Increase Oral Awareness!

Development of oral facial muscles is important for a child to accurately produce speech sounds. Poor coordination and strength of articulators can adversely affect skill development for speech sound production. When looking at oral development it is important to ensure the child is provided a variety of movement opportunities to build a variety of oral skills. Movements should include movements of the jaw, tongue, and cheeks to build strength and coordination.

Father practicing oral awareness with child

Below are sample activities to do at home to increase oral awareness and movement

  1. Gather two sets of 5 items varying in size, texture, shape, and temperature. For example; ice, a tongue depressor, straw, teething toy, and straw. Encourage your child to use each of the objects in oral-exploratory play. Imitate your child’s movements and comment on what your child is doing and how it makes the mouth feel.
  2. Mirror play! Have your child sit with you in front of a mirror. Explain that you will be playing a “clown” game. Feel free to dress up in silly hats or clothes to play the game! Instruct your child that you will be taking turns making silly faces in the mirror and copying each other. With your models, make sure you do a variety of tongue movements. Stick your tongue out, move it side to side, lift up the tip up to touch your nose. Have your child practice the movement 2-3 times before it is his or her turn to put the clown hat on.
  3. Play musical “chairs”. Choose objects around the house that include a target sound. For example if the target sound is “b” you could find a book, bear, bottle, bread, and bowl. Place pieces of paper on the floor, with the item on the paper, in a circle. Have the child walk from sheet to sheet until the music stops. Once the music stops, have your child say the target word they land on. You can also write the word on the pieces of paper to increase print sound awareness.
  4. Cut an egg carton in half lengthwise, turn it upside down, and color or paint each of the 6 protruding sections a different color. Next, find a puppet or an animal with a large mouth. Find small “food” items to feed the puppet. These could be marbles or pretend food. Tell your child that you are going to sing silly songs to help feed the very hungry animal! Model a sequence of three sounds varying in intonation tapping the egg cartons to pace each sound as they are sung. Different intonation patterns can include rising/falling pitch or increase/decreased loudness on individual sounds. For example, “ ba BA ba”. Think of the NBC studio signature tone. Once the silly song is imitated you can feed the hungry animal! Using rhythm and a singsong voice has been proven to help facilitate speech output.

These activities will encourage oral motor development in a fun and exciting way. Your child will be learning and exploring and improve his oral awareness in the process!




Developing Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination is the synchronization of eye and hand movements. It involves proprioception (knowing where your body is in space) combined with processing visual input. Any task that requires the coordination of vision and hand movements involves hand-eye coordination. Examples of hand-eye coordination include grasping objects, catching and throwing a ball, playing an instrument while reading music, reading and writing, or playing a video game.

Hand-Eye Coordination in Infants

There are many ways to encourage development of hand-eye coordination in a child. Just like any other skill, the more time spent doing activities that involve hand-eye coordination, the easier the skill will become. In infants, reaching and playing with objects and toys are great ways to foster development of hand-eye coordination. As they get older and are able to sit independently, you can play with balls, encouraging the baby to roll and corral them. Playing with blocks and other toys that involve putting something in or taking something out are also great ways for an infant to develop this skill.

Hand-Eye Coordination in Toddlers

With toddlers, continue to play with various sized and textured balls to develop hand-eye coordination. By the age of three, a toddler should be able to “fling” a ball forwards and catch a ball against their chest. To help develop his aim, you can practice tossing balls into hula-hoops or targets on a wall (start with big targets and get smaller as the child progresses and gets older). To practice catching with only the hands, start with bigger and softer balls (like koosh balls or bean bags). Progress to smaller and harder balls (like a tennis ball) as the child gets older.

Hand-Eye Coordination in 4 Year Olds and Older

Coloring and creating crafts is another fun and great way to develop hand-eye coordination. Some fun crafts to do include stringing beads or macaroni, finger painting, or playing with play-dough. When a child is four years or older, games that involve slight hand movements can also further facilitate growth in this area. Examples of these games are Jenga, Honey-Bee Tree, or Topple (all available at any toy store). Complex puzzles, Legos, or building blocks are other great hand-eye coordination activities.

Children who have poor hand-eye coordination often refuse or choose not to participate in activities that involve this skill. The activities mentioned above can be very beneficial in assisting these children in improving their hand-eye coordination. Some children struggle immensely with every-day activities due to poor coordination skills. These children may require extra assistance from an occupational therapist or a physical therapist.

Love What You Read?  Click Here To Subscribe To Our Blogs Via Email!

Gross Motor Exercises for Kids in a Hotel

Staying in a hotel does not leave a lot of room to play which may leave a child bursting with energy! Here are some tips to provide an outlet for kids to have fun during hotel downtime while also improving their gross motor strength, coordination and to help with self-regulation.

11 Hotel Activities Concentrating on Gross Motor, Self Regilation and Coordination:

1. Assist parents in carrying luggage to and from room. This provides heavy work to help with self regulation.

2. Animal walks or races with siblings in hallways. These activities have many benefits, including self-regulation, core strength, endurance, motor planning and bilateral coordination.boy sitting on luggage

3. Crab walks- With body facing upwards, use hands and feet to hold up body weight, while walking on all fours with tummy facing the ceiling and keeping torso held up. This can be done forwards, backwards or even sideways!

4. Bear walks- With body facing downwards and hips bent, walk slowly on all fours with both arms and legs straight.

5. Frog jumps- Begin crouched down in a bent knee position, with knees pointed away from each other. Place both hands on the floor between knees and propel self up with the strength of the legs. Hop forward with both feet together; come down with hands and feet touching the ground at the same time.

6. Be creative! Have your child come up with their own animal walks.

7. Wheelbarrow walks in the hall way. Have your child lie on their stomach while grabbing their feet and raise their feet into the air. The “wheelbarrow” moves by walking on his/her arms while holding their stomach tight. This activity provides heavy work for self regulation, as well as motor planning, bilateral coordination, core strength and upper body strength.

8. Yoga poses- Choose a pose such as tree, plank or boat and see how long your child can hold it for (example: tree, plank, or boat. While holding a sustained contraction as in yoga poses, your child will be increasing their postural control, balance and as well as providing a self-regulation strategy.

9. Jumping Jacks or wall push ups. These easy exercises can be done anywhere to address not only self-regulation, but also bilateral coordination and motor planning.

10. Play “Simon Says”. Show your child a pose and see if they can recreate. This is a great way to increase your child’s motor planning and bilateral coordination. Make sure to incorporate both sides of the body with your poses!

11. Have your child lay on the floor to make numbers or letters with his/her body to address motor planning and bilateral coordination.

If You Would Like To Receive Our Blogs In Your Email: Please Sign-Up Here!