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Stability Ball Exercises

The stability ball is a simple and easy piece of equipment to work into everyday exercise for your child, ranging from infant to teenager.  Stability balls can be bought at most sports stores, cost only about 20 dollars, and last for years.

Below are some fun activities to follow along with your kiddos to see improvements in core strength, posture, and shoulder stability:

Age: Infant

  • Simply sitting your 2+ month old infant in supported sitting on the stability ball will help his posture.
  • Placing your 2-8 month old on their tummy on the ball. TLittle girl rolling on a balance ballhis is a bit more challenging then pure tummy time as they have to push up through their arms on a cushy surface, helping build strong back and shoulder muscles.
  • At 4+ months, you can lean the ball/baby to the left side and watch your infant “right” their body up toward the middle. Practice to both sides. This will help their muscles on the sides of their trunk that are important for crawling.

Age: 1 year-5 years

  • Bouncing your child up and down gently on a ball will help both their core strength and vestibular system.
  • Bouncing the ball back and forth by lifting it above your head while keeping your and your child’s tummy muscles tight helps build great core and shoulder strength.
  • 3+ years, have your child practice dribbling the ball for increased hand-eye coordination and motor planning.

Age: 5 years +

  • Sit-ups:With either
    • your child’s hips and knees at a 90 degree angle from each other or
    • holding your child’s feet down, practice crunches to build abdominal strength.
  • Push-ups: With feet on floor and child in a plank position, they can practice push-ups with their hands on the ball. An adult may need to hold the ball stable so it doesn’t move.
  • Practicing chest passes (like in basketball) is great for chest strength, motor planning and overall stability.

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What is Motor Planning?

Motor planning is a process that encompasses the ability to come up with an idea, plan how to complete that idea and then finally, execute that idea. mother helping daughter brush teethChildren with sensory processing disorder often have difficulty motor planning for various gross motor and fine motor tasks, as motor planning is a complex procedure that relies on the efficient integration of sensory information.

A child with decreased motor planning may be observed to have difficulty with self-care tasks, such as dressing and grooming, may have difficulty identifying one activity to do when presented with many options, such as when first arriving at the playground, or may have difficulty producing coordinated movements to play games with peers. Until your child completes a novel activity enough times for it to become a skill, he/she may need assistance to engage in a task.

Below are strategies to help your child develop motor planning abilities:

  1. Break down the task into smaller parts.
  2. Provide a variety of cues to help complete the task, including tactile, verbal and movement.
  3. Explore a variety of ways to play with the same toy or game. For example, a balloon can be used for catch, volleyball, baseball, or soccer. Have your child identify other items that would be needed to play these different sports with the balloon (i.e. bat, bases, net, etc).
  4. Assist your child with hand-over-hand support during the first few attempts to complete the task.
  5. Provide your child with the language to promote success, such as “I’m going to try my hardest” or “I can do this!” rather than “I can’t”. Help to show your child that he/she can do the things they want to do!

Source: Ayres, A. J. (2005). Sensory integration and the child: Understanding hidden sensory challenges (25th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Western Psychological Services

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The Developmental Benefits of Practicing Ball Skills with your Child

Ball skills are oftentimes overlooked as an activity only for boys, or only for athletic children. However, ball skills are an important activity for children of all interests and abilities to practice consistently. Ball skills not only prepare children for gym class at school and extracurricular activities, but they help to address bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, timing, sequencing, motor planning, and attention. girl dribbling ballBall skills can include, but are not limited to: throwing and catching, dribbling, kicking, and aiming for a target. Here are some activities to try at home:

5 Ball Games To Play With Your Child For Developmental Exercise Purposes:

  1. Ball at the wall: Find a safe wall (e.g. outside), and have your child throw a ball at the wall and catch it in their hands. To make it easier, throw the ball at the wall, allow it to bounce once on the ground, and then catch it in hands. Use a playground size ball to start, and work towards using a tennis ball.
  2. Popcorn: Throw a ball overhead (towards the ceiling), trying to see how many times your child is able to clap their hands (while the ball is in the air) before catching the ball in their hands. For another challenge, see what words your child can spell while clapping their hands, before catching the ball.
  3. Dribbling: Set-up cones or other obstacles for your child to weave between as they dribble a ball using either one hand or alternating hands. If they bump into a cone with their body or the ball, have them begin at the start again to help them to work on body awareness and a slow and steady pace, rather than rushing through the activity. Make it into a relay by timing them or having them race a partner.
  4. Laundry-basket basketball: Have your child hold a laundry basket at about chest or trunk level as you toss beanbags or rolled up socks for them to catch. Make sure to make the throws unpredictable as the child becomes successful, to work on moving their body and keeping their eyes on the ball.
  5. Upside down basketball: Place a barrel or bucket and a few balls behind your child to serve as the hoop and the basketball. Have your child lay on their back over an exercise ball so that their head is inverted (upside down), as you hold onto their legs. Next, have your child reach overhead with both hands to pick-up one ball and toss it into the hoop as they remain upside down. Lastly, have your child squeeze their tummy muscles to pull themselves back up into a seated position on top of the exercise ball.

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