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Everything Tummy Time

Parents of infants all know that they should be working on tummy time every day from an early age. However, most parents also experience difficulty consistently working on tummy time, since babies are often initially resistant to this position.Blog-Tummy Time-Main-Landscape

Below is a list of reasons why tummy time is so important, even if your child does not initially enjoy the position:

  1. Strength: When a baby is placed on her stomach, she actively works against gravity to lift her head, arms, legs and trunk up from the ground. Activating the muscle groups that control these motions and control the motor skills that your child will learn in tummy time allows for important strengthening of these muscle groups that your baby won’t be able to achieve lying on her back.
  1. Sensory development: Your child will experience different sensory input through the hands, stomach, and face when she is lying on her stomach, which is an integral part of her sensory development. When your baby is on her stomach her head is a different position than she experiences when on her back or sitting up, which helps further develop her vestibular system.
  1. Motor skill acquisition: There are a lot of motor skills that your child will learn by spending time on her stomach. Rolling, pivoting, belly crawling, and creeping (crawling on hands and knees) are just a few of many important motor skills that your child will only learn by spending time on her stomach. Along with being able to explore her environment by learning these new skills, your baby will also create important pathways in the brain to develop her motor planning and coordination that impact development of later motor skills, such as standing and walking.
  1. Head shape: Infants who spend a lot of time on their backs are at risk for developing areas of flattening along the back of the skull. It is recommended that babies sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, and since babies spend a lot of time sleeping, they are also already spending a lot of time lying flat on the back. Spending time on the tummy when awake therefore allows for more time with pressure removed from the back of the head, and also helps to develop the neck muscles to be able to independently re-position the head more frequently while lying on the back.

It is important to remember that your child should only spend time on his or her stomach when awake and supervised. Many infants are initially resistant to tummy time because it is a new and challenging position at first. However, by starting with just a few minutes per day at a young age and gradually increasing your child’s amount of tummy time, your child’s tolerance for the position will also improve.

For more tips on how to improve your child’s tummy time, watch our video!

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140.

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5 Ways to Help Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grasp

Your child is constantly growing, learning, and developing motor skills that she will use later in life.  One of thesedeveloping pencil grasp important motor skills is her pencil grasp.  By the time your child is three and half, she should have developed the skills necessary to hold her pencil with her thumb and the pad of her index finger.  Below you will find 5 ways to help her develop this skill.

5 Tips for Helping Your Pre-Writer Develop Her Pencil Grip:

  1. Employ “The Alligator”: Have your child make her hand into an alligator’s mouth, as if her fingers and thumb form the teeth and lips.  This “puppet-like” shape will help your child to grab onto a pencil, crayon, or marker using the pads of her fingers.  Instruct your child to place the marker in the alligator’s teeth and to keep the alligator’s mouth (web space) open.
  2. Use Stickers:  Place 2 stickers near the tip of your child’s markers.  These stickers will serve as a visual cue for your child when she is picking up the marker.  This additional cue may help her to remember where to put her fingers and to use her thumb and pointer finger together.
  3. Keep Supplies Her Size:  Give your child various small supplies, such as short pencils (much like the ones you find at the mini-golf course), broken crayons, or short markers.  Since your child’s hands are much smaller than your own, giving them supplies that are just their size will make it easier for them to use a more refined grasp.
  4. Use Lacing Cards: Engaging your pre-writer in activities that don’t involve a pencil or paper can also help her to develop her grasping skills.  Pick up some lacing cards (you can also use cardboard and a hole puncher to make your own).  Encourage your child to hold a shoe-lace with her thumb and pad of index finger as she weaves it in and out of the holes.  This activity helps to develop her visual-motor skills that are so important for writing. Read more

Let the Games Begin: How to Help Your Child to use Games in a Different Way

As I mentioned before in my previous blog, it is important for parents to consider traditional board games as well as hands-on toys forlegos this holiday season. While new technology is impressive, traditional board games and hands-on toys continue to be an ideal way for children to work on a variety of skills allow them to explore their environment and pursue their own personal interests. One common struggle that parents may encounter is that their children may become ‘bored’ with their toys after a short period of time, therefore, this proves to be a perfect time to help your children think of alternative ways to play a game.

Below are a few suggestions as to how to break down a game and address different skills:

  • Easel: While an easel is a great place for your child to draw pictures and paint, it can also be used for practicing your child’s spelling words, playing Tic-Tac-Toe, Pictionary or Hangman and for creating a visual schedule. Similarly, have your child use  clothes
    pins or clips to hang his or her paper onto the easel to address their hand strength, pincer grasp and upper body strength. These skills will benefit their handwriting and other fine motor tasks.
  • LEGOs: It is often that children will have plenty of ideas of what they would like to create using their LEGOs, whether it be pirate ships, castles or spaceships. In addition, parents can challenge their child’s visual skills by building a structure and then asking the child to copy that identical structure using the exact same colors and placement of the LEGOs. This activity will help your child improve upon copying complex designs as well as tracking skills(to move his eyes left to right and up and down). Tracking skills ultimately help your child improve his or her visual skills for reading and handwriting (as both activities happen left to right).
  • Puzzles: It can be difficult for children to want to sit down and work on completing a puzzle as puzzles can be challenging and they often require patience and attention to detail. With that being said, try mixing it up a little bit for your child by creating a scavenger hunt with the puzzles pieces. One person is the ‘hider’ who hides the puzzle pieces and then can provide “hot/cold” verbal cues to help the ‘finder’ locate all of the missing pieces. Similarly, the ‘hider’ could create a Treasure Map in order to help the ‘finder’ locate the missing puzzle pieces or the ‘treasure’. Creating a Treasure Map enhances creativity, problem solving, planning and executing skills (completing a task start to finish). Similarly, it helps to improve fine motor and visual motor skills to create the map. Overall, a puzzle helps to address your child’s visual motor skills, problem solving skills and the skill of being able to politely request help when needed.

As you can see, many of your child’s games and toys can be used in a variety of ways and not only what is printed in the instruction manual. Similarly, there are various strategies to use in order to improve your child’s fine motor, gross motor, attention and motor planning skills with a fun and simple family game night. Please contact your child’s occupational therapist for more individualized ideas for your particular child. Let the games begin!

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We are Going on a Treasure Hunt!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, sequencing and memory activities are important for people of all ages. These skills help to keep our minds sharp and active and allow us remember old skills as well as learn new patterns and routines. A “treasure hunt” is a fun way to work on these two skills, all wrapped into one child-friendly activity!

How To Create A Treasure Hunt For Your Family!

Parents help son with handwriting

Materials: construction paper, markers, equipment needed within treasure hunt (e.g. ball; scissors etc)

Directions:

  • First, talk out loud together with your child about how many steps you are going to include in your treasure hunt.
  • Next, determine what these steps are going to be (e.g. dribble a tennis ball 10 times, cut out a circle, copy a block design, balance on one leg etc).
  • Make sure that you include age appropriate tasks that your child needs to be working on.
  • Some of these tasks should be ones that are easier and your child can be more successful with, and some should be more challenging to help work on a novel skill and/or skills your child has a harder time with.
  • After you have verbally determined what will be in the treasure hunt, have your child repeat these steps back to you, first verbally, and then by copying the steps onto construction paper in a treasure map format (e.g. working towards the “X” which signifies the ‘treasure’ and the end of the treasure hunt). Lastly, help your child to implement the treasure hunt by having him tell you which step he will be completing first (e.g. first I will ______, and then I will ______).
  • If your child is having a hard time recalling which step comes next, have him refer to his treasure map to visually study the steps again, and then have him state the steps out loud again to help the information stick in his mind. Feel free to do this as often as needed throughout the activity.
  • Your child will show progress in his memory and sequencing skills by requiring less and less visual and/or verbal cues for the sequence of activities. Provide a small reward of your choosing for the “treasure” that your child will enjoy after he has completed the hunt!

Skills addressed in a Treasure Hunt:

  • Fine motor (to draw/write out the treasure map)
  • Auditory processing and memory (to listen to and repeat back the steps of the treasure hunt)
  • Sequencing (to complete the treasure hunt in the correct order)
  • Following directions
  • Attention (staying on task throughout the activity)

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8 WAYS TO WORK ON MOTOR SKILLS AT THE PARK

Oftentimes, playgrounds are overlooked as just places where children can run around and  burn some energy. While this is true, playgrounds are also a great environment to practice your child’s gross motor skills, such as balance, trunk control, motor planning, bilateral skills, hand-eye coordination, and strength. Below are several ways to use various pieces of equipment at your local playground to improve your child’s motor skills. Feel free to let your imagination run wild!

Here are 8 tips for motor skill activities at the park:

  • Monkey bars: challenge your child to hang from the monkey bars for as long as he can. This will help develop his hand strength, upper body strength, and endurance. Similarly, have your child practice chin-ups or pull-ups on the monkey bars. Your child can also practice crossing the monkey bars by placing both hands onto the same bar or alternating hands (one on each bar).Child is rolling down a slide
  • Prone down slide: have your child ride down a slide on his stomach like Superman (head first, with arms and legs extended). Once your child reaches the bottom of the slide, help your child wheelbarrow walk across the playground, as he will already be in the correct position (support your child at his ankles, knees, or hips, depending on his skill level).
  • Zip line: when crossing the zip line, instruct your child to lift his knees towards his chest the entire way. This will help develop his core muscles, along with his motor planning and upper body strength.
  • Rock climbing wall: choose which color of rock your child is or is not allowed to use to help him get up the wall (e.g. do not use the blue rocks). Rock climbing addresses upper body strength, bilateral skills, trunk control, motor planning, and problem solving.
  • Fireman pole: challenge your child to climb up the fireman’s pole as high as he can, with the goal of reaching all the way up to the platform. This will help increase his upper body strength, bilateral skills, and motor planning.
  • Pull-up bar: have your child hang upside down on the pull-up bar (with legs hanging over the bar, and head inverted). This will address his vestibular system, as his head will be tipped out of its normal alignment, changing the position of his ear canals (e.g. going on a roller coaster). The vestibular system is important for balance and body awareness.
  • Lily pads: work on your child’s opposition by challenging him to step onto the lily pad with one foot and the opposite arm (e.g. step with right foot, grab with left arm), then switch. Opposition is needed for ball skills used in sports such as baseball and soccer. This activity will also help address his balance and motor planning.
  • Tunnels: have your child army crawl through the tunnel (on his belly, propped up on elbows/forearms, and using upper body to propel self forward). This will address motor planning, upper body strength, and trunk control. Similarly, if the tunnel is large enough, challenge your child to complete different animal walks through the tunnel (e.g. crab walk, seal walk).

Note: Make sure to monitor your child during the above activities to keep him safe, along with  others at the park. Stay tuned for my next blog on ways to work on social skills at the park.

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Fine Motor and Gross Motor Activities to do with Sidewalk Chalk this Summer

Summer is the perfect time to get outside with your child to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air. Summer also offers the chance for your child to unwind a bit, and take a break from all the demands placed on him at school. However, it is still important to keep your child active and engaged throughout the summer months, so that he stays in somewhat of a consistent routine and keeps his mind fresh and in tip-top-shape for the upcoming school year. Here are some fun and simple ways to incorporate fine motor and gross motor activities into your everyday summer routine using an already preferred activity, sidewalk chalk,

Here are a variety of options to explore with chalk:

  • Hopscotch: Create a hopscotch board out of chalk (typically alternating 1 square, 2 squares). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the squares and write numbers inside of the squares. It also addresses trunk control, balance, and motor planning to complete single-leg hops and two-footed hops into each of the squares. You could also challenge your child to complete animal walks inside the hopscotch board instead (e.g. crab walks, bunny hops, frog jumps).
  • Tic tac toe: Have your child draw a tic tac toe gameboard on the sidewalk or driveway. Little girl playing sidewalk chalk gameThis activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw horizontal and vertical lines, turn-taking, problem solving and sportsmanship.
  • Hangman: Take turns coming up with a “secret” word for the other player to guess, and create a hangman board. This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills needed for handwriting, as your child has to write out the letters which appear either in the “secret” word, or get placed into the word bank. It also addresses executive functioning skills as your child has to memorize which “secret” word he chose, and has to remember how to spell the word correctly, and which order the letters go in.
  • Road: Help your child to draw a pretend road which he can then either ride his bike through or drive his toy cars through. This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills required for drawing (e.g. have your child create road signs as well). And if using the road for bike riding, this activity addresses motor planning to get through the road without crashing into the chalk lines, and balance and trunk control to navigate the bike. If using toy cars, this activity can focus more on imagination and possibly social skills, if your child is playing with peers.
  • Baseball diamond: Create a baseball field out of chalk (e.g. home plate, pitcher’s mound, and the bases). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the diamond and circles or diamonds for the bases, and potentially letters/numbers for a team name and scoreboard. It also addresses ball skills, bilateral skills, and hand-eye coordination to play the actual game of baseball, along with sportsmanship and turn taking.
  • Four square: Draw a four square game board, which includes one large square divided into four equal squares (one for each player). This activity addresses fine motor and visual motor skills to draw the squares, and write the letters inside the boxes. It also includes ball skills, such as dribbling and bounce passing, in order to keep the ball out of your own square. Similarly, this game addresses sportsmanship and turn taking.

Note: Try making your own sidewalk chalk using 2 tablespoons of temper paint, ½ cup of water, and 3 tablespoons plaster of Paris. Directions: In a five-ounce paper cup, mix 2 tablespoons temper paint with one-half cup water. Add three tablespoons of plaster of Paris and stir until you have a creamy consistency. Once hardened (several hours), peel off the paper cup to produce a giant piece of sidewalk chalk.

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The Unexpected Benefits Of Story Time

 It’s Not Just About Reading

Reading is an important and fun activity to experience with your child. There are so many benefits to the time spent reading to your child, listening to them read to you, and talking about the story afterwards. Listed below aMom And Young Daughter Pointing At Picture Bookre some of the things that you can do to make the experience of reading even more beneficial and engaging for you and your child.

To make reading more meaningful and exciting for your child, ask them to tell you their own story or make up a story together. You and your child could also recreate the ending of a familiar story to enjoy a whole new adventure. As you read books together, make sure to be animated and engaged in the story, use your voice Read more

Physical Therapy Posts

Torticollis: Before And After Physical Therapy

What do you notice in the picture of two babies lying down? That they are two adorable boys?…Well of course!! They are my sons so I can’t help but agree. You may or may not also notice how both of their heads are tilted to the left. This is because they both had a condition called torticollis.

Twin Boys With Torticollis

Baby Boys Exibiting Torticollis

What is Torticollis?

Torticollis is derived from the Latin language for twisted neck, which makes sense but sounds pretty awful! As a parent it can be even more awful to find out that there is something wrong with your child. For me, even as a clinician who works along side children with torticollis, it was hard to believe that my young sons had a condition that required therapeutic intervention.

Physical Therapy Used To Resolve Torticollis

Twin Boys With Torticollis Resolved

After Physical Thereapy, Torticollis Is Resolved

Both of my sons received physical therapy under the care of a physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy for a few months, and the torticollis is now resolved. Overall, the process of receiving physical therapy was a great experience.

First and foremost, if torticollis is not treated and resolved there are several issues that can result, including issues with development of gross and fine motor skills, visual perceptual difficulties, and even facial and jaw asymmetries can present. Also, from a parent of small infant’s perspective, it was really helpful for me to have some structure to my week that included an “outing” (therapy) with my boys to force me to get dressed and leave the house Finally going to the appointments weekly and hearing about progress that an experienced clinician was observing every visit was helpful and encouraging!