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Help! My Child Won’t Exercise

 As a pediatric physical therapist, I often prescribe home exercises for my patients. When parents follow through with these exercises on a regular basis, the potential benefits exponentially increase. The problem arises when a child begins to view these exercises as a chore and parents receive push-back. Here are a couple of tricks I’ve learned along the way to help motivate your kids to exercise.

Use a Reward SystemHelp! I can't get my child to exercise

            Creating a simple star chart will help keep your child motivated throughout multiple exercises. Using small rewards once the chart is complete will also help your child develop a sense of pride in his/her work. These rewards do not need to be material- or food-focused; rather a reward can be as simple and gratifying as having a special Friday movie night. Try and develop a reward system that supports your child’s hobbies/interests. This may be a great jumping off point for instilling a healthy relationship with physical activity.

Change up your Routine

            Just as your personal exercise routine can grow monotonous over time, the same may hold true for your child’s home exercises. Asking your therapist to update your child’s exercise regimen is a great way to boost enthusiasm for home exercises. Home exercises should be updated regularly as your child strengthens and improves his/her skills in order to effectively challenge your child. Once a goal is met, work with the physical therapist to develop new exercises that will keep your child on the path to success.

Turn it into a Game

            A large part of my job as a pediatric physical therapist is figuring out novel ways to motivate children to partake in therapy sessions. I have seen that the best way to ensure enthusiastic participation is to re-tool something that may seem like a “chore” and transform it into a fun game. Instead of a mind-numbing walk on the treadmill, why not consider creating a fun obstacle course around the backyard? Or use a high energy scavenger hunt in which your child has to complete various physical feats before proceeding to the next level? Re-imagining a traditionally dull exercise into something fun can be a deeply rewarding experience!

NSPT offers physical therapy services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview 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!

5 Tips to Help Your Child with Motor Planning

Does your child have difficulty learning or doing a new or unfamiliar task? Does he appear clumsy or avoid participating in sports or other physical activities? Does he have trouble coming up with new play ideas or knowing how to play with toys? If this sounds familiar, your child might have difficulty with motor planning.  Motor planning is the ability of the brain to conceive of, organize, and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar actions.  If your child needs help with motor planning, read on for 5 helpful tips.

5 Ways to Help Your Child with Motor Planning:

  1. Do activities that are composed of a series of steps (i.e. making a craft, making a sandwich, or creating an obstacle course).  As you do this, help your child identify, plan, and execute the steps to promote the ability to sequence and map actions. Break down the steps to make them more manageable and attainable, which can build self-esteem.
  2.  Determine what aspects of motor planning are a strength for your child (e.g. imitation, following verbal directions, timing, sequencing, coming up with ideas).  Play to these strengths when doing activities with your child to compensate for the areas of difficulty.
  3. Engage your child in activities that involve climbing over, under and around large objects.  For example, playing on playground equipment or coming up with obstacle courses will help your child gain basic knowledge of how to move his body through space.
  4. Encourage your child to come up with an idea for a new activity, or a new way to play with a toy or equipment, to promote motor planning. Read more

Obstacle Courses are FUNctional!

Obstacle courses can provide great opportunities for your child to gain multiple skills as well as challenge their performance in gross obstacle courseand fine motor activities. You can construct the course inside your home or outside in the playground. Collaborate with your child to create multiple steps that can incorporate household items, balls, pillows, toys, etc.

Below are 5 benefits of constructing obstacle courses at home and examples of steps you can include:

  1. Sequencing and Memory– Obstacle courses can teach your child to sequence a multi-step activity as well as challenge their memory by progressively increasing the demands of the activity. Start with writing down the steps of the obstacle course on a piece of paper or dry erase board and transition into memorizing the steps without writing down the sequence. In addition, you can increase the number of steps as your child’s sequencing and memory skills improve!
  2. Sensory Input– Within the course, you can incorporate various activities to provide multiple sensory inputs! Provide proprioceptive (deep pressure) input by having your child engage in heavy work. For example, make one step of the course to pull a heavy wagon from one location to the next, then have him or her unload the heavy items (rocks, books, toys, etc.) The obstacle course can include activities in all planes of vestibular movements, including linear (up and down), saggital (side to side) and rotary (spinning). To incorporate this input, have your child bounce on a “hippity hop” or an exercise ball while singing his or her favorite song for linear movement. When the song is complete, have them fall sideways onto pillows for saggital movement and/or have your child spin 10 times in a swing for rotary movement. To provide tactile (touch) sensory input, one step of the course could involve locating 10 items in a bucket of beans or sand.
  3. Strengthening and Balance– Multiple activities within the obstacle course can provide opportunities to build your child’s strength. An effective way to incorporate this is to have your child wheelbarrow walk, hop on one foot or perform a two-feet hop across the floor. In addition, your child can swing on a trapeze swing 5 times while holding up their knees to their chest or crawl over couch cushions to retrieve an object.
  4. Motor Planning– Obstacle courses provide a great opportunity for your child to improve motor planning by animal walking (bear, crab, bunny hop, etc.) as a transitional step to get from one location to the next or to deliver a puzzle piece to the puzzle.
  5. Bilateral Coordination– You can incorporate steps that challenge your child’s bilateral coordination by having him or her climb across 10 monkey bars, play catch by catching the ball 5 times or playing tug-a-war.

An obstacle course is a fun activity that doubles as a functional exercise to enhance your child’s motor and sensory skills. For more ideas, ask your occupational therapist!