Do you ever have days when the kids are literally climbing the walls? These products are a godsend for those times, especially when you're stuck inside due to sub-zero blizzard-like conditions (New Hampshire, anyone?). They're also wonderful as part of a sensory diet "menu", to help provide a child with the sensory input that they crave in a healthy, fun way. Most of them also help with motor planning, core strength, and gross motor skills to boot!
Both of my kids have the Ikea Ekorre Hanging Swing hanging in their rooms, and use them for relaxing, reading, calming linear swinging, and mostly spinning (they like to either wind up each other and their friends, or use their feet to propel the chair if they're alone). They're also nice for a child who is feeling overwhelmed and needs a dark, cozy little nook to hang out in.
SPRI Balance Pods are so fun for encouraging balance during obstacle courses, or helping a child learn to hop and jump over rows of them. They can also throw matching beanbags at them to work on target practice. The fun part about these is that they're as much of a therapeutic tool for a 4 year old as a 40 year old, because you can flip them curved-side down for an even higher level of challenge. I've even had some of my older kids kneel on two, with their hands on another two and work on reaching and balancing in a quadropod position...it's so much harder than it looks, and is a phenomenal core strengthening exercise!
The Alex Active Play Monkey Balance Board is a classic OT tool. I use it in most sessions, and we can work on multiple goals at once in a fun way. Usually, the kids will stand on the balance board and throw a balloon or weighted medicine ball back and forth. Once they've mastered that skill, they can practice standing sideways to the person with whom they're playing, and work on crossing midline while throwing - this is quite challenging for most kids! If they have a pitchback ball return net at home, the child can practice bouncing a soft rubber ball off and then catching it. A trampoline slightly propped against a wall is another way to make a ball return net.
The Gorilla Gym doesn't require hardware, and installs onto a doorframe in seconds. It has a swing, trapeze, rope ladder, and rope attachments. Both are sensory diet and gross motor development tools that anyone can benefit from...and, they're a blast! What child wouldn't want a jungle gym in their house?
I'm so excited to announce that I'll be teaching a class on Yoga and Mindfulness for Self-Regulation in Children at the Brentwood Recreation Center this summer! All children deserve the chance to thrive, and a growing body of research shows that Yoga and Mindfulness are powerful tools to help navigate a challenging world. Through this class, children will learn to improve their balance of emotions, reduce impulsive behavior, and support their capacity to make healthy choices. Based on a program used in NYC schools, this framework for helping children access their inner resources of the body, breath, and mind is comprehensive and effective. Classes will be held on Tuesdays at 10 am, from June 21 through July 26, 2016. Cost is $60 for the session. No prior experience with Yoga is required; I hope to see you there!
Please visit the Brentwood Rec website to sign up
Brentwood Recreation Center, 190 Route 125, Brentwood, NH 03833
Fun Ways to Strengthen Little Hands
Little hands are filled with intrinsic hand muscles, which need to be strengthened in order to allow the child to perform activities like spinning a top, writing their name, coloring, cutting, putting a coin in a vending machine (because what child doesn't love that!), typing, and playing with manipulative toys like Legos. These muscles are contained within the hand itself, and allow for smooth, skilled, coordinated movements.
Some of the most common ways I help kids exercise them are through games that use pegs, tongs, and tweezers, like Thin Ice, Lite Brite Magic Screen, Lauri Tall Stacking Pegs, and the Learning Resources Fruit Sorting Pie among many, many more. Legos, Jawbones, Zoobs, Green Toys Build-A-Bouquet, and TinkerToys are fun open-ended construction toys that promote hand strength as well. Putty, clay, kinetic sand, and playdough are so motivating for kids. Even my most tactile-defensive kids love kinetic sand; it's typically the first texture I can get them to tolerate when playdough, putty, and shaving cream are too much for them to handle. You can incorporate child-safe scissors, cookie cutters, a garlic press, rolling pins, googly eyes, pipecleaners, golf tees, and endless other items into play to make it more interesting and therapeutic for the intrinsic hand muscles to grasp small objects.
There are also O.T.-specific toys that I use; I've included pictures below since they're not products that people come across every day! The chopsticks with the green frog produce immediate results for children learning to separate the "skilled" side of their hand (thumb, index, and middle fingers) from the ring and pinkie fingers, as it has soft, flexible loops for these 3 fingers. This separation of the hand is important for the development of mature pencil grasps and use of tools such as scissors, knitting needles, utensils, buttoning and fastening clothing, and countless other items.
I always purchase anti-microbial theraputty for my clients as it's multi-user, but for home use you can buy any type. The color corresponds with consistency; I use blue which is pretty tough, but doable for ages 3+. The putty and sand really get their little hands going when I hide gems inside for them to dig out!
Kristen M. Goodrich, OTR/L
I'm a pediatric occupational therapist with a clinic space in Epping, NH. I also see a limited number of clients within the community. I graduated from Boston University, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in 2003, and have worked in various pediatric settings, including early intervention, adaptive camps, outpatient clinics, schools, and community as well as clinic-based services through my own practice Seacoast Play Works Therapy, PLLC.