Child's Play O.T.

The weather in Auckland has been dismal to say the least over December and January. But on the semi-sun-filled days, my partner and I have been working in the garden, shifting soil and making flower beds. We unfortunately don’t have a wheelbarrow to move the soil, which gave the thought for this post.

During therapy a lot of time is often spent working on a child’s postural adjustments – whether it be protecting themselves from falling by extending their arms, preparing their body position in anticipation for a movement (like stepping sideways to catch a call) or adjusting their trunk/neck/head side-to-side. We do this on the swiss ball quite often, as well as various swings and during action songs.

An unconventional way to practice these skills at home is to use a wheelbarrow. Have your child sit inside the wheelbarrow, and start by holding on either side. Take them for a ‘wheelbarrow ride’ along the garden or on the driveway.

Grade the activity to suit their ability:

  • walk slowly in a straight line, the child focusing on not falling over and holding on
  • walk a little faster so the bumping up and down is more intense – they will need to hold on tighter
  • walk in a curvy line, and prepare them for the direction changes – “we’re going left, hold on, don’t let your body fall over, think which way your body needs to lean so you don’t fall out!”
  • Walk in a straight line but tip the wheelbarrow slighly to the side. Prepare them for the movements and prompt them to adjust. If they cope with this, tell them you will be moving it side to side but won’t be telling them clues which way. Finally move the wheelbarrow without telling them.
  • when the child is displaying improved adjustments within their core (not only relying on their hands to stop them falling over), encourage them to not hold on and onlly use their bodies to stop falling over. You will of course need to be very conscious of their ability and how fast/slow they will be able to adjust to the movements of the wheelbarrow. Prompt them to stick out their hands quickly if they feel unsafe.
  • Go for treasure hunts and obstacle courses, and have the child tell you which direction to go (also works on direction!)

So there we have it – use your home wheelbarrow to practice

  • protective extensioin (reaching out to prevent falls)
  • reactive postural adjustments (moving body in reaction to moving off centre in the wheelbarrow)
  • anticipatory postural adjustments (moving body in antipication, most likley when they are directing you and are preparing for turns)
  • directions
  • waking up the vestibular system with little bumps in the pathway
  • activating core muscles

Things to consider:

  • if your child id tactile defensive, line the wheelbarrow with an accepted fabric so they do not get dirty, or let them wear gloves
  • place cushions in the wheelbarrow
  • wear a bike helmet and elbow/knee pads
  • know your own strength!

It seems obvious, but sharpening a pencil is a really great bilateral integration task! The twisting of the pencil allows for some great rotation (pronation and supination of the wrist), which some kids really struggle with. To sharpen the pencil you need to be able to twist the sharpener in the opposite direction to the pencil, hence the need for bilateral integration.
Happy sharpening!

Considering we’ve just celebrated Christmas, and are having some pretty wet weather at the moment, what better indoor activity than some arts and crafts?!
Before you put all your cards into the recycling bin why not go through them and choose your favorite ones to turn into some holiday crafts.

Here are some ideas for them:
• hanging mobiles
• pop up Christmas cards
• story books (also a great way to get kids to practice their writing!)
• puppets and ‘show’ props
• advent calendars
• decoupage crafts

How these relate to Occupational Therapy:
• fine motor practice
• bilateral integration and midline crossing
• for children with Dyspraxia and planning difficulties, emphasize the need to plan and sequence the activity and have them verbalize the sequence to you
• ask the child how to do the activity or specific steps to encourage planning and trial and error. For example ‘how could I stick this on the card?’
• incorporate the story book aspect to practice writing skills
• have the child sit on a Swiss ball or T-Stool to practice balance and core control

Have fun!

So it’s only a few weeks until my 2012 challenge hits the ground running. I haven’t had any ideas from others yet, but have started thinking of the things that lie around the house and bach over summer. There are many little gadgets that, left in the hands of children, will become hours of fun. One of my favorites? Making tents out if towels and blankets. Great for motor planning practice, needs a fair bit of fine motor to connect the towels to the branch or pole of choice using knots or clothes pegs, and then figuring out how many people can actually fit inside (good input for body awareness). Of course there is always someone that gets kicked in amongst the shuffling about – but that’s the beauty of live and learn! When you see a foot flying towards you, duck!!

So this is my first blog post EVER. Bear with me.

I have wanted to start a blog for a while, but didn’t have anything new and interesting to blog about – enter my 2012 challenge. I have decided that for the next year (starting January 2012), I will be taking suggestions and posting comments on how to turn every day objects into fun therapuetic activities. I am hoping that this will increase the public’s awareness of how easy it really is to have fun and incorporate therapuetic ideas with things that literally are just lying around the house. I will be aiming to post one activity or idea a day…..give or take a couple on the weekends (I like my R&R). Thats 365 ideas.

Wish me luck!