Thursday, January 5, 2012

Let's Get Moving!

I am not a fan of cold weather.  This is one (of the few) areas that my husband and I do not see eye to eye.  He would love to move to Colorado but I would only go kicking and screaming.  But, we all know that staying inside all day and having kids is NOT a good combination!  While I may be happy lying around on the couch for the day, Clara would tolerate my laziness for, oh, about 30 minutes if I was lucky.  After about an hour or two in the morning, I am racking my brain about what I can do to entertain her.  When it's warm outside, it's not a problem.  We go for a walk, swing on the play set, go to the pool, play in the yard, or go to the park.
But when it's cold out, it's time to find some alternative solutions.  Yes, we could go to the mall but that would require her to spend most of her time in the stroller and that does not meet my goal of getting out some of her energy!  Also, as an OT, I know that our children's bodies need regular physical activity to stay healthy and to build the muscle strength they need to develop those fine motor and gross motor skills.  Physical activity also helps to calm their little bodies, making it easier for them to cope with frustration, deal with stressors, and soothe themselves, which, in turns, makes for a happier child and a happier mommy.

There are quite a few ways to get your child moving if you are stuck in the house.  Pushing, pulling, lifting, carrying, crawling, rolling, and jumping are great ways to help your child get out extra energy and get the sensory input their little body's need.

The tunnel is one of our favorites.  Clara loves to crawl back and forth through the tunnel, which is also great for continuing to strengthen her little arms now that she is walking.  You can place the tunnel over pillows for an extra challenge. 

She also loves to carry toys in containers with handles, which helps to improve her walking balance, makes her stronger, and is a great physical activity.

Pushing is another of her favorites.  We have a ton of big boxes left over from Christmas that Clara loves to push her toys around in. 

She also loves to figure out how to climb in the boxes herself, which is also a great physical activity AND is great for her problem-solving skills.
For older kids, tunnels are also great.  For extra fun, you can cover old phone books with fabric and have your children push them through the tunnel or carry them though the house to deliver the "presents" to family members and stuffed animals.  They (or you) can also create obstacle courses in the floor using large floor pillows, old comforters, and other items around the house that your child can crawl over, under, or through.  Make it fun by having your child carry puzzle pieces or stuffed animals from one side of the obstacle course to the other.  Other ideas to get out some energy and strengthen their little core and arms include having your child animal walk (lizard crawl, bear walk, frog jumps, bunny hops, crab walk) from one side of the room to the other to collect puzzle pieces, game pieces, building blocks during play or playing "Simon Says" using physical movements such as jumping, rolling, and child-friendly yoga poses!  

Trust me, getting your little one moving will make the day better for them and for you.  So, get creative and let the fun begin!
Dana Elliot, MS OTR/L

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

DIY Fine Motor Activities!

Forget about the expensive toys! 
Make your own fine motor activities at home!

Get a muffin tray, some tweezers or kitchen tongs and small objects that you have scattered around the house.  He can work on placing them in the cups or even sort them by color!


Straws make him successful with stringing a bead!  Once he has mastered that, move on to string!

Cut a hole in the top of a container for buttons, coins, popsicle sticks, etc. 
The neighbor kids had fun decorating these sticks!

A parmesan cheese container is great for working out those first three fingers needed to hold a pencil!  Straws, pipe cleaners and even little puff balls are fun to stick through the holes!  Paint around the holes in different colors to make it a sorting activity.

The squeezable mayonnaise containers are great for working on a pincer grasp.  Small buttons or pennies can be placed through the slot.  Also, have your child pick up three pennies, one after another, using only one hand, and then place them into the slot one at a time.

The possibilities are endless!  Take a look around your house to make other variations of finger fun!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L