Upper Extremity Weigh Bearing for Kids: the What, Why, and How

Weight bearing is exactly what it sounds like, supporting the body’s weight through the extremities. While kids are frequently standing, walking and running, putting pressure through their legs, it’s also very important not to forget to incorporate weight bearing for the arms.

Upper extremity weight bearing, what why and how

By engaging in weight bearing activities through the arms, children strengthen their hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders and even neck and core muscles. Strong proximal muscles also allow for children to have better control of their distal muscles, which is necessary for fine motor coordination.

In this day and age of increased technology use, younger generations are demonstrating weaker grip strength as compared to older generations2. Yet, school aged children are expected to meet the demands of academic expectations including efficient and legible handwriting. Encouraging children to engage their arms in strengthening activities early on can help set the stage to increased success with later motor skills, including handwriting.

Weight bearing activities also provide awareness into the joints– this is known as proprioceptive input and in addition to providing information about the body’s position in space, it also has an impact on a child’s state of arousal, as in how alert or calm they are. For more information on proprioception, check out this article.

To incorporate weight bearing throughout the day, try to encourage kids to participate in some of these activities that have the above-mentioned benefits and more:

animal walks for UE weight bearing

Try animal walks, such as walking on hands and feet like a bear, crab walking, etc.  Find a few more examples and two free gross motor animal walk game printables here.

Stretches, push-ups, planks and yoga poses that use different positions to put weight through outstretched arms, such as downward dog.

people-2557453_1920

Bring it to the floor. Puzzles, crafts, toys can all be played with on the floor. Encourage kids to weight bear on their arms to reach for toys and manipulate items. This also helps with dissociating the different sides of the body and crossing midline, and encourages bilateral coordination skills.  Crawling while pushing a toy car, truck, or boat along the floor is a fun one for toddlers.

Obstacle courses that encourage crawling and climbing are a great way to exercise the entire body, including the arms, legs and core. Try to be creative with it, including obstacles to climb over or under, such as a tunnel, over couch cushions, or through a tent. My kids love crawling through our homemade car wash box.

scooter board

Use a Scooter board! Use both arms to propel forward while lying on the board. You can make it more challenging by creating obstacle course or scooter board races with a friend.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day1. Of this one hour or more, activities should include aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening activities. Weight bearing activities fall into the muscle strengthening category for children, and it could also lead to bone strengthening (such as when jumping or hoping is incorporated) and aerobic activity as well depending on the nature of the activity.

Get those kids moving, and have fun with it!

References:

  1. “How much physical activity do children need?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4 June 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm.
  2.  Fain, E. & Weatherford, C. (2016). Comparative study of millenials’ (aged 20-34 years) grip and lateral pinch with the norms. Journal of Hand Therapy Oct-Dec 29(4). pp.483-488.

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

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Gross Motor Movement Break: Roll-an-Animal Walk

Weight Bearing Animal Walk Game

Several months ago, I created a Trolls inspired movement game that has continued to be a big hit in my house.  With the success of this game in mind, I decided to create another gross motor break game, and the Roll- an- Animal Walk game cube was born!

Animal walks are a great activity for kids, as the movements have many benefits. Weight bearing on extended limps provides for strengthening and proprioceptive input. For more about the benefits and importance of upper extremity weight bearing, check out this other post.

Two ways to play animal walk movement break games

You can create an animal walk cube with this free printable: Roll-an-Animal Walk Cube Game Template

(I recommend using thick paper or laminating the template prior to cutting and taping it together so that it’s a little more durable).

If you’d prefer to use dice, you can try this one instead: Roll-An-Animal Walk Dice Game PDF

Here’s how to do the walks:

gross motor animal walks

Crab Walk– Place hands behind the body, lift bottom completely off the floor to move forward or backward.

Bear Walk– Walk on hands and feet.

Tiger Walk– Crawl on hands and knees (sneakily, like a Tiger).

Donkey Kick– place hands down on the floor and kick legs up behind like a donkey.

Lizard Walk– crawl pulling with the hands, also known as an army crawl.

Frog Jump– squat with hands in front, using the hands and feet to push off while jumping forward.

The great thing about this activity, is that it’s quick, easy and can be done anywhere. In addition to strengthening muscles, movement breaks such as these provide some sensory input to encourage attention and optimum arousal for learning. Please feel free to share with parents, teachers, and therapists who might love incorporating this fun activity into their daily regimens!

 

 

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

Fingerprint Penguin Ornaments

holiday penguin ornament

Last week I described the very fun and engaging Fine Motor DIY Ornament Station that provided some great fine motor practice. It was the first step to this year’s homemade Christmas ornaments.   Each holiday season, we love to make keepsake ornaments for our tree as well as for gifts for grandparents and close friends.

This year we decided to make penguins- one of my son’s favorite animals (and we had already done snowmen, reindeer, Santas, and Christmas light ornaments in previous years).

Penguin Ornaments

My kids loved filling the ornaments with pompom balls for this project. We used a variety of hollow plastic bulbs that can be found at most craft stores, super centers or online here.

To complete the ornaments, we used white paint for finger prints. Some ornaments hand only a couple prints, some as many as four. Finger prints and finger painting provided for some fun tactile exploration. Some of the fingerprints smeared a bit, but that’s ok! The beauty of homemade ornaments is that each on is different and unique.

fingerprint penguins

It was quite easy to turn the prints into penguins: just a couple eyes, a beak, a black outline, little wings, and orange feet.

Some of the ornaments we left as is, others we added snowflakes, hats, scarves, and/or earmuffs.

Penguin ornaments-1

These turned out super cute, let me know how it goes if you decide to try them too!

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Fine Motor DIY Ornament Station

diy ornament station

It’s getting colder, and for many of us, it’s time to take down the water tables. Luckily, however, it is NOT the end of utilizing the water table for something different.

This week, I cleaned out our water table and brought it inside for some fun holiday fine motor crafting.

Every year, my kids enjoy making homemade ornaments, and this year, the water table is the perfect place to do this activity. Our water table provided a kid area that kept all the items (mostly) contained. We’ve done similar projects described below at a regular table, but the water table kept everything in one spot longer, and it kept the much-used dining table clear of our sensory materials/craft supplies. Another alternative idea that works great for sensory exploration is to use a simple shallow plastic bin if you don’t have a water table.

HOLIDAY SENSORY ACTIVITY

This DIY ornament station is super simple, yet it keeps little hands busy and entertained for double-digit minutes at a time (if you have or know a toddler, you know double digit entertainment is HUGE and often times hard to come by).

Here’s what we did:
We stocked up on the DIY plastic hollow ornaments and tons and tons of pompom balls. We chose holiday pompoms, but any pompoms are sure to please!

*Also, close adult supervision was included for the littles who tried to eat such fuzzy fun treasures*

The simple task of squeezing the pompoms into the ornaments kept my kids entertained and working on their bilateral motor skills, fine motor skill development, and provided some great sensory feedback. Providing different sizes of ornaments and different sizes of pompoms allows for a great toddler learning opportunity.

SENSORY TABLE ORNAMENT STATION

In addition to the ornaments, I provided my kids with some fun tools to provide free play and opportunities for additional motor skill acquisition.

The best part was that both of my kids came up with their own games in the days that followed the initial ornament filling! My son popped the pompoms allover (like “popcorn”) and then had the opportunity to clean it up (luckily he’s into brooms) and my daughter used these awesome scissor tongs to fill Santa’s sleigh with the holiday balls of goodness.

FINE MOtor

So, this has completed our first step to this year’s DIY ornaments! It was so much fun… stay tuned to see the finished (painted) product!

DIY ORNament-2

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Fun & Easy Pumpkin Activities

OT Mom says, “It’s pumpkin season!”

And in my house, everyone cheers (even Dr. Dad)!

Pumpkin activities

It’s fall and I am totally on the pumpkin bandwagon. What’s not to love about pumpkins? They’re colorful, tasty, and irrevocably associated with the fall. In my house, we are all about the pumpkin crafts and activities. Here are my favorites so far this year:

Pumpkin Washing Station

Pumpkin Washing Station

We used our sand and water table to make a pumpkin washing station. Baby bubble bath made this activity safe and super fun. We also used wash clothes, a cloth sponge, and a nail scrubber for variety. This was a big hit several days in a row.

Fall Sensory
DecorationPumpkin “Sensory Bin” Center Piece

To decorate for fall and have a hands-on pumpkin inspired activity, I made this pumpkin bowl for our coffee table. As a filler, I used 99 cent foam pumpkins, a few real gourds, and a couple other sturdy wooden pumpkin decorations. They all feel and bit different and are not so fragile that I don’t mind my 2-year-old playing with them. I do have to admit, Dr. Dad does sometimes move this off the coffee table and out of reach when he is tired of finding the pumpkins and gourds out of the basket and across the room. So far, all of the contents have remained in one piece!

Paint a Pumpkin this Fall

Pumpkin Painting

We love painting in my house, so why not paint pumpkins and gourds?!? Last year we picked a nice day to paint outside, and this year we did it at the kitchen table. This year we also used the tiny paints that are connected, as my son is into pouring or mixing all the paint together to make a beautiful brown any chance he gets… check out these other messy play hacks to make messy play a little more manageable.

It's Pumpkin Season!

Tissue Paper Pumpkins

This one is pretty simple too- tear or cut up tissue paper and glue on a pumpkin, as easy as that. We used regular school glue and glue sticks. I love the hidden motor skill practice this activity has. Tearing up the tissue paper involves hand strength and bilateral coordination skills and gluing takes a bit more precision than simply slathering the paint on a pumpkin. We didn’t use scissors with ours, but I bet cutting out shapes or even faces for older kids would be a ton of fun.  While the finished product in our house wasn’t quite what I had in mind, my son loved it, and that’s what counts!

Pumpkin Sensory Bottle
Pumpkin Sensory Bottles

We’ve had a sensory bottle laying around that I made almost a year ago that has and handlful of random small items, mostly beads and the like and rice as a filler. One of the small items is a jack-o-lantern earring, and it’s my kid’s absolute favorite thing to look for in the bottle. So this fall we also made this pumpkin sensory bottle filled with pumpkin decorating filler, Halloween sprinkles, and tri colored dried cous cous as a filler. My kids argued over who got to play with it first, so we used it as “sharing tool.”

Just Explore

I LOVE PILES AND PILES OF PUMPKINS… and so do kids. Visiting a pumpkin patch is an Autumn must if you ask me. The numerous sizes, shapes, and colors of pumpkins, squash and gourds allow for kids to explore these natural beauties. It’s fun to compare the different kinds and sneak in all kinds of vocabulary and concepts with kids, such a big/small, colors, counting, you name it!

Fall explore pumpkins

I’m also looking forward to carving some pumpkins this month as well, playing in the goopy guts, and roasting some seeds. I have a feeling some of the above activities will follow us through fall as we are looking for fun ways to spend the season.  As alway, enjoy & I’d love to hear your thoughts about these pumpkin activities and favorites of your own!

 

 

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

Roll-A-Troll: Movement Break Game

Roll-a-Troll

We recently had a “Trolls” themed birthday party for my two-year-old, and the party planning led me to create the following Roll-a-Troll game to keep my very active toddler, her brother, and their cousins busy and moving all weekend.

The benefits of physical activity for kids, including movement breaks, is undisputed.   It’s recommended that children, ages 6-17 years, should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day- if not more. Further, evidence suggests that classroom physical activity, such as movement breaks, benefit student’s attention, behavior, and test scores. Check out the CDC’s website for more information.

I’ve found that channeling in on a child’s interests gets he or she motivated to participate in activities much more willingly and for a longer duration of time. If you know any Troll’s fans, I think this movement “game” will be a hit. It certainly was a hit at my house!

Roll-A-Troll Movement bReaks Game

I used a 4”x 4” treat box that I on hand and cut pictures from a Trolls magazine to somewhat match my movement ideas. I simply glued a picture on each side of the box, wrote the Troll’s name, and a movement idea.

The six sides included:

  1. Jump- Princess Poppy
  2. Dance- Guy Diamond
  3. Mix a beat- DJ Suki
  4. Stomp or Hide- Branch
  5. Run- King Peppy
  6. Hug Time- Give yourself a big hug (included is a picture of Biggie & Mr. Dinkles)

Alternatives to cutting and gluing Trolls pictures from coloring books or magazine pictures, would be to just use stickers, simply write out the instructions, or even use the free printable chart below to play with dice:

Roll a troll

While this game chart is pretty plain, we decorated one with stickers (which also sneaks in some fine motor practice).

Roll a troll printable

To play

Just let each child take turns rolling the cube or die (whichever version you decide to use) and then ALL of the kids involved do that action for approximately 15-30 seconds (longer or shorter depending on the age and attention ability of the kids), then it’s the next kid’s turn. The actual cube (vs. dice) seems to be more engaging for the younger players.

Overall, it was a HUGE success with the group of kids this weekend, aged 2-7 years. I think this would be a hit for classroom movement breaks as well.

Here’s a little clarification on how we did each movement:

  1. Jump– pretty straight forward, just JUMP!  Both feet, one foot, in place, or forward… no wrong way!
  2. Dance– any dance moves that kids want to do!
  3. Mix a beat– reciprocally alternating extending and retracting each arm (like spinning a turn table).
  4. Stomp or hide– either stomping in place or crouching down into a ball (like you’re hiding). The group of kids that I did this with liked both so they alternated between both!
  5. Run– depending on the situation, run in place, or all over (my son does laps around the living room, occasionally).
  6. Hug Time– give yourself a big hug (my kids and nieces hugged each other too).

Roll-a-Troll game

I also love that motions such as stomping and jumping allow for some great proprioceptive input and all the movement stimulates the vestibular system. Check out my other posts about some of the sensory systems and for more fun, low cost activities that have many, many hidden benefits!

If you try this game, I’d love to hear how it went! Enjoy!

References

Healthy Schools. Physical Activity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9/19/2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/facts.htm

Healthy Schools. Classroom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved 9/19/2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/physicalactivity/classroom-pa.htm

*Disclaimer-The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Touch: A Multi-Sensational Feeling

OT mom says, “Don’t touch me, unless you’re going to hug me!”

Ok, maybe I’ve never said those exact words, but firm, deep pressure touch is definitely more calming than light touch, and obviously more comforting than any kind of painful touch. Our sense of touch, known as the tactile system, is essential for everyday functioning and is interestingly quite complex. TOUCH

As children, we learned about the sense of touch as one of our five main senses (although there are other senses as well, such as the proprioceptive and vestibular senses). When we think about the sense of touch, most of us will first think about what we might feel with our hands, how we use our hands to identify objects, and the different sensations we may feel on our skin. While all of this is true, there is so much more to the sense of touch.

The tactile system works closely with the proprioceptive system to make up what is known as the somatosensory system. This is important for developing body awareness, and this system sets the foundation for our ability to engage with our surroundings and navigate our environment. This system also includes sensory information about pain, temperature, and vibration.

Receptors for touch are found in our skin and there are multiple kinds of receptors that react to different types of touch sensations. For example, we have receptors known as Meissner’s corpuscles as well as Merkel discs and instead of boring you with an anatomy lesson, just know they are sensitive to different types of touch (light discriminative touch and vibration, and pressure for fine touch awareness, respectively… in case you were wondering). Tactile information is also relayed from receptors on hair roots and from free nerve endings in our skin.4

From all this information, not only are we are able to identify what we are feeling through our skin, we are able to use this information with our other sensory systems to complete complex motor control tasks such as writing, walking, and tying our shoes.

tactile functioning sets the stage for higher level skills

As I mentioned before, touch does even more for us. The sense of touch has a direct influence on our arousal level as well, meaning that it can influence how alert and focused or calm and relaxed we are at any given time.

For example, light touch tends to be alerting. Think about when a bug lands on your arm and displaces a hair or two. Those hair follicle receptors fire and alert you to the possible threat. How do you respond? Most of us automatically swat the area of skin or at least immediately look it over.

On the other hand, touch can be calming. Think about a nice massage- the firm, moderate to deep touch calms most people down, especially when it’s slow and linear.3 Another example I like to think about is the sensation of soft, warm, and heavy blankets when you climb into bed.

Let’s not forget about the emotional components of touch. Even before we are born, we are developing our sense of touch. From as early as five and a half weeks after conception, reflex avoidance reactions occur in response to touch. As soon as we are born, we begin to bond with our parents through touch. The research about kangaroo care (the practice of a parent holding their infant with skin to skin contact) demonstrates numerous benefits of this touch, both physiologic and behavioral, and for both the parent and baby. Benefits such as improved weight gain and growth, stable body temperatures and heart rates and better self-regulation have been seen for infants and parents may demonstrate more confidence in parenting and have decreased stress levels.1

emotional benefits of touch

As babies, we bond with through the sense of touch, then we learn and explore our environment and develop a body map that will allow for higher level functioning, such as moving through our environment and manipulating items.

As we grow up, the sense of touch continues to influence our emotional functioning. Studies have indicated that married couples that engage in more touch, such as through hugs and massage, have correlated decreases in cortisol levels and blood pressure, and increased oxytocin levels.2

Moderate touch through activities such as massage have been seen to decrease heart rate and change EEG patterns, so not only does it feel nice, it has systemic influence over the entire body.2

But wait!  The list continues…. benefits of specific types of touch, such as massage protocols, have also been correlated with decreased pain, increased immune function, reduction in depression, and increased attention.2

As with every sense, we are on a continuum of how sensitive we are to that particular sense stimuli. Some people are over-responsive to touch and others under, with most of us somewhere in-between.

Those who are hyper-responsive may react more strongly to touch than others. They may demonstrate extreme discomfort with certain fabrics or clothing, may dislike having their hands and/or mouth messy, and may be distraught when being touched by others.

On the other side of the continuum, some people are hypo-responsive and may not notice tactile input quite so much, such as the person who doesn’t notice the food on their face. Finally, there are sensory seekers in the world- those who crave specific sensory inputs, such as a person who has the need to touch and fidget with different materials or even touch other people.

Recognizing that some people may be very sensitive to touch is importation, as the tactile system has connections with the autonomic nervous system and could potentially trigger a fight or flight response. Therefore, it’s important NOT to force tactile situations on kids or who demonstrate tactile defensiveness. Often, it’s easier to present tactile stimuli in combination with proprioceptive input, but of course, if you have major concerns, consider a referral to an OT to look at the specific situation.

tactile input to calm or alert

So how can we use this understanding of our sense of touch? By promoting the development of this sense, and utilizing the tactile system in our daily routines:

Alerting activities include light touch, such as tickling. You can try using a feather boa or light clothing to let kids play games and to play dress up. Calming activities include using massage, weighted blankets, moderate and deep pressure inputs such as hugs.

Allowing children to have ample opportunities for tactile exploration may promote the development of this sense and tactile discrimination abilities. Some ideas to do this include:

  • Sensory bins/boxes- filled with sand, rice, dried pasta, beans, small balls, etc.
  • Play with your food
  • Manipulate play dough, gak, slime, floam
  • Use nature– sand sticks, grass, rocks
  • Put on lotion
  • Play dress up

Also, don’t forget to hold those babies, squeeze your spouse, and utilize this sensational sense of touch!  On that note, I think I need to go hug my family now 🙂

 

*Disclaimer: The information presented in the blog is intended for information purposes only. Please consult your physician with any medical concerns and/or for medical advice. The information presented is not intended to be used in place of individualized therapy services, please contact your health care team for skilled therapy if you think it is necessary. Please supervise your children (or friends, spouses, etc)  if you decide to try any of the activities or ideas presented as the author or this blog does not claim liability for possible injury or negative consequences related to the activities and ideas presented here.

 

References:

  1. Case-Smith, J. & O’Brien, J. (2009) Occupational Therapy for Childretn (6th). Mosby Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri
  2. Field, T. (2009). Touch for socioemotional and physical well-being: review. Developmental Review, 30, 367-383. Doi:10.1016/j.dr.2011.01.001
  3. Kramer, P. & Hinojosa, J. (2010). Frames of Reference for Pediatric Occupational Therapy (3rd). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia, PA
  4. Lundy-Ekman, L. (2007). Neuroscience: Fundamentals for Rehabilitation (3rd). Saunders Elsevier, St. Louis, Missouri