Pediatric physical therapy helps kids improve their range of motion, strength, flexibility, and movement patterns. PT supports children with how and when to move their bodies; it should look and feel like play. Here are some fun springtime activities that can be used to incorporate physical therapy into your child’s day.
Physical Therapy in the Outdoors
After a long winter, spring is the time of year we all look forward to taking advantage of the outdoors. As our lives become busier, this does not always come easy, but making a commitment to get the family outside for at least 10 minutes a day will be well worth it. Getting outdoors is a great way to work towards your physical therapy goals. You can work on strengthening your calf muscles, necessary for jumping and hopping, by going up onto your toes to pick leaves or flowers off of a tree. Strengthen your leg muscles when planting flowers or a garden by maintaining a squat position. Improve your cardiac endurance and agility by running to fly a kite. Climbing playground equipment is a great overall body strengthener. Playing “red light, green light” works on balance reactions and body regulation. Walking on wooden boarders around playgrounds are like walking on a balance beam. Walking on a balance beam encourages a child to walk with their toes pointed forward if they typically point out. Incorporate running, ball skills, and hand-eye coordination by playing a Wiffle or kick ball game. Add some core strengthening by doing animal walks (bear, frog, horse, or duck) between the bases instead of running. Improve balance by balancing on 1 leg by lifting 1 foot up to pop bubbles with your toes. Jumping rope, dribbling a basketball or soccer ball, skipping, and galloping are all ways to improve coordination. Work on catching skills by starting with a balloon, move to a larger ball slightly deflated, continue to progress with decreasing the size of the ball you are using. Practice jumping by drawing hopscotch on the sidewalk. You could also draw an agility ladder with chalk. Ladder drills can help your speed (your ability to move in one direction as fast as possible), agility (your coordination and ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions), and quickness (to react or switch positions quickly). Check out this link for agility ideas: https://gustavus.edu/athletics/conditioning/agility/06%20Ladder%20Drills%20for%20Speed%20Development%20xl%20athlete.pdf.
Rainy Day Indoor Obstacle Course
Keep your family moving on those rainy spring days by setting up an indoor obstacle course. Obstacle courses can help improve your balance, coordination, strength and motor planning. Create a paper maze by randomly criss-crossing crepe paper or yarn through a hallway to step over or crawl under. This will challenge balance, coordination, and motor planning. Improve leg strength and balance by lining up cushions or pillows on floor to step or jump between to avoid the “Lava floor”. Increase your balance by making Balance trails by placing painter’s tape in a straight line, zig zags, circles, triangles, letters or numbers on the floor to make a “balance beam” to walk across. Increase the balance challenge by getting the “balance beam” up off the floor by rolling up a yoga mat, beach towel, or blanket. To work on single leg balance, elevate a pool noodle or broom stick off of the floor to step over. Increase the height of the object to increase how long you need to balance on one foot. Tunnels – Make your own tunnel by lining up a row of chairs or small tables and place a blanket or sheet over it to crawl through. Add resistance by adding some pillows to crawl over. Crawling, at any age, strengthens core muscles and can help calm the nervous system, particularly when resistance is added. Think outside the box when doing obstacle courses – do the course backwards, or sideways. Add brain challenges by making rules, like when you go through the tunnel you have to recite the ABC or answer a math problem. Consider adding a timer to keep it motivating. See if they can beat their last time or set a time restriction, or by asking your child to “freeze” and/or change directions at certain parts of the obstacles.