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The Benefits of Physical Therapy: Improving Your Child’s Development in a Home Setting
The Benefits of Physical Therapy: Improving Your Child’s Development in a Home Setting 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Physical therapy has been used for many years to help both adults and children with items such as treatment and rehab for chronic conditions, preventative care, injuries, and so much more. It has the power to change so many lives in a positive manner, and it can truly make a difference when it comes to helping your child improve strength, stability, and confidence in order to meet their motor milestones and engage with family and friends. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many families whose children work with a physical therapist have had to make the transition from in-person therapy to teletherapy which is new for a lot of people. If you’re considering telehealth services but  are nervous that  your child isn’t going to get the most out of these therapy sessions there’s no need to worry! With a focus on parent education and coaching, our teletherapy sessions have been very successful and can be just as effective as in-person therapy.  Please contact us directly if you’d like to learn more!  

With that said, and seeing as October is National Physical Therapy Month, we wanted to share some of the benefits of physical therapy for your child (especially while working on their skills in a home setting), along with some fun physical therapy related activities that you can do with your kiddos:

What Are Some of the Benefits of Physical Therapy For Children?

Though there are many benefits of physical therapy for your child, here are some of the main benefits:

  • Strengthens muscles
  • Builds endurance
  • Improves balance and coordination
  • Increases range of motion
  • Supports achievement of motor milestones and overall mobility skills 

How Can a Physical Therapist Help a Child Who is Demonstrating Developmental Delays?

A physical therapist will be able to assess your child’s physical development to determine if gross motor delays are present. They will explain what factors are contributing to these delays and work with you to come up with a plan to improve these areas. In addition to a detailed evaluation, this plan will include activities that you can incorporate into your child’s daily routine to help support their development.  

How Can Therapy in a Home Setting be Beneficial to Children? 

Children thrive in their skill development when they are in a place that they feel safe, happy, and comfortable. For most children, this place is usually their own house. They tend to be more focused, determined, and excited to improve their skills while at home because they are familiar with their surroundings, and they are around the people they love most – their family! It is also easier for caregivers to carry out home exercise activities when they are incorporated into their daily routines. 

What Are Some Fun Gross MotorActivities That I Can Do With My Child At Home?

  • Bean Bag Toss: This is an activity that your kiddos will love. Holding and then throwing the weighted bean bags will help to work on your child’s strength and coordination as they try to get their bean bag into the target hole. If you don’t already have a bean bag set, we suggest this set that’s made just for kids.
  • Fly Like Superman: This activity works on your child’s core strength and coordination and allows your child to use their imagination in the process. Have your child lay on their tummy and tell them to try and lift their arms and chest off of the ground so that they’re “flying like superman”. To make this activity even more fun, try it on a swing or give your child a cape and tell them that they’re flying to go save the world!
  • Painter’s Tape Balance Beam: Get some painter’s tape and create three “balance beams” on your floor. You can have one balance beam be in a straight line, one in a zig-zag line, and one in a circle shape. Have your child try to walk on each beam without falling off to the side to work on their balance and coordination.

If you’re looking for more ways to celebrate this month and spread the word about the benefits of physical therapy, the American Physical Therapy Association has great resources that you can check out, including graphics that you can use on your social media as your cover photo or profile picture.

Our Favorite At-Home Therapy Activities to Celebrate Our Tenth Anniversary!
Our Favorite At-Home Therapy Activities to Celebrate Our Tenth Anniversary! 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

June 22nd is a big day for PTN; it marks our tenth anniversary!  We don’t want to wait for a second longer to celebrate, especially with our team, children, and families who mean the world to us.  We are so grateful for all of the amazing families that we’ve had the honor to meet and work with over the course of these past ten years.  We’re also very thankful to have such an amazing team of therapists.

To kick off our anniversary month, we wanted to go ahead and share some of our favorite at-home activities with you. Whether your child is working on their gross motor, fine motor, sensory, or speech development – we’ve found fun ideas that your kids will love.

So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get this anniversary celebration started! 

At-Home Activities For Gross Motor Skills…

Indoor Dance Party
Dancing is a wonderful way to get out some energy while also getting to work on your child’s gross motor skills. Dancing works on coordination, balance, motor sequencing skills, and can help your child start to understand rhythm. An excellent way to get started is to come up with a short routine that your child can follow along to. Put together two or three simple moves that work on gross motor coordination such as raising and lowering their arms or rocking from side to side. Then, begin your indoor dance party!

Indoor Balance Beam
This is an activity that is really easy to set up, and will provide hours of entertainment for your kiddos! Start by making an indoor balance beam for your child using painter’s tape. You can make various balance beams such as a zigzagged balance beam, a straight line balance beam, etc. Once it’s all set up, challenge your child to try and walk on each beam from start to finish.

At-Home Activities For Fine Motor Skills…

Make a Pasta Necklace
Making a pasta necklace will work on your child’s fine motor skills while allowing them to express their creativity. All you’ll need for this activity is a box of penne pasta noodles and some string. Your child will work on their fine motor skills by having to grip the noodles to put them onto the string and will strengthen their hand muscles from threading and pulling. The best part of this activity? When they’re done, your child will have a cute necklace they can wear and be proud of!

Shaving Cream Hand Writing
For kiddos that are starting to learn their letters, shaving cream is a simple household item that will let your child practice writing out letters and words. To begin, write out some letters or words onto index cards, and place them next to a tray that is covered in shaving cream. To do this activity, have your child write out each letter/word from the index cards into the shaving cream one at a time using their finger. After each letter/word they write, show your child how to spread the shaving cream all over the tray, and have them move on to writing the next letter/word.

At-Home Activities For Speech Therapy…

Guess What I’m Drawing (Using Chalk)
Fortunately, this speech therapy activity can be done outside with only a couple of pieces of chalk. Sit outside with your child and switch off drawing an object with chalk. When your child is guessing what you’re drawing, have them ask you questions about the object such as, “is it an animal?” or “is it food?”. When it comes time for your child to draw an object, you’ll be able to ask them questions about what they’re drawing.

I Spy
The classic game, I Spy, is actually a fantastic way to work on your child’s speech therapy development. If you need a little brushing up on how to play (or haven’t heard of I Spy before), all you have to do to start is walk around your house or go walk outside with your child. Take turns picking out items around you, and give the other person a clue as to what you’re looking at.

For example, your child may be looking at a tree and could say, “I Spy something tall.” You’d then guess what they’re looking at, and finally, they’ll confirm if the item you guessed was indeed what they were looking at, or if they were looking at a different object than what you guessed. 

At-Home Activities For Sensory Development…

Bucket Full of Textures
For this sensory development activity, you’ll need to gather up small random objects around your house that are made up of varying colors and textures. For example, you could use an orange, a tv remote, a piece of fabric, etc. Take these items and place them inside of the bucket. One by one, have your child pull an object out of the bin and have them run their fingers over the texture of the object in order to get the sense of what it feels like. Then, you should ask them questions about each object, like, “is the object soft or hard?”. Repeat with each object until your bucket is empty!

DIY Sensory Bottle
Sensory bottles can help with your child’s sensory development and are very easy to make. To create your own sensory bottles at home, you’ll need three empty plastic bottles, rice, stones, beans, and tape. Fill each plastic bottle with a different material and tape the cap tightly onto the bottle. Allow your child to grab and play with each bottle one at a time. This way, they can experience the unique sounds and feeling that each bottle provides.

We hope that you found these activities to not only be useful, but easy to do with your little one.  Remember, you’re always at home with PTN!

Activities That Can Make Speech Therapy More Fun While At Home
Activities That Can Make Speech Therapy More Fun While At Home 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Happy May! This month, the PTN team and people across the country are celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM). During BHSM, we’re provided with, “an opportunity to raise awareness about communication disorders and the role of ASHA members in providing life-altering treatment,” says the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.  

At PTN, we believe this is a great time to recognize potential hearing and speech problems and also guide parents so they can take appropriate action. Unfortunately, due to the current situation happening around the world, it may be hard to get access to a speech therapist for your child, leading to you (the parents) taking over that all-important role. 

However, just because you may have to lead speech therapy at home doesn’t mean it can’t be fun for both you and your child! There are many ways in which you can incorporate speech therapy and language learning through engaging activities, games, movement, and more. 

If you feel like you’ve tried everything under the sun but your child doesn’t seem to be interested in working on their speech development, we get it.  We also understand how stressful this can be for not only parents but for children. For this reason, we have come up with a few simple ideas that can make speech therapy a time that you and your child look forward to. Take a look:

1. Take a Bike Ride to a Pretend Place

If your child is old enough to ride a bike, you can take a bike ride to a pretend place together. To start this activity put on your helmets and get ready to ride! Ask your child to come up with a pretend place that you two will ride to – a castle, an ice cream parlor, the ocean, etc. While you’re riding, ask your child questions about the location you’ll be visiting. For example, if your child said that you’ll be visiting a castle, you could ask them questions such as, “What does the castle look like?” or “What type of animals live at the castle?”. Once the bike ride is over, you can go inside and have your child create a drawing of the imaginary place you visited, or go on another adventure!

2. Play, Guess What I’m Sculpting

Believe it or not, playdough is a great speech therapy tool. For this activity, you only need one tub of playdough to share between you and your child. You’ll each take turns sculpting something while the other person guesses what the sculpture is. You can even go the extra mile during this activity by having your child/you give clues on what they’re creating while they’re the sculptor. 

3. Go on a Picture Scavenger Hunt

Picture scavenger hunts are a fun way to get some of your child’s energy out while working on those all-important speaking skills. You’ll need to print out some pictures of common objects that are around your house (bed, television, window, etc.). Hand your child one picture card at a time and have them describe what the object looks like. Ask them questions like what color the object is, what room of the house that object is in, and finally, what the object is. Once they correctly describe or name the object, have your child run to that object and place the card down. Repeat until all the cards are placed in their correct location!

4. Get Creative With Sidewalk Chalk Art

Who doesn’t love playing with sidewalk chalk? We know we sure do! All you’ll need for this activity is some sidewalk chalk and your imagination. Sit with your child on your driveway or sidewalk and decide on a picture or object you’re going to create together. Next, take turns saying what you’ll add to the drawing.

For example, you and your child decide that you want to draw a dog. You could start by saying that you’re going to draw a circle for a face. Then, your child might say, “I’m going to draw the nose”, you might then say, “I’m going to draw an ear.” and so on. Continue switching off being the artist until you have a fully completed masterpiece!

During these trying times, it’s important to stay on top of your child’s speech therapy/speech development. If you are concerned that your child may be falling behind, don’t be afraid to contact a speech therapist to find out how you can help your child. 

You can learn more about Better Hearing and Speech Month by going to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website.

Incorporating Occupational Therapy Into Your Child’s Daily Routines
Incorporating Occupational Therapy Into Your Child’s Daily Routines 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Occupational therapy focuses on skills your child uses each day to take care of themselves. For example, brushing your teeth, putting on your own clothes, and holding a pencil are all occupational skills. Occupational skills often involve fine motor movements, like the ability to manipulate buttons or zippers. These skills can be particularly challenging for children with ADHD, sensory issues, or developmental delays. 

Play is also an occupational skill and there are many ways to develop your child’s fine motor skills at home. The first step is to consult with a pediatric occupational therapist to find out their suggestions for activities, reward systems, and rubrics by which you can measure progress. Your child may have particular skills they need help with, and your OT can recommend games and activities that will help to target those skills.

Beyond those specific recommendations, here are some guidelines to keep in mind when incorporating OT into your child’s daily routines:

1. Practice Opportunities Are Everywhere

Opportunities to practice self-care skills are around every corner. 

If you’re like most parents, you probably have a tendency to do things for your child that they aren’t able to do just yet – or that they aren’t able to do well. While this certainly isn’t a bad thing, it’s important to remember to let your child try to button their own jacket or put on their own shoes whenever possible. If there’s something your child wants to try and you have the time, stepping aside and allowing them to take the lead is sometimes the hardest task a parent can undertake, but it’s an important step.

Under the current circumstances, it’s likely that your children will be at home with you around the clock over the next few weeks. Try to set some time aside each day to allow your child to take the lead on tasks that you’d normally help them with, and instead, allow them to show you what they’re capable of.

2. Play is Therapy

When you’re picking out new toys for your child, look for toys that are both a lot of fun and that will help them practice their fine motor skills. For example, depending on your child’s age, you could get 

  • stuffed animals or sensory objects with zippers, buttons, and snaps
  • board games with pieces to be moved, dice to be rolled, or a spinner to spin
  • stacking blocks or Legos
  • a plastic tea set

All of these toys help children practice self-care skills while having fun.

3. Art is Therapy

Art projects are a great way to build fine motor skills while having fun and soothing the senses. Molding with kinetic sand, practicing cutting with age-appropriate scissors, and sticking things together with Elmer’s glue can all be rewarding and calming activities.

4. Rewards and Limits

For many kids, having a rewards chart for when they accomplish small goals is a great way to encourage more practice. It’s amazing how hard children will work for a cool sticker! And don’t forget to let them peel and place the sticker themselves!

That said, when incorporating OT into your child’s daily routine, it’s also important not to push too hard. For example, if you were to say that your child can’t have breakfast until she dresses herself, there’s very little chance that the ultimatum is going to end well. Look for opportunities to make practice fun as much as possible, and try not to demand too much of your child as they learn and grow at their own pace.

Three Ways Parents Can Support Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children
Three Ways Parents Can Support Social and Emotional Competence in Young Children 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Social and emotional competence is a fancy term for a person’s ability to interact with others and regulate their own emotions in a healthy way. These skills are not a given for any child – they must be learned over time, and parents/caregivers are the main people that children learn social and emotional competence from.

Children start experiencing complex emotions from infancy, but without language skills, their best option is often crying for attention. As children get older and gain the ability to speak, they don’t always have the words they need to express themselves in the moment, and big feelings can lead to big reactions like tantrums, hitting, or refusing to speak. All of these behaviors are a normal part of growing up. It’s our job as caretakers to try to understand what our children’s emotional needs are and to help them express those needs in healthy ways. Here are three ways to go about that:

1. Acknowledging your child’s feelings.

One of the most powerful tools a parent has for diffusing their child’s stress, anger, and frustration is acknowledging it. Rather than trying to yell over a tantrum or going straight to time out, take a knee so that you’re down at your child’s level, and tell them what you think they’re feeling and why. For example, “Are you upset that I turned off the show?” or “You’re frustrated because I was on the phone, is that right?” This simple act of showing your child that you understand why they’re upset can bring immediate relief, because having your feelings acknowledged and validated – as an adult or a child – is a very powerful thing. This acknowledgment also helps calm everyone down and allows you to then explain your own actions in turn.

2. Being mindful of your own emotions.

Children watch their caregivers closely. If we yell when we’re upset, they see that and they learn that behavior. If we spank them (a big no-no), they learn that hitting is an appropriate form of punishment. This isn’t to say that you can never get upset in front of your children or at your children – we guarantee that even the most patient parents break from time to time. Rather, when you do get upset, take deep breaths, say out loud what you’re feeling, and decide what you’re going to do to calm yourself down. Let your children see your emotions, including sadness and frustration (in moderation), and show them how you deal with those feelings in a healthy way so that they can learn from your example.

3. Talking about feelings.

As your child gets older, you’ll find more and more opportunities to talk about feelings. For example, pretend play is a great time to build empathy. Your child might say her doll is sad, and you can then comfort the doll and ask what will make her feel better. If your child tells you that someone got mad at school, you can ask what happened and how your child felt about it. When you watch a movie or read a book with a sad scene, a scary scene, a happy scene – whatever it is – you can identify those emotions with your child and talk about how the story made you feel.

Here’s an excellent resource with more helpful information about social and emotional development and your role in helping your child express their feelings.

Classic Games Worth Bringing Back for Play Therapy Week
Classic Games Worth Bringing Back for Play Therapy Week 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

This week (February 2-8) is National Play Therapy Week, and we are so excited to celebrate! Play is at the heart of everything we do here at PTN, and we are firm believers that children feel more loved, more heard, and more receptive when they engage in play – that’s exactly why play therapy is so effective. It’s safe to say that we all learn faster, feel more at ease, and simply have a better time when we get the opportunity to learn through play.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate this week and spread the word about the benefits of play therapy, the Association for Play Therapy has helpful resources that you can check out, including images that you can use to replace your cover photo or profile picture on social media this week.

Of course, the best way to celebrate this week is to actually enjoy some play therapy time with your child. Here are some of our favorite ways to work on occupational, physical, and speech therapy skills through at-home play.

Occupational Play Therapy

If you’re looking for ways to supplement your child’s occupational therapy between visits with their OT, one of the most simple and effective ways is through classic games. Depending upon your child’s age, you could play Jenga, Operation (with or without the batteries), Connect Four, or any number of other classic table games that are easy to learn and fun to play as a family. If your child is on the younger side, don’t worry about the rules. Just have fun building towers or creating colorful Connect Four patterns. Get a few travel-sized games that you can take with you in the car wherever you go.

Physical Play Therapy

All sorts of physical therapy goals can be practiced with classic games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light. The key to making these games fun and keeping them fresh is embracing your own creativity as well as the creativity of your child! If your little one tells you, “You’re a puppy,” that’s a great invitation to engage in their world. Give your child your best bark, then tell him that he’s a kangaroo and must bounce everywhere, or make her a sunflower and have her stretch her petals/arms up to the sun! Whatever skill your child needs help with, playing pretend is a great way to get them practicing without them even realizing it.

Speech Play Therapy

Songs and word games that you probably played as a child are still perfect for helping your child practice different sounds and to help build their vocabulary. I Spy is a wonderful game that can be played anywhere (it’s especially great anytime you’re stuck waiting in line). With younger kids, you can pick a color and have them point out all the things they see that are that color. With older kids, you can move past colors and use a wider range of words to describe the specific item they need to look for.

New Year’s Parenting Resolutions: Three Simple Ways to Incorporate Learning Into Your Family’s Daily Routine
New Year’s Parenting Resolutions: Three Simple Ways to Incorporate Learning Into Your Family’s Daily Routine 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Happy New Year from all of us at PTN! With a new year, comes New Year’s resolutions. One of the most common resolutions we hear from parents is that they want to incorporate more learning activities throughout the day, but they don’t feel like there’s enough time to do so. We get it! As parents, we tend to put so much pressure on ourselves. We set goals to spend time with our kids daily, but before we know it, the day is over. 

No matter if your child benefits from physical, occupational, or speech therapy, it’s very important to make sure you take time during each day to work with them. An easy way to do this is to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine. Believe it or not, there are ways to take that pressure off your shoulders while making sure you get in that all-important learning time.

That being said, here are some simple ways to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine: 

Slow Down and Let Your Child Help With Their Morning Routine

A lot of us tend to feel rushed in the morning, and focus more on completing our morning routines as quickly as possible, rather than taking the time to start the day off on a good note. Wake up a little earlier than normal, and get your child involved in getting ready for the day. To start, give them two verbal directions at a time to follow while they’re doing their bathroom routine. You could say something like, “put toothpaste on your toothbrush, then brush your teeth”. Another task you can have your child help with is picking out their clothes for the day. You can have them use their words by asking what color or style of clothing they want to wear.

Get Your Child Involved With Grocery Shopping

The grocery store is actually a great place for learning. Next time you go shopping, take your child with you. While on the way to the store, discuss with them what type of groceries you’re buying and how many of each item you will need. Then while you’re there, talk about the shape of each item (round, square, etc), what color the item is, and the size of the item. This allows you to get your weekly shopping done while improving your child’s verbal skills. 

Play a Board Game

Another way to work on your child’s therapy skills is to play a board game together. Board games allow your child to have fun while also improving their motor skills, language skills, and even balance and coordination. Choose a board game based on your child’s specific therapy goals. If your child is working on improving their fine motor and visual motor skills, Connect 4 is a great option. If balance and coordination is the key focus, Twister might be the game for your family. Finally, Memory Match is an excellent way to help build your child’s vocabulary. Best part? For the younger kiddos, you don’t even have to play by the rules!

There’s no reason to put unnecessary stress on yourself once you realize that it’s actually very easy to incorporate learning into your family’s daily routine. Taking a little time out each day to work with your child will go a long way!

For more suggestions, feel free to reach out at any time. Our team of pediatric therapists are here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

At Home Therapy
How In-Home Pediatric Therapy Sessions Can Have a Greater Impact
How In-Home Pediatric Therapy Sessions Can Have a Greater Impact 1000 1000 PTN Chicago

One of our core philosophies at PTN is that pediatric therapy is most effective when it happens in a comfortable environment with the full participation and support of the family.

When physical therapy or speech therapy happens in isolation it is very difficult for the child to take what they’ve learned back to their home environment, especially if a parent or caretaker isn’t able to be there observing each session. It’s also much more difficult for children to feel comfortable in a place that is foreign to them.

By bringing therapy into the home, the classroom, or even the child’s favorite park, it becomes much easier for parents, siblings, friends, and other caregivers to take part in sessions and become stronger pillars of support for the child.

Engaging in pediatric therapy sessions at home also makes it much easier for the therapy to be tailored to the child and the family.

Let’s use speech therapy as an example. Depending upon the house, the same time of day could be referred to as “bedtime,” “night time,” “time for night-night,” “sleepy time,” or a host of other possibilities. Underwear could be referred to as “undies,” “knickers,” “chonies,” or “panties.” Grandma could be called “Nana” or “Grannie” or “Abuelita.” The list of family-specific vernacular goes on and on.

If a speech therapy session happens in the house, the speech language pathologist (SLP) can start to learn the words and phrases that are most important in that household and find customized ways to help the child better express their wants and needs in ways that the family will recognize and respond to.

Being in the house also allows the SLP to work with the family to help them better support the verbal development of the child. That might mean teaching siblings games that they can play together or showing parents ways that they can encourage stronger language skills between sessions. Those games or tasks could be specified to favorite toys that the child already has or play spaces – like a backyard playhouse – that the SLP might not otherwise know was there.

When family and friends have a chance to observe different forms of pediatric therapy, that helps lead to a more cohesive household where everyone has the chance to better understand the work that’s being done, why it’s so important, and how they can help.

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