physical therapy

National Physical Therapy Month
5 Ways Physical Therapists Help Children Grow Stronger & Happier
5 Ways Physical Therapists Help Children Grow Stronger & Happier 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

Every day, we perform physical tasks like going up the stairs, taking a drink of water, and even walking.  These are basic movements that we do not give much thought to because we do them all the time.  However, if you are a parent of a child who has a delay in development or an injury, you know all too well that these “simple” tasks can present some very frustrating challenges.  These are just a small sampling of tasks that pediatric physical therapists (PTs), like the therapists on the PTN team, help families with each and every day.

This is why we feel it’s important to recognize and share that October is National Physical Therapy Month.  During this month, we get to not only celebrate the importance of movement, but also the many dedicated PTs out there who make a big difference in the lives of the patients and families they work with.  With this theme in mind, we want to touch on a few very important ways our team of physical therapists can help your child develop,  achieve incredible physical milestones, and have a better quality of life!

  1. Get Stronger through Physical Play:  it will probably come as no surprise to you that kids learn a great deal through play.  This is why, during therapeutic sessions, our PTs spend time engaging in activities and games that allow children to have fun while doing physical exercises.  From activities centered around balance, to games that involve using movements and motions that allow your child to strengthen their bodies, play is a great way to help children get stronger.
  2. Moving on Up:  when working with children, our physical therapists will focus on improving movement and mobility.  PTs working with an infant may help parents with tummy time so their child can practice motions and strengthen core muscles.  Other times, our physical therapists may teach kids and families stretches that improve their flexibility, allowing the muscles and joints to bend and move.
  3. Balancing Act:  physical therapists are often called upon to work with young children to improve their balance and coordination.  Sometimes, kids struggle with getting their bodies to move in a coordinated and functional manner which can present challenges with completing everyday activities.  This could prevent a child from being able to do more complex physical tasks as they get older.  By working with a PT and going through thought-out therapeutic exercises and treatment, kids can improve on their coordination and ability to balance, too.
  4. Growing Gross Motor Skills: rolling over, raising arms, pulling up, crawling, and walking all fall under the gross motor skills umbrella.  As you can imagine, these skills are imperative as they allow kids to move freely and do some pretty fun things, like running and jumping.  When children face developmental challenges with gross motor skills, a PT can be of great assistance.  Physical therapists help children learn how to use the larger muscles of their body by incorporating therapeutic techniques that increase both their strength and coordination.
  5. Finessing Fine Motor Skills:  think of all the things you do each day that involve the use of your fingers and hands.  From gripping a cup to take a drink, to writing, your fine motor skills are called upon so you can function through daily life.  Pediatric physical therapists work alongside our OT team to help children improve their fine motor skills through a vast array of structured, therapeutic activities that may include reaching and weight bearing activities to improve shoulder strength or ball play like throwing at a target or playing a game of catch. Each of these fun activities allow children to practice and refine their fine and visual motor skills and improve their dexterity.  

We hope you enjoyed learning more about the many ways in which PTs can help your child improve their physical abilities.  Remember that even though the exercises and activities may just seem physical in nature, your child is slowly working on building their confidence and inner strength too!  This is why so many of the physical therapists on our team often tell us that their jobs are hugely rewarding.  

National Physical Therapy Month!

5 Fun Activities to Work on Your Child’s Physical Therapy At Home
5 Fun Activities to Work on Your Child’s Physical Therapy At Home 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

October is National Physical Therapy Month, and we are ready to kick off the celebration! National Physical Therapy Month helps raise awareness of all the excellent benefits that come along with physical therapy, such as improving range of motion, flexibility, strength, balance, and much more.

Physical therapy is such an incredible tool for helping children and adults alike, and working with a physical therapist can genuinely change a person’s life for the better. On days that your child isn’t going to see a physical therapist, there are some wonderful activities that you can take part in as a family that will help work on their gross motor skills. Ready to get started? Here are 5 fun ways to get your child moving at home:

1. Animal Walk

Get ready to bring out your silly side! Place a piece of tape on the floor of one side of your living room and then another piece of tape on the other side of the room. Now, have your child walk like an animal from one piece of tape to the other. For example, you could have them walk like a crab, hop like a frog, walk like a dog, etc. Get creative and try to come up with as many different types of animal walks as you can think of!

2. Floor Ice Skating

If you don’t have time to visit an actual ice skating rink, bring the ice skating rink to your home! Grab two paper plates and have your child sit down and draw their best ice skate on each plate. Once they’re done, find a spot in your house where your child can skate the night away! Help them carefully stand on their skates, and then tell them to slide around on the “ice.”

3. Wheelbarrow Race

For this activity, you’ll need to work with your child to try and get from one point to the other as fast as you can. The tricky part? You’ll need to hold their legs up while they walk with their hands, mimicking a wheelbarrow. Grab a timer and see how long it takes you to get from point A to point B. Repeat the activity, try to beat your time, and see how fast you can go. If you have 4 people in your house, you can race against each other in teams of 2!

4. Traffic Light Stop and Go

You may want to bundle up for this next activity as it works best if you’re outside. Try to find a wide-open space where your child can run around, such as your yard or a park. You’ll begin on one side of the yard, and your child will start on the other side. When you’re ready, yell out “green light” and watch as your child starts running towards you. After a few seconds, you’re going to yell out, “red light.” Your child will need to stop in their tracks as quickly as possible. They must stay still until you decide to call out “green light” once again. Continue the game until your child makes it all the way to your side!

5. Toy Toss

This activity is an excellent way to work with your child on their eye/hand coordination while also cleaning up their toys in the process. First, you’re going to want to grab the basket or bin that you use to store your little one’s toys. Now, have them run around the room as fast as possible and grab each toy one at a time. Once they have a toy in hand, tell them to aim and toss it into the basket. Continue until all of the toys have been cleaned up!

Be sure to keep an eye on our social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest) all month long as we celebrate National Physical Therapy Month! We’ll be sharing tips, activities, resources, and more! As always, please don’t hesitate to contact us at any time to discuss if your child would benefit from pediatric therapy. Our team is here to support both you and your child in any way that we can.

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.

Go Baby Go
Helping Your Little One Go, Baby, Go!
Helping Your Little One Go, Baby, Go! 1080 1080 PTN Chicago

When babies start to move around independently – whether scooting, crawling, or walking – that independence helps them blossom, because it allows them to explore their environment more freely, go after the things they’re curious about, and learn from a broader range of experiences. When children are mobility limited, this period of exploration and activity also gets limited, and that can be frustrating for both you and your child.

That’s why groups like Go Baby Go are so important. This wonderful organization takes powered toy cars – the kind that toddlers drive themselves around in – and modifies them to make them, essentially, incredibly cool and perfectly safe power-wheelchairs for mobility limited babies, toddlers, and children. Take a look at this video to see how Go Baby Go works:

Posted by UD GoBabyGo on Monday, October 8, 2018

At a recent Go Baby Go workshop here in Chicago, PTN therapist Laura Vazquez worked with the family of one of her patients, Brizalyn, to modify a toy car especially for Brizalyn. Laura said, “The best moment was when we saw Brizalyn smile as she shifted herself closer to the switch, then she took off, getting ahead of her parents to explore the hallways.”

Thanks to a bit of creativity and innovation, Brizalyn was able to meet a new mobility milestone that opened up a wider world for her. We couldn’t be more excited for Brizalyn and her family!

Improving Walking Skills Through Play

If your child is mobility limited, finding ways to help her move freely without getting hurt or getting frustrated can be a tricky challenge. A pediatric physical therapist can be a big help, but there are also several things you can do at home to help your child become more mobile over time.

The first is making your own Go Baby Go modified electric car! The Go Baby Go team has provided complete instructions on how to pick a toy car, modify it, and get it inspected for safety. You can find all the details here.

If your child is capable of walking but having trouble learning, incorporating play is usually the best form of encouragement.

  • Put things that she wants like colorful post-its on the wall just out of her reach, encouraging her to stretch, get up on her knees, and maybe even stand against the wall.
  • Give her low, stable objects that she can push across the floor. These can include toy cars, sturdy baby doll strollers, or even flipped over hampers. Just make sure that the object won’t flip out from under her grasp and lead to a painful tumble.
  • Get in a wading pool and practice taking steps in water. The water makes the activity more fun and helps give her little body extra support.

For more mobility help, give us a call any time to discuss your child’s unique needs.

aquatic therapy chicago
Fun in the Sun with Aquatic Therapy
Fun in the Sun with Aquatic Therapy 1200 1018 PTN Chicago

As the weather continues to warm up, more and more children are heading to the lake, ocean, or pool to enjoy fun in the water. If your child has mobility issues or other developmental issues, they might feel left out of this play, but in many cases, they don’t need to be!

Playing in the water with your child is a wonderful way to help them improve their strength, relax their muscles and mind, and gain social skills in an environment that is both stimulating and calming.

Aquatic therapy is the term used for physical therapy that happens in water, usually a pool. Our therapists love working with children in the water, because aquatic therapy has a number of benefits over land-based therapy for many children:

  • Water reduces your body weight by about 90%, making it easier to move in the water and alleviating painful stress on joints. Many children with muscle or mobility issues are able to move with a greater range of motion in the water.
  • Being submersed in water places a gentle pressure all over the body that can be very calming, much like a weighted blanket.
  • Playing in the water is fun! Mixing up physical therapy sessions with a dip in the pool is a great way to add some excitement and joy to play therapy.

If you’ve never engaged in water therapy with your child before, you might want to start by reaching out to a trained physical therapist. Our aquatic therapists in Chicago can show you how to safely get your child into and out of the water and teach you proper techniques for keeping your child safe while in the water. Safety should always be your top concern in the pool!

Next, an aquatic therapist can show you a variety of games and exercises that you can enjoy in the water with your little one. Here are some examples:

  • Building leg strength: While you hold their body facing away from you, you can have your child put their feet on the pool wall and push backward, helping build muscle strength and coordination.
  • Improving mobility: Practicing walking or running in water that is about waist deep is a great way to build mobility skills in an environment where it won’t hurt if you take a tumble. Plus, the water adds extra resistance, helping build strength.
  • Blowing bubbles: Learning how to blow bubbles in water is a lot of fun and helps with social engagement and lung capacity.

Newborn babies all the way up to the elderly can benefit from aquatic therapy. To learn more about our Chicago aquatic therapy sessions, contact our team today.  You can also check out our Aquatic Therapy for Kids and Water Play boards on Pinterest for some great ideas on how you and your child can have fun in the water this summer!

Top Toys Recommended by Our Therapists this Holiday Season
Top Toys Recommended by Our Therapists this Holiday Season 1000 563 Thomas Chibucos

The holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to spoil your children (in the best sense). You can go a little crazy with presents without any parental guilt and bring some wonderful smiles to your children’s faces. You can also help encourage development by choosing toys that have educational and therapeutic benefits.

As you know, we at PTN are big fans of providing therapy through play, and there’s no reason why some of the presents you get for your little ones can’t support their therapy needs while offering hours of fun. Here are our top choices for developmental toys for kids this holiday season:

Mr. Potato Head – This classic toy is still a lot of fun for both boys and girls. Your child can practice identifying the different parts, clothes, and associated colors of Mr. Potato Head. You can also practice skills like sharing, taking turns, and requesting desired pieces.

Puzzles – Age appropriate jigsaw puzzles are a lot of fun for parents and children to assemble together. You can work together to identify colors, shapes, and objects on the pieces and practice those fine motor skills.

Bubbles – Bubbles are a simple and cheap stocking stuffer that will entertain kids of every age. Blowing bubbles helps kids practice their oral motor skills, and popping bubbles works their fine motor skills. Bubbles are also great for developing social skills like engagement, turn taking, and eye contact.

Crawling Tunnel – An affordable toy that can spark imaginary adventures in the mind of your child, crawling babies to school age children can enjoy this simple sensory activity while practicing concepts like “in” and “out” and building physical strength.

Melissa & Doug Wooden Cutting Fruit Set: It’s hard to go wrong with any toys from Melissa & Doug, but we particularly like this play food set that lets your kids practice their fine motor skills by “cutting” Velcro fruit pieces apart. Your child will (without realizing it) practice skills like sharing, turn taking, fine motor skills, and vocabulary.

Books – It’s never too early to give your kids books. When they’re infants, you can read to them, and they’ll love the musical sound of your voice, the colors of the pages, and the experience of engaging with you. When they’re a bit older, they’ll start practicing pre-literacy skills like turning the pages and making sounds. A bit later, you can practice identifying characters, colors, and objects together. And ultimately, your child will enjoy reading to him or herself, because it will be a familiar hobby that they have always cherished.

These are just some of our favorite developmental toys for children. If your child could use some help with a particular skill, give us a call or send us a note to ask about other toys that might help them grow and learn as they play. Happy holidays!

indoor play
Chicago Winter Play Ideas for Kids
To Encourage Motor Skills, Speech & Social Play
Chicago Winter Play Ideas for Kids
To Encourage Motor Skills, Speech & Social Play
1000 667 PTN Chicago

Between the snow and chilly January weather, finding fun, stimulating and safe activities for kids can be a challenge for any parent.

Here in the Chicago area, we’re so fortunate to have a number of great resources and fun winter activity opportunities to help you resist the urge to turn to the iPad babysitter. There are plenty of great ways to get out of the house and allow your child to engage in important social activities with their peers. If you’re into staying in, we’ll also provide some great ideas for encouraging safe and active play in your home (even in small spaces).

Outdoor & Out-of-the-House Winter Activities for Kids

Fresh air, sunshine, and yes, even snow can be great sensory experiences for all kids, especially those with special needs. Bundle up and build a snowman, go sledding, and have fun! Even a quick 15-20 minute walk can help boost concentration and get out some of the frustrations of being cooped up indoors (…and it’s great for Mom and Dad, too)!

If you’re looking for some affordable kids’ activities in Chicago or the surrounding areas, try the Lincoln Park Zoo or the Brookfield Zoo. Both zoos offer amazing indoor play spaces, as well as hands-on activities and exploration challenges. Accessible by public transportation, the Zoo is a great space to connect with nature.

fun with aquatic therapy!We just love Goldfish Swim School, so we definitely recommended it as a great indoor swim space for kids. They offer family swim times and other opportunities for kids to experience swimming and water play. Working in the water has great benefits for kids with physical therapy (PT) and occupational therapy (OT) needs, as it fosters fine motor development. Plus, the social-emotional aspects of a pool environment also go far in helping children strengthen language skills.

The Chicago Children’s Museum is another great child-friendly environment. The museum is very wheelchair accessible and offers free access for all children on Thursday evenings from 5-8pm and on the first Sunday of every month. If you really want to get your kids engaged in the museum experience, try challenging them to a scavenger hunt or asking them to “find” certain items during their trip. It adds another element of exploration and makes their trip even more exciting.

“I highly recommend Flying High Gymnastics in Countryside, IL (or their additional location in Hickory Hills). I love that this gym is very child friendly and individually focused. They offer a variety of classes that are open to children of all ages. They welcome parent participation for their “Twinkling Tots” group (all children under 3) and continue to offer graduated courses for every milestone/age group. There are various open gym opportunities every day of the week, including Saturday afternoons and weekday mornings for little toddlers. Diversity is highly valued here. Children with special needs are welcome with opportunities to adapt equipment and even seek individualized instructors. (Occupational therapists are on staff.)” –Laura Vazquez, PT, DPT, Pediatric Physical Therapist, Pediatric Therapy Network

Little Beans Cafe is tons of fun and very accessible for kids with special needs and abilities. You can enjoy the family café while your child engages in imaginative and creative play. There are creative movement classes for infants, toddlers can build on their toddler skills, and they even offer hip-hop and dance classes for older kids.

Winter Activities for Kids: At Home

January is TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Awareness month, so it’s an appropriate time to touch on safe activities you can do at home, regardless of needs and ability levels. All children need activity and physical stimulation within a safe and comfortable space.

In the summer months, outdoor activities abound—from the park to the pool, city and suburban kids have plenty of chances to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. During the winter, getting that same activity level in can present a bit more of a challenge, especially for kids without a yard or a play space within their home.

—  Setting up a Play and Activity Space

Jumping Couch ArmsMovement and activity is key from a physical therapy perspective. Occupational therapists also know that, for kids, play IS their occupation and movement is even important for speech and language activities as well. No matter your child’s needs, the importance of regular movement and activity can’t be overstated.

Depending on the size of your home, you may need to get a little creative when setting up a safe space. First of all, look around at the resources you have on hand. Clear a space in your living room (flip up couch cushions and cover table corners and anything hard or sharp). If you have more space in the basement, kitchen or even in a bedroom, consider moving furniture and pushing beds to the side of the room to create more space. It’s all about creating a safe, open space where your child can really move around.

—  Fun Ideas for Indoor Activities

From there, the sky’s the limit in terms of activities:

  • Nerf balls and baskets can be great to get kids dunkin’ and movin’.
  • Turn on some music and start a dance party.
  • Come up with an obstacle course or challenge where kids have to engage in two or three activities in rapid succession. Try working on catching and tossing a ball, balancing, tossing a yo-yo or beanbags, or even blowing bubbles.
  • Rethink “indoor activities” and bring some of your favorites inside, modified to fit your space. Play leapfrog, create a circus ring complete with performers, or put on a short theater play with older kids.

“To curb winter blues, many toddlers love scavenger hunts! They get a thrill discovering hidden toys or just spotting them around the room. Involve them in hiding toys as well, for siblings and parent participation. After they find the toy, they can return to home base (a puzzle board or other task) after navigating through creative obstacle courses. If indicated and safe, couch cushions, improvised low balance beams, and stepping stones can be great additions to the obstacle course.

lauraBe sure to check with your therapists about any precautions for using equipment and if your child may be more at risk for any head or neck injuries. As long as the child can adapt, falling is a skill to be mastered and is a necessary part of growth! Enjoy this season, and stay warm and bundled!” –Laura Vazquez, PT, DPT, Pediatric Physical Therapist, Pediatric Therapy Network

Engaging in active, social play (instead of too much TV time) allows your child to build and hone the skills they need. For example, include activities that involve blocks and building or beads and crafts to help them really refine dexterity skills and boost concentration.

At Pediatric Therapy Network, we strongly believe in-home therapy is beneficial to your child’s development, as familiar environments are where kids feel most comfortable. Rather than going “away” to an office or building, your child learns and associates their skills with their home and other familiar places like school, the park, and among their social network.

Creating a fun, stimulating indoor space can help your child fend off winter blahs and keep them making great progress, even in the coldest months. It’s an important part of keeping kids healthy and working on gross and fine motor skills, as well as social and emotional growth. Get your kids away from the screen and engaged in some fun activities this winter!

PTN specializes in Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy, and offers a unique home-centric approach for children in their familiar environments. If you’re looking for more great ideas for your child’s special needs, or if you have questions about our services, please contact us! We look forward to serving you and your child!

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