Shoulder Stability (1)

Promoting Fine Motor Skills on the Playground

 

#FunctionalSkillsForKids

“Promoting  fine motor skills at the playground”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

This series will be a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and therapists to learn about all the different activities a child performs each day.  Every month, each therapist will discuss different aspects of functional skills.  Each childhood function will be broken down into developmental timelines, fine motor considerations, gross motor considerations, sensory considerations, visual perceptual considerations, accommodations and modifications, activity ideas, and more.

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is the Playground, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related!

playgroundFB

*This post contains affiliate links

Promoting Fine Motor Skills at the Playground

Occupational therapists who work with young children have an in-depth understanding of the skills a child needs to interact with their environment on a daily basis. A child needs to be able to negotiate their home, school, and playground (Henderson &  Pehoski, 1995).   Playing at the local playground is a wonderful way to help your child improve their physical , cognitive, emotional, and social development (Fisher, 1992).    Typical playground equipment such as swings, monkey bars and slides can help a child to develop sensory processing skills, motor planning, problem solving, balance, as well as hand strength.   As children interact with their environment, they learn how to make sense of the world around them (AOTA, 2012). The playground is a great place to start!

Most parents think that playing at the playground will only address gross motor skills.  A child can improve their coordination, balance, and strength as they run and play at the playground. However, playing at the playground can help your child’s fine motor skills, too!  Often parents think of fine motor skills as a tabletop activity, coloring or stringing beads. This is true, but those are just a few activities that address fine motor coordination and dexterity.  Playing at the playground also offers many unique opportunities for grasping and strength.  Additionally, it  works on the underlying components that are necessary to promote fine motor development.

fine motor skills&the playground.1

What fine motor skills are needed at the playground?


Playing at the playground requires hand strength and different grasp patterns.  The most common grasp pattern that a child uses at the playground is called a “power grasp”.   When a child is using a “power grasp”, they are stabilizing an object with the pinky side of their hand while the thumb side of their hand wraps around.  This is also known as the “cyclindrical grasp”.   Here are a few examples of when a child would need a power grasp:

  • Climbing a ladder (holding onto the rungs)
  • Sliding down a pole (hands wrapped around the pole)
  • Climbing “up” the slide  (holding on the sides)
  • Swinging on a swing (holding onto the ropes)
  • Climbing a jungle gym or monkey bars (holding on the bars)
jonpowergrip (1)

A “Power Grasp” is used when a forceful grip is needed. The thumb usually wraps around while the rest of the fingers hold the object still.

At the playground, the power grasp is  needed to pull on  the bars while climbing up the ladder of the slide, grabbing a pole, holding the sides as they walk on the bridge,  and holding the chains as they swing on the swing.  The power grasp requires hand strength, so children with weak hand strength may have difficulty participating in typical playground activities.

Developing

What comes before the power grasp? 

BEFORE FINE MOTOR SKILLS COMES GROSS MOTOR SKILLS – IT’S DEVELOPMENT!

Gross motor skills start to develop before fine motor skills.     A baby learns how to roll over and  stand before they can reach for an object and manipulate it. This is called developmental progression, and it means that certain things naturally develop before others.  For more information about developmental progression of playground skills, click here.  Before a child develops good fine motor skills and hand strength, they need to develop the stability and strength of the rest of their upper body.   Some other foundational skills that need to be in place for the development of  fine motor skills include postural control, forearm rotation, and strength  and stability of the shoulder, elbow and wrist.  The child also needs to be able to separate the thumb side of the hand from the pinky side.   The image below demonstrates the pyramid of typical development.

MissJaimeOT

Gross motor development provides a foundation for the rest of a child’s motor skills, including fine motor coordination and dexterity.

In terms of development, the word “stability” refers to the ability to keep certain body parts still while moving others.  For example, the term “shoulder stability” refers to a child’s ability to keep their shoulder joint still  while using the wrist and fingers.  This is an important component in handwriting and fine motor development, because it means the correct body parts are doing the work.

Postural control is an important consideration for good fine motor skills.  Having a strong core and postural stability enables a child to use their hands with control in any position (Henderson, Pehoski, 1995).  Typical playground activities like climbing, swinging, and changing positions (from standing to sitting at the top of the slide, etc.) help to strengthen the muscles of the back and abdominal muscles, contributing to improved postural control.  A child with good postural control is more prepared for handwriting and table top activities in the classroom, because they have the strength and stability to sit up right in their chair independently.   Children with poor postural control often lean forward onto their desk, change position frequently, or stabilize their non-dominant arm (and “helping hand”) on the seat  to prop themselves up while writing.  So getting them outside on the playground is a great way to work those core muscles in preparation for the classroom.

Forearm rotation is another important prerequisite  skill to developing fine motor skills. For most fine motor tasks that involve controlled use of the hand, the forearm is partially supinated, which means facing upward (Henderson, Pehoski, 1995). Children need to be able to grasp something in their hand and then turn it over in order to participate in many typical daily activities.  A perfect example is grasping a a card from a pile and then turning it over.  Children who have difficulty rotating their forearm will often hold their scissors upside down, hold their paper awkwardly, or carry things in an clumsy “thumbs down” position.  The playground provides many opportunities to work on forearm rotation and frequent changing of hand positions.  A child exploring the playground will  negotiate climbing, walking from level to level, and figuring out how to pull themselves upward.  They will change their hand and arm position frequently as they motor plan and problem solve how to conquer the next adventure on their mind.

Forearm facing downward

Developing forearm rotation is important for skilled use of the hands.

Wrist stability is the ability to keep the wrist still while the fingers manipulate an object.  A child’s hand must have established skilled motor patterns before it can manipulate a toy or a tool (Henderson, Pehoski, 1995) with precision.   Occupational Therapists often use activities that promote shoulder and wrist stability by working on a vertical surface above the child’s eye level (Henderson, Pehoski, 1995).  Writing and drawing on chalkboards, working on magnetic easels, geoboards, pegboards or playing on a Lego wall are all good ways to promote stability in the wrist.   According to developmental progression, a child should be able to write with a dynamic tripod grasp by the age of  six.  This means that they should have wrist stability, relying on their fingers to move the pencil.  Unfortunately, many children do not meet this developmental expectation upon entering Kindergarten.


Separation of the two sides of the hand is another developmental acquisition that is directly related to good fine motor coordination.   Using different grasping patterns while playing with toys and participating in pre-writing skills helps to strengthen and develop the arches  in the hand.  The hand has three arches made up of bones and muscles that allow the hand to cup (like holding dice) or flatten (Benbow, 1999).  These help the fingers to work in various positions so that children can perform their “job” or playing and learning.  Children learn to separate the thumb side of the hand from the pinky side as they perform different actions with their fingers.   The playground is another example where the child learns to use both sides of their hand to achieve a task.  Holding a rope, pulling on a bar, or grabbing the walls of the slide all require separation of the two sides of the hand.

Remember that song: “the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone…”?  Below is an image demonstrating how each joint and body part is connected and therefore reliant on each other. Good fine motor skills involve the whole upper extremity, not just the hand!

Shoulder Stability

How to help a child with poor fine motor skills at the playground

Many parents have said to me, “What do you mean they have weak hand strength? They can hang on those monkey bars for 5 minutes!”  While this can seem like a task that requires strength, it is not the same.  Hanging from the bars without moving does require hand strength and assists in developing the arches of the hand.  However, this is not the same as  working the tiny intrinsic muscles of this hand and using them with precision.   Many children who have not yet developed stability in their upper body compensate by using their whole arm, rather than utilizing the tiny underdeveloped muscles in their hands.  In fact, children with weak hand strength and poor fine motor skills can have difficulty negotiating the playground equipment.

  • For hanging activities, like the monkey bars, start by hanging while holding their trunk, so you are supporting some of their weight.
  • Let your child hang on equipment that still lets them keep their feet on the ground.
  • Encourage your child to change their hand positions.  If they usually hang with all their fingers together, encourage them to use a “power grasp”.  If they usually have their palms facing towards their face, encourage them to face their hands away.  Try a “mixed grip”, with one hand facing forward and one facing backward. This is great for the forearm rotators.
  • Teach your child how to “pump” after pushing them on the swing.  Leaning back and forward while holding onto the ropes is a great workout!
  • Games and pretend play that involve climbing, crawling, and holding themselves up on their upper extremities encourage postural control and upper extremity stability.
  • Bring other toys to play with, too.  Playing velcro catch, blowing bubbles, and jumping rope are all great for strengthening the upper extremities, which helps promote fine motor skills, too!   A jump rope or a bag or balloons are easy pocketbook toys that work on gross motor skills for when you need an alternative to keep your child busy.   Stick them in your purse or diaper bag!

 

REFERENCES

Benbow, M. (1999). Fine motor skills development: Teacher guide: Activities to develop hand skills. Columbus, OH: Zaner-Bloser.

Fisher, E.(1992). The impact of play on development:  A meta- analysis .Play and Culture, 5 , 159–181.

Handwriting research and resources: A guide to curriculum planning. (n.d.). Columbus, OH: Zaner-Bloser.

Henderson, A., & Pehoski, C. (1995). Hand function in the child: Foundations for remediation. St. Louis, MS: Mosby.

FUNCTIONAL SKILLS FOR KIDS

#functionforkids

This post is part of the Functional Skills for Kids series.  Check out all of the bloggers who are participating and learn more about the series by clicking on the link above.

To read all of Miss Jaime, O.T.’s posts in this series, check out my Functional Skills for Kids landing page.

For more information on the components and considerations related to Play, stop by and see what the other Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists on the Functional Skills for Kids team have to say:

Developmental Progression of Playground Skills  | Your Therapy Source

How to Support Gross Motor Skills Needed for Playground Success | Mama OT

Sensory Integration Therapy at the Playground  | Sugar Aunts

Modification Ideas for Playground Equipment for Children | Growing Hands-On Kids

Playground Rules to Break for Greater Play Skill Development  | Kids Play Space

Playground Games and Activities for Kids | The Inspired Treehouse

Essential Social Skills To Survive the School Playground! |Your Kids OT

Developing Visual Skills and the Playground  | Therapy Fun Zone

#functionalskillsforkids, toileting, potty training

Thanks for reading!

HAVE YOU SEEN THESE?

Toileting and sensory issues 10Pet Peeves Handee band classroom games
Fidgets, dollar store Pocketbook sized toys middle school and handwriting

 

LONG ISLAND BASED POSTS

Long Island facilities providing yoga for kids

Long Island Links: Yoga

hippotherapy, long island,

Long Island Links: Therapeutic Riding and Hippotherapy


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10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

I am totally on the “LIMIT TECHNOLOGY” for little kids bandwagon and am all about “Pocketbook-Sized Toys”! I have been so inspired by some articles I’ve read lately; especially a great article by Your Therapy Source (link at the bottom).  So I decided to make a list of 10 pocketbook-sized toys to occupy your kid (instead of your phone!)

As a public school OT, I work with Kindergarten students two days a week.  The continued decline in the basic motor skills of four and five year old children is VERY evident.  There are probably many reasons why, but I feel that lack of functional play time is a BIG contributor.    Nowadays, many kids have their own tablets, TV’s in their rooms, and an IPOD shuffle. They spend less and less time playing outside, which limits their gross motor skills, endurance, and coordination.   When they are inside, they spend less time playing with toys and using their hands and more time with technology.

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Get dressed

“Get Dressed!” How to modify your child’s dressing routine

 

“Get Dressed!”  How to Modify Your Child’s Dressing Routine  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

*This post contains affiliate links

This series will be a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and therapists to learn about all the different activities a child performs each day.  Every month, each therapist will discuss different aspects of functional skills.  Each childhood function will be broken down into developmental timelines, fine motor considerations, gross motor considerations, sensory considerations, visual perceptual considerations, accommodations and modifications, activity ideas, and more.

April’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is DRESSING, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related to “Getting Dressed!”

#functionforkids

WHEN SHOULD A CHILD LEARN HOW TO GET DRESSED?

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10 Pet Peeves of a School-Based OT

10 Pet Peeves of a school-based O.T.

Did you know that April is Occupational Therapy Awareness Month?  It is!  In the spirit of teaching the general public about OT, I’ve decided to  share some of my “OT pet peeves”.  The teachers that I work with know me pretty well.  As a true Sagittarius,  I am a very easy going person, but some things drive me nuts! (Yes I believe in that stuff) My pet peeves are all with good reason, I swear! Over the years, I’ve managed to rub my “OT ways” off on many of them.  Here are my pet peeves with explanations:

1) Over decorated classrooms –  A classroom with too much stuff going on can be really distracting for kids with attention issues.  Too much clutter, every wall covered, things hanging from the ceiling, desks covered with pictures and visual cues, etc.  Children who are easily overstimulated get distracted very easily by all of these things.  Teachers wonder why so many kids have such poor attention – maybe all the clutter is what is distracting them?  Also, when children are trying to copy from the board, they need to change the position of their head (as well as their visual gaze) from looking at a vertical surface (board) to a horizontal surface (notebook). Think of all of the visual distractions in the path from the board to the notebook.  No wonder they have difficulty copying!

2)  Gluesticks – The teachers that I work with know that I NEVER want glue sticks if we are working on an arts and craft project.  I prefer regular good old Elmers glue!  Why?  I know they can be messy at first, but that’s because children need to learn how hard to squeeze. They need to be able to recognize that the glue cap isn’t open.  They need to use their little hand muscles to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.  Real glue please!  Also – need a quick glue cap #OThack for little hands?  Use a Wikki Stix  (aka bendaroo) on the cap so kids know where to pinch.  It also helps them to hold, so their little fingers don’t slide when they twist.

#OTHack, Glue trick

3)   Too many cushion seats – This one is in a special case.  Generally, if a teacher asks me for a cushion seat, I’m psyched.  I love that they are looking for a strategy to increase a child’s ability to focus.  BUT – when a teacher approaches me and says “I need five seat cushions“, my immediate reply (in my head, of course) is “Um, NO, you need to change your classroom routine.” If that many children are having difficulty sitting still or focusing, the classroom routine should be altered to include lots of brain breaks, heavy work, and changes in position.  A cushion seat should be the exception, not the rule. Kids need to move! 

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Play and attention

Using Play to Increase Attention

#FunctionalSkillsForKids

“Using Play to Increase Attention”  is part of a year-long blog hop called Functional Skills for Kids.  Each month, I will be working with other pediatric OTs and PTs to post on different developmental topics that impact functional skills for kids. I’m so honored to be working with some amazing pediatric bloggers to bring you a well-rounded blog hop that will ultimately result in a BOOK!

*This post contains affiliate links

This series will be a wonderful resource for parents, teachers, and therapists to learn about all the different activities a child performs each day.  Every month, each therapist will discuss different aspects of functional skills.  Each childhood function will be broken down into developmental timelines, fine motor considerations, gross motor considerations, sensory considerations, visual perceptual considerations, accommodations and modifications, activity ideas, and more.

This month’s topic in the  “Functional Skills for Kids” blog hop is PLAY, so check out the landing page for the rest of our posts and information on all things related to play skills!

what is play?

Play is defined as an activity that a person engages in for recreation and enjoyment.   For children, play is crucial to their development and learning. A child’s primary occupation is to play, learn, and socialize  (AOTA, 2015).     As a child plays, they develop the ability to problem solve, learn new skills, and use coordination and motor skills.   (AOTA, 2011).    It is important to remember that children learn best when they play with toys that are geared towards their developmental level  (raisingchildren.net).   Encouraging play with toys that are above your child’s developmental levels can lead to frustration and distraction.   You can check out my list of favorite developmental toys for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in the links below presented with Dinosaur PT here…

 Best-Infant-Toys-6 Best-Toddler-Toys  Best-Preschool-Toys

 

why is PLAY important for children to learn?

Play is an important component of childhood learning.  It fosters the development of motor skills, teaches children how to use their bodies, and helps children learn about the world around them.    When a child “plays”, it can be a structured game with rules such as kickball, free play (building with blocks), or engaging with a toy or another person.   Although play is perceived as “fun”, it is also a vital part of childhood development.

For example, an infant may “play” by cooing and giggling with mommy.  That baby is developing the ability to make eye contact, socialize, and form a relationship.   A toddler may play with blocks or toy trains.  He is developing the ability to use his two hands together to connect the blocks, visual skills to line them up properly, and imagination to decide what he wants to build.  As he plays on the floor with his train, he is crawling on all fours, using his body to bear weight,  and using eye-hand coordination to keep his train on the track.  A school age child plays a board game with a friend.  Although socializing and forming a friendship with a peer, he is also learning to follow rules, take turns, and cope with losing/ or learning to be a good sport.

As children grow older, the activities they participate in as “Play” activities change.  So do the benefits and acquired skills of the activity  they are engaging in.

When a child’s attention limits his ability to play for extended periods of time, it also interferes with his ability to develop the skills that naturally emerge from playtime.   So, as you can see, PLAY IS VERY IMPORTANT!

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Puzzle art featured

Puzzle Art Therapy

Use Promo CodeMissJaimeOT

I always say how much I love being an OT. I also love to learn. I’ve been lucky in that after many years as a therapist, I am still energized and excited about my profession. However….. sometimes you need to shake things up a bit.

I recently became certified in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems, a form of therapy that combines Perceptual, Oculomotor, Binocular and PuzzleArt Therapy Sensory protocols using hands on art.   I’ve always been interested in the vision aspect of Occupational Therapy, so I was really eager to learn new ways to incorporate PuzzleArt Therapy into my Occupational Therapy sessions.

PuzzleART2

Professionals learning how to assess visual tracking, convergence, divergence, and accomodation

What is PuzzleArt Therapy?  PuzzleArt Therapy is a program designed to assess and remediate problems with visual motor integration, visual perceptual skills, oculomotor skills, etc.

The course is taught by International  PuzzleArtist Alli Berman  and Dr. Susan Fisher, a respected Optometrist in Westbury, NY.  Occupational Therapists Linda Telford and Serena Zeidler also presented to give a therapists perspective on the program.

If you are an OT, this course is accredited by NYSOTA and NBCOT.  You can get a certification in PuzzleArt Therapy Systems while getting your CEU’s all in one day.

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