Have you ever seen a foam roller in the sporting goods section of your favorite store and wondered what they’re for? They are colorful like pool noodles but not as flexible (the are actually very dense and hard) and they are short and stubby as opposed to long and lean like the pool toy.
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If you’re an athlete, you may know the foam roller as a torture device for the IT bands and hip flexors. And while this piece of therapy equipment is useful for things like releasing trigger points in muscles and working out tight tissue, we pediatric therapists have come up with some ways to actually make a foam roller fun!
The awesome part is that they are fairly cheap and there are so many child development skills that you can promote by using one!
How to Use a Foam Roller With Kids
1 || If a child is having difficulty with transitions from floor to stand, have them straddle the foam roller, weight shift over one leg and stand to reach an object. Practice on both sides to make transitioning from the floor to stand through ½ kneel a bit easier!
2 || Put the child over a roller on his belly and you have instant weight bearing through those arms! Practice supporting on one hand while using the other hand to place a puzzle piece or toss a bean bag to a target for core strengthening.
3 || Try holding the foam roller overhead and walking backward for awesome body awareness and another dose of core strengthening.
4 || Use a roller as part of an obstacle course. Prop up one end on a low chair or couch cushion and have the kids climb up.
5 || Have a kiddo in the 0-3 age range? Use the foam roller for side lying or propping to make that tiny neck strong and stimulate head righting.
6 || Straddle the foam roller while sitting at a table for some movement input during seated activities.
7 || While straddling the roller, have a child reach to the floor on each side to pick up pieces of a puzzle. Use the right hand to pick up pieces on the left side and vice versa which encourages midline crossing and core strengthening.
8 || Stand the foam roller up on its end and have kids do roundhouse kicks or karate kicks to knock it over – great for practicing balance on the stabilizing leg and strengthening on the kicking leg. Or have the child try wheelbarrow walking and knocking the foam roller over with her head!
9 || Need some serious heavy work? Have a child walk on his knees while pushing the roller with alternating hands from one point to another or up an incline for an extra challenge.
10 || Set up a few foam rollers and make a giant bowling game with a large therapy ball.
11 || Use the roller as a hurdle to encourage a high step for balance work.
12 || Have a child lie on their back on the bolster and lift one foot of the ground or catch a ball dropped from above. It takes a lot of core strength to keep them in this position!
13 || Do you have a w-sitter? Have him short sit on a roller and place a playground ball between his knees to encourage core and leg strengthening.
See what I mean? A foam roller is an amazing therapy tool! It’s a great option if you’re traveling between homes or buildings and can’t lug a big, heavy bolster along for the ride. Are you going to add a roller to your therapy bag of tricks? How will you use it? We’d love to hear! Leave us a comment below!