We’re so happy to welcome our friend and colleague, Laurie Gombash as a guest today at The Inspired Treehouse to share some of her favorite DIY therapy materials and creative core exercises for kids!
Laurie, a pediatric physical therapist from Northwest Ohio, has created a line of educational products that focus on the connection between movement and learning, including The ABC’s of Movement® activity cards and Pilates for PE™. And now, we’re excited to announce that Laurie has created an awesome webinar for The Inspired Treehouse entitled Creative Pediatric Treatment Strategies Based on the Evidence!
In her webinar, Laurie will be sharing tons of creative, inexpensive, and handmade ideas for encouraging core strength and other skills in children. As a little teaser, we’ll be sharing some of them with you today!
Take it away Laurie!
As a school based physical therapist, I’ve come up with some very fun, engaging toys and games over the years for parents and therapists to use with young children, especially preschoolers. All of these are cheap, simple “do-it-yourself” ideas that don’t require a lot of planning or trips to the craft store.
Weighted “Birthday Present”
One great way to improve core strength (stomach/back muscles) is by lifting heavy objects. In order to lift a heavy object over their heads, children have to tighten or engage their core muscles. When I say “heavy object” with preschoolers, I mean 1-2 pounds at most!
For this activity, I put a 1 pound weight in a small box, wrap it with colorful birthday wrapping paper and put a bow on top. While sitting in a circle, the children pass the present around. When each child gets the present, he has to lift it up over his head once for every year old he is, counting out loud. For example, a 4-year-old child lifts the present over his head 4 times and then passes it to his neighbor.
Not only does this engage the children’s core muscles, but they are also practicing bilateral coordination and midline crossing as they lift the present with both hands and pass it to their neighbor.
Weighted Stuffed Animals
I have also made several weighted stuffed animals that kiddos really enjoy!
I simply take some of the stuffing out of a stuffed animal, replace it with a 1 or 2 pound cuff weight and sew it back up.
The children pass the stuffed animal around like the birthday present game above, or play a game similar to hot potato by passing the weighted stuffed animal to music. When the music stops, the child holding the animal is out. This continues until one child is left holding the stuffed animal.
Children can also stand side by side and pass the weighted stuffed animal down the line. This is another great activity for building core strength and for crossing the midline.
Gross Motor Puzzle Play
You can put a gross motor spin on any puzzle by incorporating movement as children use their fine motor and perceptual motor skills to assemble the puzzle.
Customize the puzzles based on the specific movement needs of the child. Write movements or exercises on the back of each puzzle piece or on small sticky notes attached to the back of each puzzle piece. Suggestions include: clapping hands, jumping in place, galloping, jumping forward, arm circles, running, walking backward, walking sideways, crab walking, wheelbarrow walking, and bear crawling.
Place the puzzle pieces on one side of the room and the puzzle base on the floor on the other side of the room. Encourage the child to select a puzzle piece. Read the movement activity on the back of the puzzle piece. Holding onto the puzzle piece, the child moves to the other side of the room by performing the movement, and then squats to assemble the puzzle. Repeat for the rest of the pieces!
You can also use puzzles during gait training on stairs. Put the puzzle base at the top of the stairs and the pieces at the bottom. Children choose a piece, navigate the stairs, squat to place the piece into the puzzle, and repeat until the entire puzzle is completed.
These are just a few easy ideas for making therapy FUN for children. I hope I’ve inspired you to think outside the box when considering ways to help your child gain the strength necessary for healthy child development!
What are your favorite ways to work on strengthening with kids at home, in the classroom, or during therapy sessions? We’d love to hear your ideas – leave a comment below!