Therapist Thursday: Breathing Exercises for Kids

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Mira Binzen, E-RYT, RCYT, a registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance, a certified iRest Yoga Nidra teacher and a professional Integrative Yoga Therapist.  She holds a degree in Child Psychology from The University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and is co-founder of Global Family Yoga which offers training courses approved for AOTA CEUs. Mira originally shared this post on MamaOT.com. Thank you both for sharing!

Full, even breathing can soothe the mind and body while evoking a sense of calm.  It’s an easy, effective strategy that is often overlooked.

Conscious breathing (simply being aware of the breath) is one of the best tools we have to regulate the nervous system, the home base of sensory processing. We all feel “dis-regulated” at times and it makes sense to have breathing strategies in place.  The more they are practiced, the easier it is to turn to one in time of need.  When a child feels overwhelmed from sensory input, is frustrated with a task, has low energy or too much energy for the situation, or is just feeling a little grumpy, a few conscious breaths can make a big difference.

This is not news to most, but anyone who has asked a child to “take a deep breath” may have come upon some resistance.  It’s kind of like trying to feed a child broccoli.  There has to be a little enticement, a little fun…a little magic.  Here are three simple ways to get your child breathing better.

1. Be a Balloon

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

Crouch down and hug your knees.  Reach the arms up and out as you come up to standing, filling your balloon (that’s you).  Then, let all the air out as you flutter to the ground like a deflated balloon.  Repeat a few times.  Fluttering and flopping to the floor adds proprioceptive input (body awareness) that can also be soothing to the nervous system.   Engage your child by asking what color the balloon is or what you may be celebrating with balloons.

2. Open Your Wings

This can be done sitting or standing.  Just as the name suggests, invite your child to reach their arms out to the sides and up overhead just as a majestic bird opens its wings.  This process stretches the intercostal muscles and invites in a fuller breath.  The breath comes in as the wings go up.  The breath moves out as wings come down.  Repeat several times.  You don’t even need to mention the breath.  The movement facilitates breathing.  Engage your child by asking what color her wings are, what kind of a bird he is or to where she might fly.

3. Sleeping Crocodile

Breathing exercises to help kids calm and focus

A crocodile waits, still and quiet by the edge of the lake… For details on the Sleeping Crocodile please see the original post on MamaOT.com.

“Conscious breathing for just a few minutes a day, several times a day can empower both you and your child to handle fluctuating moods, energy and focus. Full, even breathing is the foundation of well-being.” – Mira Binzen

Muscle Mover Monday…Uppercase S

It’s Monday morning!  Let’s get a move on!

Start your week with Fundanoodle’s award-winning Muscle Mover cards! Children can act out the movement from the cards to get the wiggles out, and then the fun continues by tracing the letter on the back of the dry erase card. Make sure to continue the blended learning by encourage the child to say the stroke movement out loud when they practice forming the letter.

We are going through the letters according to our I Can Write Uppercase! activity book and today’s letter is Uppercase S!

Buzz around.

Buzz around.

S_SnakeBack - Copy

Slither like a Snake!

S_Snake

Therapist Thursday: Core Strengthening for Kids

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Lauren at The Inspired Treehouse. Lauren is both a Mother and Pediatric Physical Therapist so she is definitely an expert on how to get children moving! Check out these great ideas on core strengthening.

core-strengthening-pinnable

Core strengthening isn’t just for adults.  Kids need to have a strong foundation of strength in the center of their bodies too.  Core strength fosters all kinds of developmental skills from bilateral coordination, posture, and stability to balance and endurance.  All of these skills build on one another, contributing to strong gross and fine motor skills and promoting healthy child development.  The core muscles are the muscles in the abdomen, back and pelvis.  Signs that a child may need extra help with core strengthening include but are not limited to w-sitting, poor posture in standing or sitting, or a delay in motor skill development.  The key to core strengthening for kids is making it fun — like a game!  Issue a challenge, give the activity a playful purpose!    Here are a few core strengthening exercises to help you get started.  And be sure to check out our round-up of Great Toys and Games for Core Strengthening!

1. BRIDGING Have your child lay on his back with his knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Have them push hard through their heels to raise their bottom up off the floor.  Be sure that they are keeping their head and shoulders on the ground (see photo above).  Can they hold it?

HOW TO CHANGE IT UP:

  • Try having the child lift and lower with control (up for a count of 3, down for a count of 3).
  • Put a stuffed animal between the child’s knees and have them squeeze while completing the bridging.
  • For a BIG challenge, have your child place his feet on a pillow or small ball and try to maintain stability while bridging.
  • Zoom some cars underneath — How many cars can you get under the bridge before it falls?
  • Find a few small, stuffed animals and walk them under the bridge — Don’t squish the bunny!

2.  SUPERMAN  Have your little one fly like the superhero and strengthen his back!  Have him lay on his stomach on the floor and try to lift his arms up off of the floor so that his upper chest comes up too.

HOW TO CHANGE IT UP:

  • Can he lift his legs?  How about arms and legs at the same time?
  • Can he hold a ball between his hands or his feet while lifting up?
  • Place a stuffed animal on the child’s back and see if he can complete this exercise with enough control to keep the animal from falling.
  • Make it fun by having the child reach up for you to hand him pieces of a puzzle or to place stickers on the wall.
  • Make it even more fun by trying it on a swing or a large ball

3.  KNOCK ME OVER  This has always been a favorite of the kids I see for physical therapy.  It can be done with smaller children on your lap, or with bigger kiddos on a large therapy ball or even with them kneeling on both knees.  The goal is for them to maintain enough stability through their trunk to stay upright!  If you have a small child on your lap, sit on a couch or bed for a soft landing surface.  Bounce them up and down a few times (maybe sing “I’m a Little Teapot) and then try to knock them over.  The first few times, they will fall for sure…it’s funny!  The goal — to see if you can gradually increase the pressure that it takes to knock them down.   And…getting up is part of the core workout too!   See if you can decrease the amount of assistance it takes to get them back to a sitting position.

HOW TO CHANGE IT UP:

  • Have the child in a tall kneeling position on the floor and play catch with balls of varying sizes and weights.  The heavier the ball, the bigger the challenge to the core.
  • Just sitting and bouncing on the therapy ball is a core workout in itself.

plank-pinnable

There’s more! For 3 additional ideas, please read the original post on The Inspired Treehouse!

Muscle Mover Monday…Uppercase Q

It’s Monday morning!  Let’s get a move on!

Start your week with Fundanoodle’s award-winning Muscle Mover cards! Children can act out the movement from the cards to get the wiggles out, and then the fun continues by tracing the letter on the back of the dry erase card. Make sure to continue the blended learning by encourage the child to say the stroke movement out loud when they practice forming the letter.

We are going through the letters according to our I Can Write Uppercase! activity book and today’s letter is Uppercase Q!

Buzz around to the top

Hop Down to the middle

Zoom Out

Q_QuailBack

Whistle like a Quail!

Q_Quail

Therapist Thursday: Tricks for Teaching Correct Pencil Grasp

Today’s Therapist Thursday comes from Christie at MamaOT.com.  Christie is a California-based mom and occupational therapist with a background in gymnastics, psychology, and education. We love her tips and tricks for teaching correct pencil grasp and her unique perspective on all things Pediatric OT!

how to hold a pencil

Pencil grip is one of those things that is really hard to re-teach if kids initially learn it incorrectly. Though every child will end up settling on a pencil grip that works best for him or her, introducing the standard “tripod” grasp (pinching with thumb and index finger while resting on middle finger) is a good place to start. However, this can seem virtually impossible when you’re dealing with five- and six-year-olds who don’t even know their left from right, let alone how to divide up their fingers into different positions.

Given the tricky nature of pencil holding — and its impact on kids’ handwriting skills — I thought I’d share a few OT-based tricks so you can help kids learn how to hold their pencil correctly.

Trick #1: Use shorter pencils.
how to hold a pencil
A shorter pencil means less space for cramming in unnecessary fingers. It basically forces kids to pinch with thumb and index finger. This is why occupational therapists often have kids use crayons that have been broken in half if they are having trouble using an age-appropriate grasp. Click here to read more about why kids should use shorter crayons.

Trick #2: Teach them the “pinch and flip”.

If shorter pencils don’t do the trick for your little writer, then teach them the “pinch and flip”. Simply have them pinch the sharpened end of the pencil and then flip it around until it gently rests in the “webspace” (that soft skin between your thumb and index finger) in the ready position. To watch a video for a quick demonstration and to find out the 3rd trick please read the original post.

Thanks MamaOT!

Muscle Mover Monday…Uppercase G

It’s Monday morning!  Let’s get a move on!

Start your week with Fundanoodle’s award-winning Muscle Mover cards! Children can act out the movement from the cards to get the wiggles out, and then the fun continues by tracing the letter on the back of the dry erase card. Make sure to continue the blended learning by encourage the child to say the stroke movement out loud when they practice forming the letter.

We are going through the letters according to our I Can Write Uppercase! activity book and today’s letter is Uppercase G!

Buzz Around

Zip In

Fundanoodle by Carolina Pad Upper Case G Practice

Stretch like a Giraffe!

Fundanoodle by Carolina Pad Muscle Mover Upper Case G

Therapist Thursday: Summer Letters

Today’s Therapist Thursday post comes from Amy Bumgarner, one of the rockstar Pediatric Occupational Therapists that created Fundanoodle. We love her ideas for incorporating letters into your child’s summer play!

It is getting hot, hot, hot in Charlotte, NC! My kids and I are looking for cool activities this summer!  How about you?

Here are some “cool” ways to practice handwriting this summer!

Sponge painting with water: Using letter shaped sponges have your child practice writing words with water soaked sponges. See if they can write the word before it dries up on the hot driveway! For extra fun you could build your own letters with sponge pieces. Use the I Can Build Upper Case Kit as a model.

spongeletter

Sidewalk chalk: Sidewalk chalk is a great way to work on large muscle movements for writing.  Kids love it! You can have extra fun with sidewalk chalk by getting the tip of the sidewalk chalk wet for bolder colors.  Have fun making hopscotch with letters, playing hangman, and practice writing letters.  This is fun break in between pool and sprinkler fun!

Ice cubes and letters: Freeze small letters (such as magnetic letters) in ice cubes.  Then have fun building words with the letters before they melt in the sun.  How many words can you build before they melt?

icecubeletters

Write letters on the ground or a vertical surface, such as the fence, with sidewalk chalk. As you call out a letter, your child gets to squirt the letter off with a water squirter. Spray bottles make a great hand strengthening activity, too.  For older kids, he or she has to say a word that starts with that letter before he or she can squirt the letter off.

Sensory bin: I always love a good sensory bin!  Have fun taking this one outside.  You can use a small kiddie pool, cooler, any tub, or water table.  Fill it with water, bubbles, water toys, and plastic letters.  Little ones can find all of a specific color letters, older children can find a specific letter, and even older children can find all the letters to spell a specific word.

sensorybinAmy Bumgarner, OTR/L