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Do you ever feel like your occupational therapist is JUST playing with your child? Well they are playing but not JUST. Occupational therapist’s main goal is develop your child’s skills for the job of living. A child’s job is to play in order to reach their developmental milestones. Play is the easiest way to get children to work on gaining their skills.
It’s hard to work on therapy homework in addition to everything else you have to do at home: feeding the family, keeping house, working on homework and making it to appointments. Some days you just want to sit down and play a game with your kids. Here are some ways you can get your child to work on their developmental skills while playing a simple game.
The duck game
First things first, get the game on the floor and get down on the floor with your children. You will be doing the same activities as your child, because they love to mimic and they love it when you are working on the same things.
Shoulder stability allows for the hands to perform fine motor skills. Kids that did not crawl when learning how to move or perform less tummy time have less shoulder stability than those that had more opportunities. Kids with hypotonicity have inherently less shoulder stability. My son with Down syndrome did have tummy time (even in the NICU) and he crawled for a LONG time. He has less stable joints because of his hypotonicity.
Hint: to figure out if there is good shoulder stability your child should be able to rest their forearm on the table to write. If it’s lacking their shoulder moves when coloring or drawing.
Play the game in different positions to work on trunk control and shoulder stability. Some great positions include being in all fours, lying on your tummy, side sitting resting the weight on one hand and reaching out with the other. I like to make through one turn in a challenging position.
Separation of the sides of the hand
Separation of the two sides of the hand allows for better fine motor control. Thumb, index and middle fingers control movement when writing, cutting and managing fasteners (radial side). Ring and pinkie side of the hand is for stability (ulnar side).
Big-C is picking up the duck with the radial side of his hand, but the ulnar side is extended rather than tucked into the fist.
Placing a small object into his hand helped to encourage a more stabilization and a better grasp.
Picking up objects like the duck with an object tucked away allows for an appropriate grasp. The picture shows a nice open web space (area between the thumb and index finger). This open web space eventually turns into a well developed pencil grasp and better control when writing.
Hand strength is needed to be able to perform school and daily skills. You can develop general hand strength while you work on shoulder stability. Pressing buttons with individual fingers can also help develop the smaller muscles inside the hand (instrinsic muscles).
Notice how Big-C’s finger sort of collapses when pressing a button. He’s still working on his intrinsic muscle strength, so it’s good we are doing this. We can also work on this by poking fingers into playdoh or pushing foam puzzle pieces out of boards.
All of these skills were worked on within a few minutes of getting down on the floor and playing a fun game with my son. He enjoyed himself and didn’t realize that we working on some activities that are difficult for him.
The next time your occupational therapist is playing with your child, ask what they are working on and how to carry over these skills at home. At home you can figure out a way to work it into your hectic daily life! Happy THERAPY THURSDAY!