6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Baby’s Development and Reduce Arching

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You don’t have to understand everything about baby development to sense that something might be wrong. One of the problems that parents sometimes notice is that their baby is arching too much. If you sense your baby is not “holding” you with his or her legs and arms, I strongly suggest that you have your baby evaluated by a pediatric physical therapist. This is generally a sign that your child is overusing extension in his or her movement patterns or having difficulty with their muscle tone. These arching movements can lead to more abnormal movement patterns and make attaining skills more difficult.

Other signs for this:

–arms stay pulled back and high, even in sitting

–unable to roll or “flips” to roll

–not grabbing feet after about 5 months old

–when on tummy, looks like he or she is “swimming” on tummy with arms and legs held up

This is a partial list. Generally, this needs to be addressed by someone who can teach you how to hold and carry your baby. For now, try these 6 simple ways to improve your baby’s development and reduce arching:

1.) Carry your baby in a “ball” by curling feet toward his or her hands

2.) Place baby on his or her back and bring feet toward their hands to play peek a boo between his or her feet

3.) Place your child in side-lying to play (even if older). This will help bring arms together more.

4.) Carry your baby in a split leg position–hold one leg up and let the other dangle with your baby facing away from you.

5.) Place your baby on his or her back and put colorful socks on your baby’s feet or maybe a rattle sock on their foot to encourage them to pull their feet up more to look at them.

6.) Place your baby on his or her back under a baby gym with the toys dangling near their feet. Show your baby how to lift his or her feet to kick the toys. As your baby gets better at this, slide the gym toward your baby’s knees to make him or her lift the legs even higher. All of this will work your baby’s lower abdominals and reduce some of the arching.

If you feel your baby is arching too much, there may be a medical reason as well, such as reflux or constipation. These conditions can be treated easily to reduce the discomfort your baby may be feeling. Other causes could be related to prematurity or other medical conditions. This is always worth having someone like a pediatric physical therapist evaluate your child. Your baby should not be arching a lot to move and this can easily be remedied with simple instructions to play and carry your child like the ones given above.

These are just a few tips. More can be found under the gross motor activity pages for rolling, tummy time, and sitting games.

For more ideas on ways to play with your child, click HERE for available books.

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My Toddler seems to fall all the time…

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailI received emails today from two different moms concerned about their toddler falling. My first response would be that some falling is normal and necessary for the learning and maturation process of walking. Of course, we don’t ever want our children to fall down, but some falling will occur as they learn to maneuver with and without shoes and over a variety of surfaces.

One note: Eye and ear problems should be ruled out before asking your child to play the games suggested here. See your pediatrician first to let them do a preliminary check and maybe refer you to a specialist, if needed. For example, if your child has had a lot of recent ear infections, he/she may be falling due to issues with fluid in his/her ears.

If your toddler just began walking, keep him/her barefoot inside as much as possible to keep his/her feet in contact with surface changes and allow his/her foot to begin to mature in strength. When going outside, please put on shoes for protection. See my What kind of shoes should I buy page for more information on this.

If your toddler is still falling a lot and has been walking for more than just a couple of weeks, don’t panic but do work on some simple games to help him/her watch where he/she is going:

1.) Play STOP/START: Hold your toddler’s hand and say “Ready, Set, Go!” and help them “run” then say “STOP” and cue them to stop. Do this over and over and make it SILLY and FUN!!!  Your child will begin to get the hang of the game and LOVE it. This will help him/her be more aware of your commands (particularly if they are running toward a busy street) and will help them learn to pay more attention.

2.) Play a the same game with an obstacle in your path (a kitchen chair). Run up to it and say “STOP” and then teach them to sneak around to go again!  Use your imagination but give your child the idea to look where they are going.

3.) Go back to the floor to play….WHAT??? Yes to the floor!!!  Get in a habit of spending some time each day doing a puzzle or blocks or something that you can communicate and have your child work on a fine motor skill. This will teach him/her to fall less. I promise! I have seen it dozens of times!  Your little one needs to learn to slow down and play. Walking is so much fun but it breeds a lot of bulls in china shops!

4.) One leg standing: When your child is standing and playing at a surface like a couch, come behind him/her and help him/her prop a foot on a book or maybe your leg to work on standing on one leg. Switch legs often to keep him/her working without getting frustrated. To advance this, you can play follow the leader type games and have him/her try to lift one leg and stand briefly. Make sure he/she is doing both sides!

5.) Wobble standing: Take your child to a window or door where they can easily see outside. Have them stand on your legs as you kneel behind him/her. Let your child hold the window and you can work on helping him/her keep balanced as you talk about what you see outside.

6.) Pillow walking: Set up couch cushions or pillows and help your child walk on them or step up and down.

7.) Target practice: Use painters tape and mark x’s or make a line on your carpet and have your child steps on these to work on balance. Make sure you test the tape on your floor before using it. This doesn’t work well on wood. Be creative and use other things to mark the “targets” –for example, outside you can use sidewalk chalk to make a line to walk on or step across.

I hope this helps. There are so many more strategies to teach. I will be working on balance skills soon in an upcoming publication!  Check back soon!

For ideas on how to play more effectively to enhance development, click HERE Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Leg braces: does my child need these?

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailFirst, let me say that I probably get 50% of my emails about this and about foot/leg positions of children in general. I am so glad that you are watching and observing your child. Please be patient as your baby learns to stand and walk, as this usually develops over time with a LOT of changes going on in his or her feet and legs. See my page on toeing in and out for some more information.

The normal progression with leg position is that your child will have bowed legs as a baby and will look more knock-kneed as a pre-schooler. All of this is normal, but if you are not sure, it is okay to ask someone. The foot develops with weight bearing or standing. As your child learns to stand and walk, the foot will develop an arch. If your baby is flat-footed, that is normal, but as he or she begins to walk, if the foot remains flat, then it should be checked.

The good news is that your child will most likely grow out of whatever you are

concerned about but you should always as your pediatrician about any suspected problems to get their expertise. Many problems need to be caught early in order to correct for the best results and if your mommy senses are “tingling” that something isn’t right, I would recommend a professional to evaluate your child. Most pediatricians know when to send you to a therapist. If you are not satisfied, please ask again until you get the information you need.

You are always going to be your child’s best advocate!

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Has your child stopped walking?

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FIRST: If your baby is limping or was walking A LOT and now stopped, please have them evaluated to make sure no other problems exist. This post is for new walkers with no limping etc.

Has your child stopped walking? I will tell you that this is a normal part of the development of some babies. Let me explain:

Starting to walk is a very challenging activity. Your baby has to control a large number of muscles and joints as well as balance on two very small feet. As your child develops the courage and skills to take the first few steps, he or she may want to do it over and over to your cheers and praise. Soon, however, the praise is not enough to counteract the fact that sometimes your baby will fall. Falling is wonderful and terrible at the same time. A pediatric PT would work on practicing falling with controlled falling games and songs. This way, your child would develop the ability and the confidence to get down from standing. Falls teach your baby a lot about the world.

Let’s review a few principles:

1.) Always work on short distances when practicing walking. Keep the distance short–maybe one or two steps only at first. Keep it here for awhile. Don’t push too hard. Soon enough your little one will venture further.

2.) NEVER back up. Always give your cutie a solid and dependable stopping point. How awful if you were trying to walk a tight rope and someone kept extending the end point! You would be scared and less willing to do it again. The same is true for your baby.

3.) Falling teaches a LOT. A baby needs to learn what he or she did wrong. Provide a carpeted or soft surface to practice so that the falls don’t hurt so much but have the value of teaching. PRACTICE falling with games like Ring Around the Rosie.

4.) Some babies will pull to stand and not know how to get down. You may find your baby standing in his or her crib crying and not know why. It is possible that they don’t know how to get down. Work on up and down games with a bucket of blocks. 5.) Have fun and BE PATIENT! Enjoy this time. It is precious!  Also, your baby may look very funny at first. Give him or her time to develop walking skills and watch the gait pattern change. Video early steps. His or her arms will usually be high and feet wide. Video again about every week or so and watch the arms drop and the feet get closer. See my pages on toeing in and out for answers about that.

Now, getting back to the original question: Why has my baby stopped walking?

Most of the time, a baby is fascinated with standing and taking steps, and then the fascination wears off. A bad fall could also affect this. You may not even know that your baby had a scary fall. Either way, walking is a lot of work at first. Getting around on hands and knees is faster, so your baby will most likely want to revert to this for awhile. Don’t push, he or she will return to standing soon enough. There are some tricks to helping this. Several are outlined in my book; but a basic one is to always demand that your baby stand to be picked up. Do this subtly and he or she will never know!

For ideas on how to play with your child to enhance development, see available books HERE

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Make Ice Cream in a Bag with Your Toddler!

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The following is a simple way to make ice cream in a ziplock bag with your toddler at home:

Things you will need:

Gallon zip lock bags

Sandwich zip lock bags

Half and Half

Sugar

Vanilla

Crushed Ice

Salt (rock salt is best if you have it)

In a mixing bowl, have your little ones help you put in

1Tbsp Sugar

½ cup half and half

¼ tsp vanilla

Mix this and pour into 1 ziplock sandwich bag

In the gallon bag, place 1/3 cup rock salt and 3 cups crushed ice and the sealed sandwich bag. Seal the large bag and play a game of toss with the bag. As you grab the bag, have the person holding it squish and squeeze it a few times. In about 10-15 minutes you will have soft homemade ice cream. If you are doing several at a time, each person can hold and squish their own and you don’t have to play toss with it—this will strengthen hand muscles as well. This game helps children use both hands equally as well.

Have fun making ice cream in a bag with your toddler–or all the kids in your home! This was a year-round favorite in our home!

For information on available books for more ideas, click HERE

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5 Simple Easter Egg Ideas to Improve Gross Motor Skills

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Easter Egg hunting can be used for a LOT of different reasons. The general squat to stand work of picking up the eggs is excellent for general strengthening and it’s FUN! Try some of these INSIDE games to use your egg hunting skills all year round! The following are five simple Easter egg ideas for improving gross motor skills:

1.) Try putting some up high on the back of the couch to have your child climb up and down to get them. This creates a fantastic way to improve strength and motor planning. An alternative is to create “steps” by placing couch cushions down on the floor and have your child climb or step up and down.

2.) While inside, have your child step over a row of stuffed animals or blocks (you can even use your own leg) to get the “eggs” and return. This game works on the general strengthening for squat to stand work but adds the balance element of stepping over something.

3.) Use other items besides eggs. Have your child retrieve parts to a puzzle or maybe blocks to stack. Get siblings involved with the game by letting them hide the toys (in plain sight for younger kids) or let them have a turn too. Now you are adding more complex cognitive and fine motor work at the same time.

4.) Create a simple obstacle course to get back and forth to retrieve the items. Have your child climb over pillows and under a “tent” made with two chairs and a blanket. This variation gives your child a chance to work on more complex movements.

5.) Easter egg toss: use a box or laundry basket as your target and have your child toss eggs inside. When you get them all in, let your child dump the eggs on you! This game can be modified as a race with siblings to fill their container first.

Below are some other reasons and ways to use this great activity all year long.

For Toe Walkers, the motion of a squat to stand helps these children develop a deeper squat to stretch their heel cords and help reduce toe walking.

For Sensory fun try using Eggs to play in the water, sand, or a rice and bean mixture for scooping to add sensory feedback as well.

Ideas for things to place inside other than candy: Our family used money or stickers, but get creative. One idea is to fill the eggs with puzzle pieces and when you are through hunting, put the puzzle together. The added bonus is that you know an egg is missing if you have missing puzzle pieces.

Here are other great ideas (non-candy)–some of these can be choking hazards so judge this according to the age of your child:

–gift certificates

–party size play dough

–matchbox car

–small hard animals or rubber bugs, etc

–chapstick or small lip gloss

–small non-toxic nail polish

–erasers or pencil toppers

–hair bands or clips

–socks

–rings or earrings

–balloons

–gummy snacks or goldfish

–colorful shoelaces

–glow in the dark stars

–character bandaids

There are many other things that will fit but just make sure that they are appropriate for the ages of your children. The dollar store is a great place to hunt for good items to use.

Make this a regular activity–use just about anything to “hide” and seek!

For more information about available books, click HERE

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5 Simple Ways to Help Your Baby Love Tummy Time

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Your baby needs time every day on his/her tummy to develop good muscle balance and strength. Although it is recommended that your child sleep on his/her back, it is important that you take time during the waking hours and place your child on his/her belly. If you are having trouble getting your baby to tolerate this position, here are some simple ways to help your baby love tummy time.

Did you know that you can actually reduce your baby’s risk for SIDS  by helping your baby strengthen neck muscles to be able to move his or her head? This helps your baby move away from items that can smother him or her.

The following is a simple list of ways to help your baby love tummy time:

1.) Tummy time can be as little as 5 seconds!

If your child gets irritated after a few seconds, give him/her a short break and then do it again. It’s okay to do small amounts at a time as he/she gets used to this position.

2.) Help your child keep his/her arms tucked underneath and palms facing down

3.) Don’t do tummy time right after eating—this can cause more spit-up and discomfort.

4.) If your baby has a G-button or a hernia, tummy time is still okay in most instances. Check with your pediatrician to make sure.

5.) Watch for signs of distress and change your child’s position.

Ways to accomplish Tummy Time:

1. Place a childproof mirror or brightly colored book/toy in front

2. Place your child on his/her tummy facing you on your chest while you sit in a reclined position. This will make it easier for him/her to lift his/her head and your baby will love looking at you!

3. Lie on the ground facing your baby and talk/play.

4. Lay your baby across your lap with a book or toy beside you to motivate him/her to lift his/her head.

Note:

–Avoid placing objects too high because this will cause your baby to lift his/her head too much and overextend.

–Also, if your baby has a slight head tilt (torticollis) make sure you put all objects straight in front for now. Talk to your physical therapist about this and make sure they teach you how to progress this, etc.

5. If your baby has some head control, sit your baby up and have him/her lean forward onto your hands or place his/her hands on a pillow. Allowing her to put weight through his/her arms is similar to the pushing up on his/her belly.

There are many more ways to accomplish improving the strength needed for your child to enjoy tummy time more. There are some medical issues that can cause problems with tolerance to tummy time as well. One of these is reflux.

ALWAYS STAY WITH YOUR CHILD when they are on their tummy.

Check out more ideas and games in my available books HERE

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7 Fast Ways to Get Your Baby To Crawl Now

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Is it okay form my child to skip crawling?

Your baby needs to crawl in all fours the traditional way for many reasons. That being said,  many babies do not do this and seemingly turn out fine. A few of these babies have some imbalances that may not be noticed while others may turn out okay. If at all possible, your baby needs to be in all fours. You can encourage this in several ways.

1.) Try placing her in a modified all fours position by having her kneel at a large pillow or couch cushion.

2.) Lay on the floor on your back and let your child pull up on you. Help her, if needed. She might just want to pull up to her knees and that is wonderful!

3.) Lay your baby on her back and bring her knees to her chest. Gently bicycle her legs and sing a simple song as you do this. Even patterning the movement like this will help kickstart the process!

4.) Put your baby on her belly and help her bring one leg up on one side to play. As she does this, she may be able to lift the arm on the same side to reach and that is great. You are helping her learn how to shift her weight. Now repeat on the other side. She may push off and go forward, which is a wonderful game–see the next item!

5.) On her belly, bring the leg up like you were doing in #4. Gently help her push forward by helping her at the foot and her bottom. Now do the other side. Be careful to help her keep from falling forward onto her face.

6.) Place your baby on her belly on a soft surface. Use a thin blanket under your baby’s arms and gently lift up to cradle her in the air slightly. Help her tuck her legs underneath to assume all fours position. Gently rock her side to side. If she loves this, help her move forward.

7.) Place your baby in all fours if she will let you.  Keep your hand under her chest and her legs tucked underneath. Help her rock side to side and back and forth.

There are many more ideas but these will get you started!

If your baby is army crawling, she is on her way! Encourage your baby to crawl over your leg with assistance. If your baby is a scooter, this will work as well to help her stay in all fours longer. Make sure to help her by supporting her chest and keep her from collapsing as she goes over your leg.  There are many other strategies that can be used. Email me if you want more information on this.

For available books on how to play with your child, click HERE

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Ford’s new windows help the visually impaired see

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Have you seen this? Ford has developed new windows to help the visually impaired see!

In a world of obstacles, it’s nice to see companies beginning to create more accessibility. Target has a whole new sensory line of toys, weighted blankets are showing up everywhere, and now these windows that give the visually impaired a chance to “feel the view” through a new application of technology.

The smart window takes pictures of the passing landscape and converts these into monochromatic images and displays them on the glass. A passenger can touch the different areas on the glass and receive vibrations in a large number of intensities to help them “see” the landscape.

As a therapist who works with many visually impaired children, it’s nice to see a company like Ford taking a step toward reducing some of the obstacles in their life. As a mother of two children with vision problems, I’m always interested in technology that is addressing some of the difficulties of any type of visual difficulty. Some of the self-driving features that have begun to evolve may lend even more freedom to those experiencing some limitations by visual impairments.

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Don’t let your time with your baby go to waste! There are many ways to play and create memories while helping your child reach his or her full potential with gross motor development.

Click HERE available books on how to play with your child to play with a purpose!

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Playing with your baby to improve development

FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailYou have read all the baby books, talked to other mothers, and scoured the internet. How many times do you do this and then sit down, exhausted at the end of the day and realize that you didn’t have time to do any of it?

Let’s rethink it all.

First, you can use every time you interact with your baby, whether you are carrying her, feeding her, bathing her, etc, to help her achieve her best. It doesn’t matter if you have all day with your baby or snippets of time around the family schedule and work, you have the ability to give her things she needs through simple interactions.

As a pediatric physical therapist, I spend much of my day helping parents understand this simple principle: Every single thing you and your baby do together is a valuable learning experience. Thinking purely from a gross motor perspective, I can spout off something for every interaction to address a skill your baby needs. I can also give you suggestions for the other areas of development.

Let’s look at an example:

Head control: this is a very valuable skill that a baby needs in order to advance through to all the stages and finally walk. The following examples are ways to work on this during the day.

Morning: You pick up your baby in a diagonal pattern by rolling her up on her elbow and into sitting and finally pick her up. By doing this, you are helping her learn to pick her head up and reduce any head lag (head “lags” behind if you pull her to sit). As she starts to participate with this, you can bring her more in a straight pattern to sit (always supporting from behind her shoulders). I usually continue the diagonal pattern because it “patterns” the idea of getting into sitting.

Carrying her to changing table: Place her up on your shoulder to help her use her neck muscles more. If she is wobbly with this, give a little support with your other hand.

Changing table: Keep a little rattle up here and move it from side to side to have her follow with her eyes and hopefully her head. This works her neck muscles too. Go ahead and change that diaper too!

Carrying her to a chair to feed her: Again, hold her high on your shoulder and make her work a little harder.

Feeding: Make sure she is not arching too much and is able to relax. If she is arching a lot, tell the doctor and your therapist, if you have one. This may be a sign of some things that may need to be checked.

Carrying to her car seat: If you are getting ready to leave for daycare, carry her high on your shoulder again to allow that head to keep working.

OR

Carrying to have some floor time: If you are staying home for now, place her on the floor to play. Give her a few seconds or longer (if she tolerates) in some tummy time (remember this may be better with an empty stomach if she spits up a lot). If she spits up a lot, place her in sitting on your lap or between your legs in the “mommy chair” to allow her to work on sitting up. If you need to get some things done and need to keep her safe or more upright, place her in a bouncy seat with toys in front for her to watch and bat at with her hands.

Do you get the idea?

You have basically taken your baby out of bed, changed her diaper, and fed her. At this point, you have given her many ways to improve her head control with just these simple interactions.

A pediatric PT will be able to guide you through many other ideas on ways to simple carry and care for your child using positioning and simple changes to things you are already doing. With these ideas, you will be giving your baby much needed exercise throughout the day. A speech or occupational therapist can expand the above ideas to include singing and talking to your child or placing toys in her hands to improve her speech and cognitive skills as well as improve her sensory exploration and arm/hand strength.

No small movement is unimportant in development. A baby moves to improve movement in order to move. Every kick, reach, grasp, and babble means something important to her development.

Click HERE for available books for more ideas.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail