A child’s work is play, so creativity, fun and games are instrumental to making therapy a success. Yet it isn’t just in the office that a child’s muscles need to work. They also need strength and endurance-building activities at home. Just as is the case in therapy, it’s important to make activities fun at home. Here, we’ve outlined some enjoyable exercises and also suggested things you should consider when engaging in play-based therapy at home.
Physical Therapy Exercises
Children tend to grow bored with repetition, so it’s important to keep activities varied. Obstacle courses allow for an assortment of activities that build strength and agility in a number of ways. Activities can be structured around a child’s needs. For instance, a child who needs to develop leg strength can perch herself on a scooter and use her legs to propel her through a set course. A child working on balance can walk along a balance beam, hop on one leg, or use a unicycle. For added fun, build the obstacle course around a theme, such as a circus, island adventures, or an African safari.
Games with paraffin
Paraffin wax is a therapeutic modality intended to heat and moisturize different body parts. Generally used for hand injuries and conditions affecting the wrist and hands, it is applied by dipping the body part into hot wax several times. Paraffin wax is extremely formidable, thereby useful for different activities. One game has the patient trying to remove a paraffin “glove” while maintaining the shape of the hand. The wax can be shaped into spheres and cubes as well, which encourages fine motor skills for children who struggle with hand movements. For added fun, consider making a game of basketball with the wax using a waste paper basket as the hoop.
Water balloons are surprisingly versatile in their function. Fill them with rice, sand or water to create dumbbells that can be lifted from the side or in front of the child. Roll or throw them back and forth with a child to increase strength and conditioning. Participate in activities that allow the child to lift and carry the balloons for a unique form of resistance exercise. Children can carry the balloons with them along a balance beam or other narrow place for an added challenge to balancing exercises or aim them at a target for eye-hand coordination. If a child needs hand or foot strengthening, allow them to stretch and squeeze the water balloon that is filled with rice or sand with their fingers or toes. Children who benefit from isometrics can push the sand-filled balloon against the ground.
As stated earlier, play is a child’s work, so allow them to gain skills through play-based activities. Here are some other aspects to keep in mind:
- Allow your child to take the lead; this doesn’t mean giving in to his every whim but it does mean following his cues if he’s tired or bored;
- Use objects and toys that your child likes in order to maintain interest in activities;
- Describe what your child is doing in age-appropriate vocabulary “You are bouncing the ball” without being overly verbose;
- Capture your child’s interest before trying to teach a lesson.
As you engage in play-based activities, keep in your mind that your child is learning from every moment. If she is old enough to understand, explain the rationale behind movements so that she is more motivated to continue them. Use props and other motivators to keep the momentum going. And if your child is exhausted, know when it’s time to move on.