I'm not just a PT, I'm also a parent!

I'm not just a PT, I'm also a parent!

Friday, November 30, 2012

2012 Gift Guide - Sports Toys

Here are some gift ideas for the special preschool and elementary-aged kids in your life who may need a little help with their gross motor skills:

Basketball Hoop

Basketball hoops are fun in general, but they also help kids learn to throw underhand, to throw with accuracy, and to tiptoe and jump to slam dunk.  We have the Fisher-Price Give Me Five Sports Center, which includes basketball, hockey, soccer, football, and baseball.  It may be discontinued, which is unfortunate because it's a great toy that "grows" with your child.  There are several kids' basketball hoops on the market, however, so you'll be able to find a suitable one.

Soccer Net
Soccer drills are a great way to help kids practice balance and kicking with accuracy.  You can make a goal out of something as simple as two plastic cups or cones, or you can get something like the Talk To Me Soccer Set, which gives auditory feedback when a child scores a goal.

Baseball Equipment
Aside from being's America's pasttime, baseball includes a lot of fundamental gross motor skills.  From throwing to catching, from batting to running, it may be perceived as a slow game, but it provides a full-body workout.

A fun gift is a baseball set that includes a tee, a light ball, and a plastic bat.  Children can learn hand-eye coordination as they strike a small, stationary object.  You can always start with a 6" rubber ball, then progress down to a standard-sized baseball.  Once your kiddo hits the ball, it's time to run the bases!

And naturally, what family doesn't play catch?  We recently bought our two older sons (6 and 4) child-sized baseball gloves and within a week or two, they were fielding ground balls and (sometimes) catching slow line drives.  If your child is having difficulty catching, start off with a velcro "glove" and a tennis ball to allow more room for error.


Balance Beam
Gymnastics has grown in popularity over the last 20 years, so your little aspiring gymnast may love to get a balance beam!  Start simple by having your child walk on it with a shuffling pattern with his or her feet parallel and as balance improves, have your child walk on it with a normal gait pattern, walk sideways, and walk backwards. 


For safety, choose a balance beam that is only a couple inches off of the ground.  For younger children, choose one that is about 6" wide, for older children you can use the standard 4" width.

Golf or Hockey Set
Playing golf and hockey will help your child with hand-eye coordination, trunk rotation, and balance.  Besides, it's fun!


Trampoline with Support Bar

If your child is having difficulty jumping, try one of these fun trampolines!  The support bar allows children to bear some weight through their upper extremities so their lower extremities don't have to work so hard.  The bar also helps them to maintain balance.  These are also great for children who seek the sensory input from jumping and the bar will help them to remain safe and in control as they bounce.

Before shopping, don't forget to consider the trampoline's weight limits.  Some models also have removable bars.

This trampoline from Urban Rebouding is designed for adults, so it has a larger weight capacity.  The support bar is removable, but it a bit high for young children.  Another great feature is that the legs fold inward so that it stores flat.

Target Practice
We use this nifty velcro target in pediatric therapy clinics all the time.  It's a nice size, providing a good sized target for your child.  And the fact that the ball sticks to it provides instant feedback regarding the accuracy of his or her throw.   The fact that you can keep score is a plus for those more-competitive kids.

Monday, November 26, 2012

2012 Gift Guide - Ride-On Toys

Last year, I wrote my gift guide by ages.  This year, I'll be doing it by category.  Today, I'm starting with ride-on toys for children from babies to elementary-age.

Playskool Walk 'N Ride
Convertible push toys are great because they're multifunctional and can be used for a relatively long period of time.  I really like the Playskool Walk 'N Ride because it can entertain children from infancy up until 2-3 years of age.  Infants can play with the spinners, roll it back and forth, and open and close the door on the front.  Older babies can use it as a push toy to practice walking with support.  I like the fact that this particular toy allows a baby who is learning to walk to use a narrower base of support and does not extend so far backward that the child needs to lean too far forward to walk safely.  Young toddlers can use it as a ride-on toy to help with balance and lower extremity strengthening.  Both my 9-month-old and 3-year old enjoyed playing with it last year and my now 21-month-old still uses it frequently.  Our Walk 'N Ride stays indoors and has survived 3 very active boys.

Kiddi-O Smoovy
     The Smoovy is made by Kettler, so you know you're getting a good quality, sturdy toy.  The price can be a bit off-putting, but Kettler products last a very long time, so if you plan to use this with more than one child, it's a worthwhile investment.
      I like the Smoovy because it's sturdy and stable.  It's a great ride-on toy for toddlers because there is less risk of toppling, it rolls smoothly, and it was designed by Physical Therapists.

Pewi Ybike
The Pewi Ybike is another multi-functional ride-on toy.  Like the Walk 'N Ride, it can be used both as a push toy for beginning walkers and a ride-on toy for toddlers.  The caster wheels allows the Ybike to roll in any direction, so it will offer more of a challenge to beginning walkers as they need to control its direction.  As a ride-on toy, the caster wheels will allow kids to roll in any direction, challenging their balance and trunk control in several planes.  The narrow seat also allows children with impaired hip mobility to sit on the seat safely.

Wheely Bug
Like the Ybike, the Wheely Bug has caster wheels that allow it to roll in any direction.  It's also super-cute and comes in a bumblebee, ladybug, mouse, tiger, pig, and cow.  The seat is a bit wider, so it would provide a nice stretch for kids with tight hip abductors.  The Wheely Bug also comes in two sizes, so you can select what is most appropriate for your child.

Similar to the Roller-Racers of the '80s, the PlasmaCar relies on a turn of the handlebars to roll.  My kids love riding their friends' PlasmaCars because they provide a smooth ride on hard, level surfaces.  These are great for building trunk strength and balance as children control the direction by both steering and leaning.  These can get going pretty fast, so make sure your child wears a helmet when riding a PlasmaCar.  I have seen less-expensive versions of PlasmaCars, but am unsure of their quality.

Balance/Strider Bike
These are basically small bicycles with no pedals that allow children to practice balancing on two wheels with the security of being able to place their feet on the ground.  They are a bit expensive, but if you're handy, you can buy a small bike and remove the pedals while your child is learning to balance.


Weplay Pedal Walker
This is a fun toy for older kids that they can ride standing up.  As their balance and control improves, the handles can be removed to provide an additional challenge.