Physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping a child who is diagnosed with Down syndrome (DS) reach their highest potential. What that therapy looks like through a child’s life changes as he/she transitions from newborn to teenager. Hypotonia, weakness, cardiac and respiratory issues are some of the challenges a PT will address.
0 – 24 months: The physical therapist (PT) is one of the first healthcare professionals to work with a parent and their child to help build a strong foundation of strength and movement. Depending on the medical complications a child faces, the PT works regularly with the child to build strong muscles so he/she doesn’t develop compensation that can affect their abilities later.
The parents or caregivers will have activities to work on daily to help their child reach gross motor milestones. The child may need special braces for their feet to improve alignment so that muscles can maintain length to function efficiently.
Compression garments such as a SPIO, Benik or an abdominal binder, may be considered to aide postural alignment and respiratory function. Aquatic therapy can be beneficial if a child enjoys the water. This gives him/her an opportunity to be challenged in new and fun ways, while also building strong swimming skills and an enjoyment of water for future exercising.
2 years – 5 years: During the preschool years physical therapy continues to address higher level gross motor skills. It may be appropriate for a child to be involved in group therapy sessions where peers motivate each other, along with providing social and communication opportunities.
5 – 10 years: Throughout these years, a child involved in community-based programs could seek PT consultations. Some children may enjoy a summer PT group to build strength and confidence such as our rock climbing group. Biking can also be a great opportunity for fitness and socializing. There are several “learn to bike” programs in the community and a PT can help a child develop this skill. Many children become involved in swimming and this becomes their life long fitness.
Teenage years: Encourage physical fitness, which is important for any teenager or young adult. Hopefully as the child faces the challenges of being a teenager, they have confidence in their abilities and can continue to be a part of a sport community, like a swim team, running group, or special rec team. The child may need to check in with their PT a bit more to update home programs, as growth may affect their posture. While braces may not be needed anymore, foot inserts may be necessary to support his/her feet in the best possible position.
Most importantly, set high expectations and enjoy all the gifts children bring to families!
Most parents know it is important for children to eat a balanced diet. What exactly does a balanced diet mean? Generally, it means eating a variety of foods and getting enough of each food group. The five food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy. Although every food group is important, it seems as though protein foods and vegetables receive the most attention. You may be wondering why these two food groups are so important, how much of each is needed, and how to get your child to meet the recommendations. We will cover all this, but let’s start with how much food your child needs.
Protein is a key nutrient for everyone from growing babies to elite athletes. It is necessary to build, maintain, and repair tissue. We need protein to form healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and nails, as well as to make enzymes, hormones, and other chemicals. Protein foods are also important sources of nutrients such as iron, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, riboflavin, selenium, choline, phosphorous, zinc, copper, vitamin D, and Vitamin E. These vitamins and minerals offer a myriad of benefits to a growing child.
A common misconception is that protein is only found in animal-based foods, like meat. However, protein can also come from plant-based foods, like beans (example: pinto, black, kidney beans) and soy products (example: tofu, tempeh, edamame). The protein food group includes meat, poultry, seafood, beans, peas, eggs, processed soy products, nuts, and seeds. Dairy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese will also provide your child with protein. Your child’s protein needs vary based on age, sex, and activity level. (Please see Table 1 above for recommended intake amounts.)
A serving from the protein food group, also referred to as an ounce-equivalent, is 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish, 1 egg, ¼ cup cooked beans or peas, ¼ cup tofu, 1 ounce of tempeh, 1 falafel patty, 2 tablespoons of hummus, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds. Please see Table 2 for common protein food portions.
Table 2. Common Portions and Servings of Protein Foods*
Common Portion and Servings
1 small steak = 3.5 to 4 servings
1 small hamburger = 2 to 3 servings
1 small chicken breast half = 3 servings
½ Cornish game hen = 4 servings
1 can of tuna, drained = 3 to 4 servings
1 salmon steak = 4 to 6 servings
A couple examples of convenient and kid-friendly protein foods are hamburger patties (examples: McDonald’s, White Castle [yes, fast food is okay]), fish sticks, chicken nuggets, Boca vegan burgers, and milk (examples: cow’s milk, Ripple milk, hemp milk). If your child prefers to drink rather than eat, try supplementing with a nutritious drink (examples: Kate Farms, Vega, Orgain, PediaSure). If your child does not eat solid foods, you can puree meat, poultry, seafood, and tofu, mash beans and peas, and provide foods like creamy nut butters, hummus, blended soups, and smooth yogurt. If your child relies on formula given through a feeding tube or drinking a supplement for most or all of his/her daily nutrition intake, s/he may be getting enough protein if s/he is consuming enough. Make sure to speak to a registered dietitian if you have any concerns about your child meeting his/her protein needs.
QUICK RECIPE: Black Bean Quesadilla*
¾ cup pico de gallo
1 can (15.5 oz) black beans (great protein source!)
½ cup shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 eight-inch flour tortillas
½ teaspoon olive oil
1. Using small-hole strainer, drain liquid from Pico de Gallo; discard liquid. Transfer leftover tomato mixture to medium bowl. Mix in black beans, cheese and cilantro until combined.
2. Divide black bean mixture evenly over half of each tortilla (about ½ cup each). Fold tortillas in half.
3. Heat large griddle or skillet over medium-high heat. Brush with oil. Place filled tortillas on griddle. Cook, carefully flipping once, until tortillas are golden brown and crisp and cheese filling melts, about 5 minutes. Cut quesadillas into wedges. Makes 8 servings.
Optional: For additional protein, add chicken or your favorite meat!
Vegetables are full of nutrients including dietary fiber, potassium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6, manganese, thiamin, niacin, and choline. These nutrients can help your child build healthy bones, heal cuts and wounds, protect against infection, support heart health, promote healthy aging, and maintain healthy eyes, skin, teeth and gums.
The vegetable food group is made up of vegetables and 100% vegetable juice. Vegetables come in a variety of forms to fit any diet. They can be raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, canned, dried/dehydrated, whole, sliced, mashed, pureed, or juiced. Please see Table 1 above for recommended intake amounts.
A serving, or cup-equivalent, from the vegetable group can be 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables, 1 cup of vegetable juice, or 2 cups of raw leafy greens. There are some great brands out there that sell kid-friendly, veggie-containing foods. Two examples of brands are Dr. Praeger’s Purely Sensible Foods and Happy Family. Dr. Praeger’s line of foods includes a variety of “Puffs”, “Cakes”, and “Littles” (these are shaped liked stars, dinosaurs, and bears!) that are made with ingredients like broccoli, spinach, kale, and carrots. Happy Family sells everything from bars, to squeeze pouches, to puffs (some of these are also shaped like dinos!). These foods can have veggies like tomato, kale, spinach, and carrots. Their foods are appropriate for all ages, from infants to adults.
You can also try incorporating vegetables into other foods at home. Combine leafy green vegetables, celery, carrots, or beets with fruit to make a juice or smoothie. Store-bought, single serving vegetable juices and smoothies (example: Bolthouse Farms or Naked Juice) are also an option if you are on-the-go. You can also try blending pureed cooked cauliflower in mashed potatoes and mixing pureed cooked sweet potato or carrot into a cheese or pasta sauce. Blending cooked pumpkin, carrot, squash, or sweet potato into a tomato or vegetable soup can also increase your child’s vegetable intake. These ideas are also appropriate for children who do not eat solids.
If your child relies on a tube feeding formula or an oral supplement, s/he may be meeting all vitamin and mineral needs if s/he is consuming enough. If not, your child may benefit from a multivitamin. A registered dietitian can help you plan on the best way to get more nutrients into your child. If you are interested in adding blended vegetables to your child’s tube feeding regimen, a registered dietitian can also help you get started with blenderized tube feedings.
QUICK RECIPE: Pineapple and Spinach Smoothie*
2 cups pineapple
1 cup baby spinach (great way to consume veggies!)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 cup ice
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Combinepineapple, spinach, banana, almond milk, ice and cinnamon in blender. Cover; blend until smooth. Makes 2 servings.
Routines are very important for all children, but they can be particularly important for children with developmental delays. Routines help provide a sense of certainty and security for children by offering them a predictable pattern that allows them to know what to expect, which will result in less frustration as well as fewer tantrums or meltdowns.
Certain routines are almost universal, such as morning and bedtime routines, but others may exist for specific circumstances or stages of life, such as your family’s weekend morning or school or summer routine.
A great place to start a routine is having a set bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ages 3-5 should get 10-13 hours of sleep a day (including naps) and children ages 6-12 should get 9-12 hours of sleep each night. The benefits of getting enough sleep are numerous and include mental/physical health, attention, memory, learning, behavior, and more. The AAP also recommends no screen time 30 minutes prior to bed, no electronics in children’s bedrooms, and having a set bedtime routine.
Setting up a bedtime routine:
Bedtime routines can be anything you want them to be, as long as they are familiar and predictable. For my infant son, he takes a bath every other day. After his bath (or mom and dad quiet playtime on non-bath days), he gets a nice massage and we read a couple goodnight books. When he shows us signs of being tired, we turn off the bedside lamp, swaddle, and turn on the white noise machine.
This routine is something I hope to keep as he gets older. For an older child, you can do a similar routine but you will need to add in time for personal hygiene and perhaps next day activities such as pick out your clothes, pack your backpack, etc. You can use a similar routine for naps, except they would just be shorter.
Aside from bedtime, morning routines, can also be beneficial. Some families have different weekday and weekend morning routines, but other children may need to have one routine that stays the same regardless of the day.
Mealtime can also present an important routine. An easy place to start is to try to have meals around the same time each day. I know this isn’t always possible- but getting as close to a specific time each day can be beneficial and having everyone sit together to eat.
Additionally, having chores to do in family routines helps children develop a sense of responsibility and some basic skills, like the ability to manage time. These are skills children can use for later in life that you can begin at a young age. One great example is singing the “clean up” song when it’s time to finish an activity and move onto something different.
“Clean up clean up
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.
Clean up clean up
Clean up clean up
everybody do your share.”
Routines can also be great for teaching personal hygiene. Ever heard a parent sing the ABC song while their child washes their hands? This is just one great example.
Here are some tips if you are looking to introduce routines into your daily life:
Only change one part of the day at a time.
2. Come up with your basic non-negotiables and then give your children some choices (bedtime stories together or separate?).
3. Make a poster with the routine, including photos in the right order, to allow for self-monitoring. In a good routine, everyone understands their roles, knows what they need to do and sees their roles as reasonable and fair.
4. Follow the same routine every single day for at least one month, after which it will become habit and your older kids should be able to keep themselves on schedule for the easy routines.
Establishing routines has lots of great benefits that can help both you and your child develop scheduling abilities, and increase the likelihood that your family will have a smooth day.
It can often be challenging to determine whether or not your child is delayed. Some children may not exhibit difficulties in all areas, or the signs may be subtle. Common signs of a gross motor delay include but are not limited to: difficulty using both sides symmetrically, inability to sit independently between 6 and 9 months, and inability to independently walk between 12 and 18 months. However, not all signs of delay are as apparent as others.
Other signs that your child may have a physical delay, particularly with school aged children, is their ability to keep up with their peers. These children may appear clumsy on the playground, or stay away from obstacles that are difficult, such as climbing walls and monkey bars, or parents may receive reports their child is having difficulty with activities in P.E. class. Also, the child may be less motivated, or outright refuse, to be an active participant in extracurricular sports.
What should a parent or caregiver do if they think a child is delayed?
Schedule an evaluation.
Pediatric physical therapists utilize standardized assessments to accurately determine if a child is developmentally delayed. These assessments include all aspects of gross motor development including strength, balance, and gross motor skills. The resultant score of the assessments is able to provide the parent with information including the percent of delay and the age equivalent. This allows for the parents, child, and therapist to determine an appropriate, individualized plan of care and direction for treatment. The standardized assessments are also a way to show improvement following an episode of care.
If you have any questions or are unsure if your child is delayed, use available resources to help.
Make the First Five Count is Easter Seals FREE online child development screening tool to help measure and keep track of your child’s growth and development.
Take the ASQ-3 to look at key developmental areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving and personal social skills. You will be asked to answer questions about things your child can and cannot do.
Take the ASQ SE-2 for a more in depth look at a child’s social and emotional skills. This survey includes questions about your child’s ability to calm down, take direction, follow rules, follow daily routine, demonstrate feelings and interact with others.
Also the CDC offers a developmental checklist that takes you through 2-months-old to 5-years-old. This checklists offers an easy to read guide if parents are concern that their child is delayed. They also offer a Milestone Tracker Mobile App for Apple and Android phones.
By detecting developmental delays early, you have the power to change lives and educational outcomes for children! If delays are identified, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley can offer the support needed to be school-ready and build a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org.
Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) is a delay in motor skill development or a difficulty with coordinating movement that makes a child unable to perform common daily tasks. This delay is not due to an identifiable medical or neurological condition that would explain their coordination problems.
Children with DCD are frequently described as “clumsy” or “awkward”, but typically have normal or above average intellectual abilities. However, their motor coordination difficulties may impact their academic progress, social integration and emotional development.
DCD is commonly associated with other developmental conditions such as learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, speech-language delays, and emotional/behavioral problems.
Children with DCD generally have difficulty with activities including, but not limited to, climbing up and down stairs, tying their shoes, riding a bike, or doing buttons on their clothing.
How does a child with DCD present?
– Decreased bilateral coordination
Decreased ball handling skills
Decreased high level balance skills
Balance beam walking
Decreased postural control
Other areas of concern may be handwriting, executive function, and initiating social interactions.
How to help
Because children with DCD typically have normal to above average cognitive skills, using a cognitive approach to improve their motor planning can help to ingrain motor skills to make movements more automatic. This cognitive approach helps by working on breaking down a motor skill into smaller pieces, as well as, having the child verbalizes the activity before performing, and reporting on the outcome of the attempt.
Goal: What am I going to do?
Plan: How am I going to do it?
Do it: Perform the skill
Check: How did the plan work?
Core strengthening is important for children with DCD. You must have a stable trunk/core to appropriately move your arms and legs. Improving core stability will improve balance, postural control, and proprioception, leading to improved coordination.
Some activities to improve core strengthening:
Heavy pushing: fill a laundry basket to weight it down and have you child push it across the floor. Carpet flooring will add extra resistance from friction.
Climbing: climbing up onto furniture or onto playground equipment while maintaining their abdomen off the surface and arms extended.
Wheelbarrow walking or planks: putting weight through extended arms will help to increase abdominal engagement and strength.
Standing on unstable surfaces: Standing on various surfaces such as: pillows, cushions, foam mat, or BOSU ball helps to improve postural control. They can perform a variety of activities on these surfaces including balancing with eyes closed, squatting to pick up a toy from the floor, catching/tossing a ball, or reaching up overhead for an object.
By Dana Sivak, Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Dietetic Intern and Northern Illinois University Student
“Got milk?” is a saying originally part of a campaign generated by the dairy industry to remind consumers of the importance for consuming milk on one of the premises that it serves as a good source of calcium. But why, we might ask, do we need to focus our energy on consuming calcium? Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body, with 99% of it found in bone and teeth. Throughout the course of the day, calcium is constantly being broken down, reabsorbed, and resourced back to form new bones. In children, especially, the turnover rate of bone is ever-present to support growth and development. By age 24, on average, humans reach peak-bone mass, and thus it is important that we maximize our efforts to nutritionally meet our body’s calcium needs– so encourage your child to sport that milk mustache proudly!
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium changed last November after further research determined a greater need for calcium in our diets. The following are the US Food and Nutrition Board’s updated RDA values for calcium based on age:
0-6 months = 200 mg
7-12 months = 260 mg
1-3 years = 700 mg
4-8 years = 1000 mg
9-18 years = 1300 mg
19-50 years = 1000 mg
51-70 years = 1000 mg (male) or 1200 (female)
71+ years = 1200 mg
Now you might ask, how do I know if I’m meeting my child’s needs? (…and yours?! Your health matters, too!) The simplest answer for this is to check the nutrition label for the exact content of calcium provided for the food items typically consumed in your household.
Calcium rich foods are commonly thought to be those that exist within the dairy food group, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. These types of food provided a natural, readily available, and rich source of calcium to our diets. But what if your household is “dairy” free or someone in your household either has a lactose intolerance or cow’s milk protein allergy? Not to worry! There are other rich food sources of calcium to consider, too! Non-dairy sources of calcium include dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, as well as broccoli, green beans, and green bell peppers. Other sources included fortified food products such as cereals, fruits juices (orange juice) and cow’s milk alternatives. Smaller amounts of calcium can be found in seafood (sardines, scallops, shrimp, whitefish/salmon), tofu, legumes and nuts, eggs, and yes – even chocolate! Table 1 demonstrates the calcium content comparison for these various food sources.
· Silk Soymilk, unsweetened, with added calcium, vitamins A, D, B12, and riboflavin
· Rice milk, unsweetened, with added calcium and vitamins A and D
· Hemp Milk, Living Harvest Tempt, Vanilla
· Oat Milk, Pacific Foods, Organic Oat Original
· Coconut milk, Silk Original
· Almond Dream almond milk, with added vitamins A, D, and B12
· Ripple Milk
· Silk Protein Nut milk
Yogurt, plain, low fat
1 C (8 oz)
Mozzarella Cheese, part skim
Orange Juice, Calcium-fortified
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate
White Fish or Salmon
3 oz. (1 filet)
Nuts (Ie. Peanuts or Almonds)
Inadequate intake of calcium over time can cause osteopenia, a less severe and reversible precursor to osteoporosis. Those who do not sufficiently meet their calcium intake, are at an increased risk for skeletal fracture injuries. Similar to vitamin D deficiency, additional at-risk populations are those who spend most of their time indoors and those who live north of the equator. This is because Vitamin D functions with calcium to aid in its absorption. Without adequate Vitamin D, the calcium of foods eaten may not be fully functional once digested. Lastly, those who do not partake in weight-bearing activities on a routine basis are more likely to have an increased need for calcium. This is because bone is not able to be broken down and thereby calcium is not able to help contribute to the reformation of new bone. Annual bone-DEXA testing is recommended for those who are at risk.
Efforts should be made to maximize bone development during critical stages of an infant, toddlers, and child’s growth to minimize future risk of osteoporosis. If efforts cannot be made from a physical activity standpoint due to a disability, one’s calcium intake in the form of food or possible requirement for supplement should be highly prioritized. To help with such planning, it is recommended to advocate for your child’s welfare and seek out further information for the level of risk your child is at by discussing this with their physician. Furthermore, it is recommended to meet with a dietitian who can assess the diet specific to calcium and offer suggestions for ensuring adequate intake.
If you find your child has nutrition problems including failure to thrive, obesity, poor feeding skills, sensory disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders or others, schedule a nutritional evaluation with Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley today. Learn more at eastersealsdfvr.org/nutrition.
Around 2 years of age, children enter the age of autonomy where they become aware of their individuality and become increasingly independent. This is also the age where they become increasing comfortable testing limits. Around this age, kids are most likely to start becoming “picky eaters.” By the time children enter preschool, many have begun to move past this phase and start to expand their food preferences; however, some children don’t move out of the picky eating stage and continue to refuse foods. Foods once liked may become dropped and not added back into their diet. The big difference between typical picky eating and avoidant /restrictive food intake disorder (AFRID) is that typical picky eating fades away in conjunction with repeated food exposure and a positive mealtime environment.
Children with ARFID may also have other health issues or conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, sensory processing, food allergies, constipation, and/or anxiety. Some children who were born prematurely may have required breathing and feeding tubes during hospitalization which can increase oral sensitivity. A child who had a choking episode in the past, was forced to eat, or who had multiple respiratory infections at a time when she was learning to eat may have developed negative associations with eating. Some children may have a sensory system which is offended by the texture, smell, odor, or appearance of food. These sensitivities may alter how kids experience food and result in their refusing to eat many foods. Anxiety can stem from the food itself, especially if it’s unfamiliar or disliked, or it can result from other factors such as pressure to eat at mealtime or a negative memory of eating. Older kids may experience social anxiety around their peers.
Parents often have good intuition and know when something is not right with their child’s eating patterns. Some signs of AFRID include refusing food due to its smell, texture or flavor, or a generalized lack of interest in eating. Children may have poor eating or feeding abilities, such as preferring pureed foods or a refusal to self-feed. They may be underweight or demonstrate slowed growth due to inadequate or poor nutrition. They may also show signs of anxiety or fear of eating. If you feel like your child’s eating patterns is moving beyond typical picky eating, please schedule an appointment with a pediatric occupational or speech therapist that specializes in feeding.
What can be done:
Schedule a comprehensive evaluation with an occupational or speech therapist can assist you in helping rule in/out other medical conditions which may also be influencing your child’s eating behaviors and patterns. A therapist may also be able to make recommendations to further evaluate nutrition or evaluation for gastrointestinal issues causing discomfort or pain influencing feeding. They will help develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all different angles of feeding.
Read occupational therapists Maureen Karwowski’s blog regarding playing with your food. Research suggests that when too much negative pressure is placed on the child for eating, the child’s appetite may also decrease and could spur an emotional response leaving the child to dread mealtimes. Vice versa, additional research also suggests that when children are allowed to mess with their food and are given permission to touch, handle, and even squash foods they are actually more likely eat them. Allowing your child to handle food without the expectation to eat the food allows them to gradually desensitize their body to the sights, smells, and feeling of a variety of food. Allowing your child to play with food helps to build new brain pathways that help to reshape prior negative experiences with food.
Recruit your child’s help. If you do not already meal plan, start meal planning and involving your child as much as possible in the process. When at the grocery store, ask your child to pick out food on the grocery list (even if it is not food your child regularly eats). At home, encourage your child to help rinse fruits and vegetables, stir batter, use scissors to cut herbs, or set the table. During mealtimes, serve dishes family style where everyone passes the different food bowls.
Be patient and start very small. Your child might need repeated exposure to try a new food. You may also need to start by presenting a single bite of a vegetable or a fruit versus presenting a lot of the food immediately off the bat. Sometimes, even reading books about different foods, might be the place to start with your child.
Think of fun and creative ways to present the same food. For example, if you child is learning how to like pizza, you can try serving pizza on a tortilla shell or on an English muffin. The following are a few books on food that are good to read with children:
Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z by Lois Ehlert
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
I Will Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman
Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert
Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell
Enroll your child in a food group. Easter Seals has routinely been offering an occupational therapy and speech therapy group called “Fun with Food” that helps children learn how to explore foods using all their senses, including touch, smell, sight, and taste. Each session will utilize sensory “warm up” games prior to heading to the kitchen for our snacks. Parents are encouraged to continue with food exploration at home based on weekly recommendations following each session.
While visiting my family recently, I was reminded of the importance of outdoor play. I was lucky to grow up with a two-acre yard and large untamed wood behind my house. It granted me endless hours of exploring and freedom. Now, children have highly-scheduled lives and don’t have the opportunity to play outside as often. Safety is another legitimate concern for families reluctant to allow their children unsupervised play time outside.
But the whole family can benefit from play time outside. The benefits for children include:
Gross Motor Skills: The outdoors is one of the very best places for children to practice and master emerging physical skills. Children can freely experience gross motor skills like running, skipping, and jumping. It is also an appropriate area for the practice of ball-handling skills such as throwing and catching. There are also tons of opportunities for strengthening and coordination through sensoriomotor and heavy work activities such as sitting on a swing, pushing a swing, pulling a wagon, and lifting/carrying objects.
Fine Motor Skills: When children are playing outside they are constantly using their hands to pick up and hold an endless number of items. Each time they pick up something new, they must form their hand around a variety of different shapes. In turn, they learn to separate the two sides of their hands as well as learn how to develop grasp patterns.
Sensory Processing Skills: The outdoors are full of boundless sensory processing opportunities. Each of our seven different senses (vision, auditory, tactile (touch), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), vestibular (balance), and proprioception (body’s ability to sense itself) are constantly given a vast array of opportunities.
Just close your eyes and listen to all the different sounds. Can you identify the different birds? Open your eyes and now look. Can you find the bird that made that sound? Sit down and feel the grass on your skin. Talk a walk down to a neighborhood garden and smell the different flowers. Which one is your favorite? Can you find the fresh vegetables and fruits? How do they taste? Bend down and simulate your vestibular sense as you pick the different vegetables and fruits. Put them in your wagon and give your proprioceptive system a workout as you pull it up the hill.
Cognitive and Social Skills: Without all the bells and whistles of electronics, children are more likely to invent games as they learn how they can interact within the outside world. Who can jump the furthest over the stick? Who can run the fastest to the biggest tree? Where can I find the best hiding spot for hide-and-seek? Inventing games offers children the possibility to test boundaries and invent rules. In the process, children learn why rules are therefore necessary. They also learn the fine art of flexibility, and give and take with others. Children learn how to work together for a common goal and how to problem solve and use materials in new ways. They can also learn how to take turns and wait while playing on the playground.
Health: Playing outside is also a natural way to relieve stress. Sunlight provides vitamin D, which helps prevent bone problems, heart disease, and diabetes. Our vision is also known to be helped by playing outside (Optometry and Vision Science, 2009 January). Believe it or not, playing in the dirt also helps boost the immune system and handling bugs can help with auto-immune diseases.
Studies show that as many as half of American children are not getting enough exercise, and that risk factors like hypertension and arteriosclerosis are showing up at age 5. So simply going for a walk can greatly help children. Studies have also suggested that playing outside may help to reduce the signs and symptoms of ADHD in children by reducing attention deficit symptoms (American Journal of Public Health, 2004 September).
Activities by Age for the Great Outdoors
Lay a blanket down and have tummy time outside
Introduce grass, leaves, and sand in their hands as they exercise fine motor skills of touching and holding
Face the infant toward children at play to stimulate their eyes
Place the infant in a safely secured swing
Push an infant in a stroller around the neighborhood or park
Blowing bubbles and trying to catch
Peek-a-boo around trees, bushes, and playground equipment
Explore in a sandbox
Encourage exploration on small playground equipment
Water play with cups and plastic containers
Push and pull equipment
Create a garden or plant some flowers
Go on a nature hike with a scavenger list of items to find
Use sidewalk chalk to create pictures
Collect twigs, branches, and sticks
Collect pinecones for making nut butter bird feeders
Fly a kite
Allow free time/ independent play
Kick a ball
Go on hike
Plant and maintain a garden
Ride a bike
Build forts outdoors
Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley’s therapy is modeled on play. If you have concerns about your child’s development or want an evaluation, visit www.eastersealsdfvr.org for more information.
When I was about 7 years old, I remember lying on my bed listening to my brain work. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t hear a little humming, or buzzing in my ears. Not until I was in graduate school did I realize the sounds I heard was considered a “symptom” of a possible problem in the ear or within the entire hearing system. When the professor starting discussing something called “tinnitus”, I turned to my fellow grad student and said, “Do you mean when it is quiet, you don’t hear anything?” She just gave me a funny look and nodded.
For me, the humming or sounds of crickets is just something I have always heard. If the sounds were suddenly gone, I might be worried and wonder what was happening. I can only imagine if your ears have been quiet since you can remember, and suddenly you heard a buzzing, humming, ringing or any new sound in your ears, it could be disturbing. The American Tinnitus Association reports over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus, making it one of the most common health conditions in the United States.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the clinical term used for a sound heard in the head or ear when no external source is present. It can be constant or intermittent and can be heard in one ear or both ears. Tinnitus is usually not a sign of something serious. Tinnitus is a symptom of a dysfunction with the auditory (hearing) system and is usually associated with some degree of hearing loss.
For some individuals, tinnitus can be a debilitating condition. It can negatively affect a person’s overall health and social well-being. Tinnitus has been associated with distress, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances or even poor concentration.
What causes tinnitus?
There are many causes for tinnitus. Almost any condition that can cause hearing loss can cause tinnitus.
The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise-it is very important to protect your ears from noise. Some other causes include:
Head injuries or neck injuries
Obstructions in the middle ear
Middle ear fluid
Tumors of the head or neck
Blood vessel disorders
High blood pressure
Medications, including over the counter
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
Certain cancer medications
Water pills and diuretics
Treating the cause of tinnitus often eliminates tinnitus. Unfortunately, often the cause of tinnitus is related to permanent damage to the hearing system, such a noise exposure, or the cause is unknown.
Is there a cure for tinnitus?
It is important to understand that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease or condition. The most effective way to treat tinnitus is to treat the underlying cause of the tinnitus. For many people, however, it is impossible to know the exact cause of tinnitus. If you have tinnitus, you should be evaluated to determine if there is a treatable medical condition. A thorough tinnitus evaluation often includes a medical examination by an otolaryngologist and a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. Currently, there is no safe and consistent way to cure tinnitus. There are evidence-based practices to help patients improve quality of life by learning to manage tinnitus, or manage their reactions to the tinnitus.
There are many ways to learn to manage tinnitus. Research studies show the best ways to manage tinnitus include education, sound therapies and counseling. For example, be aware of the toys your child plays with, as some can be very loud for little ears. The Sight & Hearing Association releases an annual list of the loudest toys that you can check before making holiday or birthday gift lists.
We use the hummus as “glue” and go fishing for goldfish with our veggie stick rods! Not only are you eating an amazing, fiber, protein packed snack, you are also having fun playing a game!
Growing a garden (even a few small containers) is a rewarding experience even for the youngest of gardeners. Everything is more delicious when you grow it all by yourself!
We grow our own vegetables here at “The Lily Garden” and harvesting is always a very exciting time. We have tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchini and broccoli growing this year. In the past we have done rainbow carrots, kale and potatoes too!
Involve your kids in the food preparation and it will make them want to try it too. Research shows that if your child is involved with the meal prep they are much more likely to eat it. Also be a role model and show them that you like to eat your fruits and veggies too!
Please share your favorite healthy snacks in the comments.
The Lily Garden Child Development Center incorporates a play-based program philosophy. We understand that children learn best when provided with experiences in an environment that is positive, nurturing and developmentally appropriate. Learn more about the Lily Garden Child Development Center here.