One of my roles as a physical therapist is to promote and teach gross motor movements in order to help a child move.
Gross motor movements are movements caused by activation of large muscle groups.
Some examples of gross motor movements are reaching, kicking, walking, sitting, and transitioning into different body positions like going from sitting to standing.
One great item I use to teach my patients how to move is balloons.
1. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and colors and are easily available, which is helpful when finding an object to attract your child’s attention.
They are light and will not hurt your child if they get hit by them.
Since they are light, they become very easy objects to manipulate even with the slightest movement.
Having a child see that they had the ability to manipulate an object can be a valuable learning experience and promote more movement.
2. They can be tied to float in the air as a target, they can be hung to hang down as a target, or they can just rest on a surface to be a target.
Since they can be tied, it becomes a great target that your child can try to retrieve themselves, which helps to promote more independence.
3. They can be great objects to use to practice early catching and kicking since they allow more time to prepare to catch or kick a ball.
4. Even if your child isn’t able to maintain an upright sitting or standing position without assistance, what is great about using a balloon, is that it can be manipulated if a child is in any position like lying down on their back or side, and can still be manipulated to be thrown/hit up into the air.
And again, since a balloon is so light, you don’t have to worry about where the balloon will land.
1. I work on reaching activities to promote upper extremity movements and work on trunk mobility.
I work on reaching in all positions.
Reaching while lying on one’s side is a great way to start practicing reaching overhead with the least amount of resistance.
2. I work on kicking activities to work on stepping as kicking a leg forward helps activate muscles used in stepping.
Using a balloon encourages the slightest step forward since balloons can fly forward so easily.
3. I also surround my patients with a lot of balloons to encourage any kind of movement to help promote self-initiation of movements.
Extra notes: never leave your child unattended with balloons in case they pop!
There are also non-latex balloons available if you are concerned that your child may have a latex allergy.
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