5 Ways to Help Build Resilience in Children

“My toddler is terrified of dogs”, “My 4 year old is struggling at drop off for Kindy”, “My 6 year old is having trouble going to sleep at night”. Sound familiar? These are common signs of anxiety in children.

Earlier this year my colleague, Katt Matthews, and I attended a two-day conference in Melbourne by Dr Chris Chapparo which explored the topics of Occupational Therapy for Anxiety and Helping Manage Stress and Resilience in Children.

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What is Anxiety?

Anxiety, which is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome; can present in children across all ages.

Anxiety can present in different ways. As parents/teachers/therapists, it is important that we detect signs of anxiety, so we can therefore implement strategies to build resilience, and reduce potential negative outcomes.

What does anxiety look like in children?

1) Being extremely well behaved and “flying under the radar”

2) Avoiding new things, even if it fun and safe

3) Becoming distressed by changes in routine

4) Identifying the worst case outcomes e.g. “Mum and dad could die”

5) Avoiding situations they don’t like e.g. parties

6) Asking unnecessary questions

7) Difficulty separating from parents

8) Displaying physical complaints (sickness, pain)

9) Being a perfectionist

10) Difficulty sleeping

11) Being argumentative

What can we do to help build resilience?

Resilience is an importance part of development for children, as it allows them to cope with the daily challenges of life. Resilience is the social, emotional and motivational capacity to engage in life. It allows a child to have confidence, be persistent, organised and to persevere.  Resilience allows a child to have strategies to cope with anxiety.

Occupational Therapists can work closely with children to develop strategies to manage anxiety and improve resilience. The goal is to build capacity to make a child “resilient enough” to function. There are basic strategies parents can also implement to aid in building resilience including:

  1. Always pre-warn a child if a potentially anxiety inducing activity is too occur. Explain the process to the child, what they might feel and what you will do to help.
    e.g. “Today we are going to the doctor to have a needle. The needle is really important because it will stop you from getting sick. The needle is going to hurt but we are going to come up with a plan for getting through it together.  When they give you the needle you are going to sit in my lap, I’m going to hold your hand and you are going to look at my as we count to 10 and then it will all be done”
  2. Grade the exposure to the feared item. Slowly increasing expectations in a supportive environment can help a child to adapt and implement strategies to better manage the situation.
    e.g. When learning to use the monkey bars, start by just holding the bar with you supporting majority of the child’s weight. Then complete moving to one bar with support. Slowly increase how far they need to move and reduced the level of physical support you provide.
  3. “Unlearn” anxious behaviours by replacing them with happy memories.
    e.g. Find out what your child is scared of and replace this with something positive, for example if they were scared of a dog at a park and now refuse to go to the park, show the child the dog is no longer there and play a really fun game that the child enjoys.
  1. Provide a child with a safe space to talk about how they are feeling. Children benefit from parents modelling and to have “emotions normalised”. A great way is for you, as the parent to explain to the child how you are feeling in a particular moment, how it feels and why.
    e.g. When in traffic saying “oh this traffic is making me feel frustrated and mad, I can feel my heart racing and I want to yell. I am going to take some deep breathes and think positive thoughts. There is nothing that we can do, it isn’t the end of the world if we are a few minutes late.”
  2. Use mindfulness and controlled breathing strategies to assist them to calm down.
    e.g. Use mindfulness apps like Breathe Think Do with Sesame. Practise using these when the child is calm and make links to how this could be used during challenging scenarios.

If you identify any of these areas as a concern, please feel free to have a chat to one of us!hannah lynch uniform

Hannah Lynch
Occupational Therapist


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A reminder to prioritise your self-care as a parent: Sent with high importance!

Today, like most days, I woke up to my 1-year-old screaming the house down at 4:30am. I burst out of bed to pat his back in an effort to keep him quiet so his screaming didn’t wake up my 3-year-old in the next room – to no avail. My 3-year-old clambers out of bed and the day begins…”Mummy, I want porridge”, “Where’s my racing car?”, “I want to watch TV!” (persistent 1-year-old screams in the background), all before I’ve barely had a chance to rub my eyes and tame my bed hair. Sound familiar?

Never has there been a more demanding role than that of a parent. It takes more patience, energy, sacrifice and unconditional love than anything I’ve ever experienced. And of course, at the end of the day, we love our children and they are totally worth every bit of effort we can afford them. But are parents super-humans? Robots? Inbuilt with a never ending ability to be anything and everything for our kids and everyone else?

The answer is no – a huge, resounding no. We are just mere mortals who eventually run out of patience, energy, selflessness and sometimes even the feeling of love when we are pushed to our limits. But our kids need us. This is why it is just so important for parents to find ways to care for themselves so that they can reboot their ability each day to care for their children. We need to fill our own emotional cup so that we have the capacity to continue to care, love, and nurture our children, even when things get hard.

But how do we do this? Especially when we feel as though we have no time in our day to go to the toilet, let alone to focus on our own physical and emotional needs?! Simply put, as parents we need to practice and prioritise our own self-care. The operative word here is practice. Many self-care techniques are learned skills that we must practice often in order to reap the benefits. The more we practice self-care, the easier these skills will become and the greater impact we will see in our ability to cope and be present as a parent. Self-care is also different to ‘stress management’, where we engage in activities to help us calm down once we are already feeling stressed. Self-care is a much more proactive and preventative approach, equipping ourselves to be more resilient to handle stress when it inevitably comes our way.

parent self-care.jpgThere are many ways through which we can practice self-care, and they can be quick and easy to do. One of the most talked about approaches to self-care in modern psychology is the practice of ‘mindfulness’. This refers to our ability to bring conscious, moment-by-moment awareness to our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and environment around us. Once aware of our internal and external experiences, mindfulness then encourages us to simply accept these experiences instead of applying judgement, that there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to think or feel. Mindfulness brings us back to the present, provides clarity, removes negative judgements and allows us to choose our responses rather than reacting automatically to a given situation. This sounds complicated, but with practice, mindfulness can be as simple as stopping, taking a slow, deep breath, and then bringing awareness to how you’re thinking and feeling in that moment. Once you’re calmly observing your own thoughts and feelings, you then have the opportunity to choose how you will continue to think, feel and respond. You will find lots of information about simple mindfulness practices online, if you’re interested to read more.

Another popular area of modern psychology, that it closely linked with current mindfulness research, is the practice of gratitude. Try thinking of at least one thing you’re grateful for each day, as research shows that cultivating gratitude is associated with an increase in energy, optimism, and empathy (and we all know how much we need these qualities as parents!). Some other well-known ways of practicing self-care include incorporating some light exercise into your day, remembering also to eat well and rest when you can. Try stimulating your mind (especially after you’ve played trucks or tea parties all morning!) by listening to a podcast in the car or while you wash the dishes. Try reading, creating art, or whatever works for you. These activities help to give a sense of self apart from your identity as a parent. And finally, it’s so important to talk and debrief how you’re feeling with your partner, friends, or even seek professional counselling if needed. You will feel more supported and less isolated in your feelings, allowing yourself to gain a sense of reassurance that you’re not alone and this too shall pass.

So, when it comes to parental self-care, try starting with something small and manageable, and to make self-care a daily habit. Go easy on yourself if you forget or don’t find the time here and there to practice self-care, but notice the difference in your mood when you do. By looking after your own needs as a parent, you’ll be so much better at looking after the needs of your children. So, what can you try today to fill your emotional cup?

-Victoria Gibbs, Psychologist from Carers Connectioncarers connection.jpg

Carers Connection offer in home psychology services to children, parents and carers. Whether you are struggling to understand your child and their behaviour or feeling stressed and out of your depth as a parent or carer, our highly skilled team of psychologists are here to help. We are approved HCWA, Better Start, and Medicare providers. To make a booking you don’t need a referral and are welcome to call our office on 0451 377 455 or email connect@carersconnection.com.au


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Overcoming shyness, how can I develop my child’s confidence?

We often work with children who find it challenging to say “hello”, answer questions, speak in front of a group, join in, separate from their parents and participate in new situations.  Shyness occurs when children become anxious in social situations.  Most children will display shyness at one point or another, however for some children it can start to impact upon their ability to interact and participate on a daily basis.

shy child

Children who are shy often experience an overactive fear system. This means that unfamiliar and unexpected situations may in fact trigger a stress response in the brain which activates the body’s fear response to fight, flight, freeze.  If this response is triggered it becomes challenging for children to think rationally and they might become upset, clingy, run away, disengage/refuse to participate or show reluctance to speak.  Some children might even become physically sick.

How can I help my child to overcome their shyness?

  1. Understanding emotions– Help your child understand their emotions by giving feelings names and encouraging them to talk about how they are feeling.  We regularly play games using Bear Cards: Ask your child to identify how the bears are feeling, ask what might have happened to make them feel that way, ask them to think of a time when they felt that way, use the cards to prompt them to show you how they are feeling.  The Zones of Regulation Program can also be an extremely helpful resource in assisting your child to acknowledge emotions and understand how it is impacting their actions.
  2. Validate emotions – Show empathy for how your child is feeling. For example: “It looks like you might be feeling worried about starting school, it is OK to feel that way, I felt scared on my first day too.” Simple validating how they are feeling can make sure that they do not feel alone and can start the conversation for how to go about solving the problem.
  3. Develop understanding by using books– There are a range of commercially available books that are wonderful for assisting kids to be brave, manage fear and shyness and learn about how to act in social situations. A few of my favourites:
    1. Ant Patrol Children’s Stories
    2. We Thinkers!
    3. The Panicosaurus
    4. You could even make your own story using your child’s favourite character- Homemade Books to Help Kids Cope is a wonderful book that provides further advice on how to go about structuring these stories.
  4. Calming strategies– For some children, they may need to be taught strategies to help calm their body down and inhibit the fear response so that they can then think rationally when they encounter a stressful situation. Deep breathing can trick the brain into returning back to a calm state. We often use a free app called Breathe Think Do with Sesame.
  5. Video modellingModel me kids DVDs are great for explicitly teaching social skills such as greetings, answering and talking on topic.
  6. Role play– Use your child’s favourite toys and figurines to practise and prepare for new or stressful situations.
  7. Set achievable goals– Start small and gradually build up as your child’s confidence increases. For example, if you wanted your child to work on greetings, the initial goal might be for your child to say hello to familiar people like Grandma and Grandpa, then you could progress to saying hello to their class teacher, their friends and then eventually being able to say hello to a new child at the park. It is important to provide lots of praise.  Many children respond well to having a reward chart to celebrate their success. kate headshot

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapist

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.


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Teaching Kids Self-Regulation: The Zones of Regulation Program

Here at Synchrony OT, we often receive referrals for children who find it challenging to know how to behave appropriately across different settings (home, school, community).

The Zones of Regulation program is a fantastic resource for teaching children how to master the following skills:

  • Sensory regulation: The ability to learn how to manage and respond appropriately to sensory input from their environment.
  • Emotional Regulation: The ability to recognise body clues associated with different emotional levels and understand how others think and feel in response to our emotional state.
  • Executive functioning: The ability to have cognitive control over our behaviour. Our executive function skills include our ability to sustain attention, plan, problem solving and use positive self-talk.  These skills are vital for building a positive foundation for the development of resilience skills.

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The Zones of Regulation categorizes states of alertness and emotions into four colour coded zones.  These zones allow children to better recognize and understand complex feelings and provides them with strategies to help move between the zones.

  • Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness such as feeling sad, tired, sick, bored. This is when the body and brain may feel slow and sluggish.
  • Green Zone is used to describe a regulated state of alertness such as feeling calm, happy and focused. This is the zone that children need to be in to socialize and learn effectively.
  • Yellow Zone is used to describe a heightened state of alertness such as feeling stressed, frustrated, anxious, silly, nervous. This is the zone when children may start to lose some control over their actions.
  • Red Zone is used to describe an extremely heightened state of alertness such as rage, panic and terror. This is the zone when children are no longer in control of their actions.

In the program, children learn strategies to assist them to match their state of alertness to the demands of the environment. Identifying the different zones when your child is watching movies or reading books is a great way to develop their ability to identify their emotional state.

Once children develop awareness of each of the zones they are then ready to learn calming and resilience strategies to help them to stay in the ‘Green Zone’. See our blog posts: Raising Resilient Kids,  Deep Breathing, and 5 Helpful Self-Regulation Resources For Kids for strategy ideas.

Find out more about The Zones of Regulation at http://www.socialthinking.com.aukate headshot

Kate Kleinau- Occupational Therapist


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Simple Tips for Developing Handwriting Speed

Handwriting makes up a huge component of the school day.  We regularly receive reports from parents saying: “Homework takes forever”, “His teacher says that he never gets his work done”, “She has difficulty getting her thoughts onto the page”.  Does this sound familiar to you?

Efficient writing becomes more and more important as children progress through the school years. Many people assume that handwriting speed will naturally increase, however this is not always the case, for many children focused practise is essential.

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3 foundation skills to work on before tackling handwriting speed:

The first step is to develop a functional pencil grasp so that pencil control can be achieved.  Here at Synchrony OT we use an aeroplane analogy:

  • Imagine that your pencil is an aeroplane.
  • Your thumb is the pilot and your pointer finger is the co-pilot. They sit up the front and fly the plane.
  • Your middle finger is the landing gear. It goes underneath the plane.
  • Your 4th and 5th fingers are the passengers. They stay tucked up the back.
  • The plane has to rest on the soft clouds (the webspace of the hand).

pencil grip

Secondly, children must develop consistent letter formation.  This is referred to as graphomotor automaticity, the ability to form the letters of the alphabet without having to cognitively think about their formation.  Check out our blog post for ideas on how to improve letter formation.

Once letter formation is consolidated, the third step is to focus on legibility, specifically being able to accurately place letters within the lines and space out words. Check out our blog post for ideas on how to improve handwriting neatness.

Only once these foundation skills are achieved is it possible to switch the focus to improving handwriting speed.

What handwriting speed is age appropriate for my child?

Dr Diane Jones has gained the following data for average handwriting speed in Australian students:

  • Grade 1: 26+ letters/min
  • Grade 2: 35 letters/min
  • Grade 3: 45 letters/min
  • Grade 4: 60 letters/min
  • Grade 5: 65 letters/min
  • Grade 6: 75 letters/min
  • Grade 7: 85 letters/min

Strategies to improve handwriting speed:

  • Write the alphabet on a daily basis. Use a timer to track progress.  Encourage your child to try and beat their time each instance that you practise.
  • The top 100 high frequency words make up almost 50% of all written text! Practise being able to write high-frequency words from memory. I often call these 3-second-words, aim to reach a stage where your child can write them automatically in 3 seconds flat.
  • Practise copying motivating blocks of text. Exploit your child’s interests.  They could write about their favourite computer game, favourite sport, a page from their favourite childhood book or even song lyrics.  Time your child and repeat the same sentence or paragraph on consecutive days with the goal to beat their score!
  • When copying, encourage your child to spell the whole word from memory. If there is a cluster of familiar words, see if they can remember a string of words at a time without having to look back.  Eventually they can work up to remembering the whole sentence.
  • Most importantly, provide heaps of encouragement and praise. To start with you might reward your child just for establishing a consistent practise routine, then slowly you can set higher targets as they improve their times.

 

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

kate headshot

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.


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Brain Training for Kids: The Interactive Metronome Program

imOver the past decade strong research has started to emerge that supports the concept of neuroplasticity- the notion that the pathways within the brain can be refined in order to enhance the brain’s learning capabilities.

To be successful in school children need to be able to master skills such as attention, memory, reading, writing, maths, emotional control, behaviour and motor coordination.  In order to master these skills the different parts of the brain must be able to work in synchrony.

For many of the children that I see, the pathways that connect crucial areas of the brain are underdeveloped.  Let me provide an analogy to help explain this.  If you have a high performance car and put in on autobahn it will perform the way that it should, it will be fast and efficient.  But if you put that same high performance car on a windy dirt road with pot holes and obstacles the car will not get to its destination efficiently if at all, it may get lost along the way or arrive too late to be of use.

The Interactive Metronome program is offered at Synchrony Occupational Therapy and aims to clear and refine the pathways that connect the different areas of the brain so that messages are sent with speed and efficiency and can then be used to complete functional activities with success and control.

im-2What is Interactive Metronome (IM)?

IM is an assessment and training program that improves attention, concentration, motor planning and sequencing.  Improvements in these areas result in more efficient motor control and coordination, enhanced balance, and improved language and cognition.

How Does IM Work?

IM provides a structured, goal-orientated program that challenges the child to synchronise a range of whole body exercises to a precise computer-generated beat.  The child attempts to match the rhythmic beat with repetitive motor movements.  IM’s game-like features engage the child with auditory and visual guidance and provide real-time feedback while encouraging them to improve their scores.

What are the Benefits?

IM integrates sight, sound and physical movements to improve:

  • Working Memory: The ability to store information and ideas.  Memory is essential for word recognition, comprehension of complex sentences and remembering instructions.
  • Attention: The ability to focus on tasks and ignore distractions.  Vital for classroom performance and learning.
  • Processing: The rate at which your child is able to accurately perceive and manipulate information.
  • Sequencing: The ability to manipulate and organise information logically and complete tasks in the correct order.
  • Motor Coordination: The ability to use purposeful movements in a coordinated manner such as for activities tying shoe laces, riding a bike and handwriting.

Call or email to find out if your child would be eligible for the Interactive Metronome Program.

For further information  head to http://www.interactivemetronome.com

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

kate headshot

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.


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Setting your child up for handwriting success: The developmental stages of drawing

Drawing is a big part of child development in the pre-school years.  It is a necessary foundation skill that allows children to develop their visual and fine motor skills prior to writing letters and numbers.  Every child develops at their own rate, however there is a general developmental sequence that all children follow.

Stages of drawing development:

Stage 1:  Exploration and Scribbling (15 months- 2 ½ years)

At this stage you can expect your child to make dots and scribbles on the page.  They will likely use a cylindrical or fisted grasp and use large whole arm movements when making pencil strokes.  Helpful activities include drawing with thick crayons on large pieces of butcher’s paper, painting at an easel, using thick chalk on driveway or using stamps on a Magna Doodle.

pencil grasp Erhardt 1982

Erhardt, 1982

Stage 2: Lines and Patterns (2 ½ – 3 ½ years)

At this stage you can expect your child to start making more controlled strokes such as circles, horizontal, vertical and curved lines.  They will now have the hand strength to start to transition to grasping the pencil between their fingertips and thumb, however their pencil strokes are still generated using large arm movements.  Activity ideas for this stage include simple colouring in books, drawing through large pathways and adding missing parts to pictures (e.g. put the legs on a caterpillar or the wheels on a car).

painting

Stage 3: Representational Drawings (3 ½ -5 years)

At this stage you can expect your child to start using basic shapes and lines to form recognisable pictures.  Drawing recognisable pictures develops their cognitive planning and spatial skills. They will now have the ability to use a refined tripod grasp and gain increased control over their pencil strokes, keeping their shoulder and forearm steady whilst making small movements with their hands and fingers.  This additional pencil control will allow them to develop skills for colouring neatly within the lines.  Activity ideas at this stage include using stencils, completing dot-to-dots, copying pictures step by step and decorating paper craft creations.

drawing person

Stage 4: Letters and numbers (4 ½ – 6 years)

Once children have been practising their drawing skills for a number of years, their planning and pencil control are at a level that is supportive of learning number and letter formations!kate headshot

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.

5 Helpful Self-Regulation Resources for Kids

I often receive referrals for children who find it challenging to know how to behave appropriately across different settings (home, school, community).  We often refer to this skill as self-regulation.

Arts and crafts

Self-regulation requires 3 foundational skills:

  • Sensory regulation: The ability to manage and respond appropriately to sensory input from their environment.
  • Emotional Regulation: The ability to recognise body clues associated with different emotional levels and understand how others think and feel in response to these.
  • Executive functioning: The ability to have cognitive control over our behaviour. Our executive function skills include our ability to sustain attention, plan, problem solving and use positive self-talk.  These skills are vital for building a positive foundation for the development of resilience skills.

5 tools to assist your child to develop their self-regulation skills:

1. Breathe Think Do With Sesame (Free App)

I have found this a helpful tool for assisting children to calm down and learn problem solving strategies to persist with challenging tasks.  In the app, children can assist a friendly monster to work through the following common challenges:

  • Putting on shoes
  • Separating from parents
  • Going to sleep
  • Waiting their turn
  • Dealing with failure

2. Wonder Grove Play (Free educational video clips) 

This is a fantastic resource for teaching children about everyday social norms for both the classroom and in the playground.  I have found that children love watching the short animations which can then lead to discussions about what to do in their own everyday situations.  Check out the website for all of the videos, however our favourites include:

  • Keep your hands to yourself
  • Know how to handle a bully
  • Respect others on the playground
  • Use polite words
  • Ask the teacher for help

3. Model Me Kids (Educational DVD Series) 

There is a whole series of different DVDs available, however the two that we regularly use are:

  • Time for a Playdate: this video series teaches children some of the social skills that are needed for successful playdates such as:
    • Saying hello and goodbye
    • Sharing & taking turns
    • Losing is OK
    • Talking on topic
    • Answering
    • Packing up
  • Time for School: this video series teaches children some of the social skills that are needed within the context of school such as:
    • Listening to the teacher
    • Keeping hands to myself
    • Saying sorry
    • Sitting quietly
    • Raising my hand

 4. Class Dojo Growth Mindset Series (Free educational video clips) 

These educational clips introduce children to the concept of neuroscience and brain plasticity in an entertaining way that they can understand.  The series follows a friendly monster who is having difficulty at school.  Children learn about the following concepts:

  • The brain is like a muscle
  • Mistakes are no big deal, they can actually help us to learn
  • It is OK to ask for help
  • Trying challenging things is the only way to grow our brain

5. The Allen Adventure (Free App) 

This app is an interactive book which follows a friendly alien as he has to learn about appropriate behaviours at school such as:

  • How to join in a game
  • Sharing
  • Reading the emotions of others
  • Knowing how to respond when others are mean
  • Calming down

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

kate headshot

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.


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5 Core Strengthening Games Using a Therapy Ball

Core strength is an important underlying skill essential for both fine and gross motor tasks. The core consists of the abdominal muscles, as well as the muscles that run down the neck and back.  A strong core leads to improved posture which allows children to sit upright and have increased endurance for school-based work. It also provides a stable base to then be able to use the arms and hands with control for activities such as writing and cutting with scissors.

Core strengthening games:

One of our most popular items at the clinic is our peanut therapy ball (We order ours from HART Sports

  • Plank Pick-Up
    • Ask your child to lay on their stomach on the therapy ball.
    • Place motivating items out in front of them (toys, puzzle pieces etc.).
    • Ask them to walk out on their hands to collect the items.
    • The further you place the items away, the greater the challenge.
  • High Five Crunches
    • Ask your child to sit on the therapy ball.
    • Ask them to lean back, extending their arms overhead.
    • Then, get them to crunch back up and give you a high five as they return to the sitting position.
    • Aim to do 10 repetitions.
  • Bridges
    • Ask you child to sit on the therapy ball.
    • Ask them to slowly walk out their feet until they are lying with just their shoulders and neck on the ball.
    • Get them to raise their bottom so that their body is in a straight line from their head to their knees.
    • Slowly walk the feet back in to return to the sitting position.
    • Aim to do 10 repetitions.
  • Power Kicks
    • Ask you child to sit on the ground and lean back until they are propped up on their forearms.
    • Ask them to raise both feet off the ground into a table top position (knees bent at 90 degrees).
    • Roll the therapy ball towards them and get them to kick it back. They can kick one leg at a time or both together.
    • Aim to do 10 repetitions without letting their feet touch the ground in between turns.
  • Ball Explosions
    • Ask your child to lie on their stomach, lifting their arms and legs off the ground (superman position).
    • Roll the ball towards them and ask them to push it back using both their hands together.
    • Aim to do 10 repetitions without letting their arms and legs touch the ground in between turns.

-Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

kate headshot

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.

 


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Are My Child’s Skills on Track? Developmental Milestones for Pre-School Years

One of the most common queries from parents of pre-school children is wanting to know if their child’s skills are progressing typically. Whilst every child develops at their own rate there is a developmental progression for skills.  The lists below can provide a broad guide for typical milestones for 3, 4, and 5 year olds in relation to gross motor, fine motor and self-care skills.

home games

3 year olds:

  • Gross Motor :
    • Run with coordination
    • Jump with both feet leaving the ground
    • Throw at a target
    • Kick confidently
    • Catch a large ball against their chest
    • Walk on tip toes
    • Manage stairs independently
    • Pedal a tricycle
    • Balance on one foot for short periods e.g. 3 seconds
  • Fine Motor:
    • Complete easy puzzles
    • Grasp a pencil with their thumb and fingers
    • Draw vertical and horizontal lines and circle
    • Make continuous cuts with scissors
    • Build a tower 10 blocks high
    • Open and close containers independently
    • Use tools e.g. spades, fork, hammer, pencils, paint brushes, scissors.
    • Make simple forms with playdough e.g. snake, ball
    • Show a well developed hand preference
  • Self-Care:
    • Toilet independently except for wiping
    • Use a fork and spoon well
    • Spread with a knife
    • Pour a drink
    • Pull on pants
    • Find arm holes on shirts
    • Know front from back when dressing
    • Put on shoes
    • Brush teeth with assistance
    • Wash hands

boy puzzle

4 year olds:

  • Gross Motor:
    • Propel themselves on a swing
    • Walk across a balance beam
    • Walk heel to toe along a line
    • Manage stairs without having to hold on to the railing
    • Balance on one foot for over 5 seconds
    • Complete actions to songs
    • Climb up rungs of ladders
    • Complete a forward roll
    • Ride around obstacles on a tricycle
    • Bounce and catch a ball multiple times
    • Sit with legs crossed
  • Fine Motor:
    • Tripod grasp on pencil
    • Draw a cross, a person with head and 4 recognisable features, a recognisable house
    • Colours mostly in the lines
    • Cut on the line
    • Mange buttons
  • Self-Care:
    • Seldom have toileting accidents
    • Wash and dry hands independently
    • Shoes on correct feet
    • Dress with little assistance
    • Brush teeth
    • Swallow before taking another bite when eating

girl tying her shoes

5 year olds:

  • Gross Motor:
    • Sit with legs cross and upright posture for at least 15 mins
    • Balance for 10 seconds
    • Complete 10 hops on one foot
    • Jump over obstacles
    • Begin to be able to jump with a skipping rope
    • Clutch catch tennis balls
  • Fine Motor:
    • Mature tripod grasp
    • Draw a square and a triangle
    • Include complex details in drawings
    • Write their first name
    • Use squeeze toys e.g. spay bottle, tweezers, water pistols
    • Use keys to unlock and open
    • Cut around square with scissors
    • Spread with a knife
  • Self-Care:
    • Make a snack e.g. simple sandwich or cereal
    • Dress independently including fasteners
    • Independent toileting
    • Use a knife and fork for easy food
    • Blow nose
    • Attempt to tie shoes

If you feel like your child might be displaying difficulties with their gross motor, fine motor or self-care skills, Occupational Therapy can assist to ensure that their skills are developing on track!

kate headshot -Kate Kleinau, Occupational Therapist

Please feel free to ask questions or give me your feedback.  I am always more than happy to answer any emails personally.


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