A family I work with used this expression today. As parents, we want to build several strong roots for children as they grow and develop. We want them to be rooted in a loving family environment, secure in their relationships with their family, develop social skills to interact with others, understand who they are in the world, connect with their community, etc.
As an occupational therapist, we want to build strong roots so that children can participate in the functional activities of daily life. Basic muscle strength is one of those fundamental roots. When children have low muscle strength, they may have difficulty with simple activities such as sitting on the floor and in the office. You may find them leaning on furniture, falling from their chairs, lifting their heads with their hands.
Low muscle strength can be seen in children who have difficulty with organized sports that involve kicking, standing on the leg, transferring weight, or using a bat. You can see a child struggling with agility, balance, coordination and generally looking “awkward”.
Some children with weak heart muscle strength may have difficulty using tools such as pencils, markers and scissors. When the strength and stability of the core muscles are evident, children will use their intrinsic hand muscles to manipulate these tools dynamically. In case of weakness, we see children compensating by using their whole arm and hand as one unit. This can reduce fluidity and lead to fatigue.
Learn more about basic muscle strength:
The gym balls are available in different sizes (and some shapes like a peanut)! Try different sizes depending on the size of your child. We like to use gymnastic balls to help build strength and stability in the core muscles. Try these activities to get started.
- Seated wall – Place the ball between your back and the wall. Bend your knees so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep control of the ball and keep your back straight. Hold the position as if you were “seated”.
- Walk the wall – Hold the ball against a wall. Push the ball up and down on the wall while you squat and stand up. Stay in control of the ball and “walk slowly”. Younger children can incorporate a song such as “Your climb, your climb as high as possible …”.
- Lying on the ball – Lie down with your stomach on the ball. Use your arms to walk on the floor while the ball goes down to your ankles. The closer you get to your ankles, the more difficult this activity will be. Keep your arms straight and your legs straight on the ball. Young children can incorporate a song like “London Bridge is falling” into this activity.
- Subject activity – Lie down with your stomach on the ball and reach out to do an activity. Encourage one hand to support the right arm while you try a puzzle, tangram, alphabetical sorting, sequence cards, matching pictures, spot it, hidden picture book, etc.
- Leg lift – Sit on a chair or bench. Squeeze the ball between your legs. Lift your legs without dropping the ball.
- Leg to arm transfer – Lie on your back on the floor. Squeeze the ball between your ankles. Lift your legs up in the air. Transfer the ball to your right arms. Lower your arms with the ball behind your head. Lift the ball with your arms and transfer it to your straight legs. Lower the ball to the ground.
- Toe tips – Stand with the ball in front of you. Lift one leg and press the top of the ball with your foot. Try the other leg. Hold your back straight.
- Jump – Place the ball between your legs. Jump without losing the ball. For those who have trouble jumping, try walking with a waddle with the ball between your legs.
- Heads, shoulders, knees and toes – Sit on the ball. Sing the song while performing actions (ie, touching the head, shoulders, knees, and toes). You can also try other action songs and nursery rhymes (for example, Humpty Dumpty, Row Row your boat).
- Seated balance – Sit on the ball and lift one leg at a time. Try to lift the bent and straight leg. For those who want to take up a challenge, try to raise both legs without losing your balance. Younger children may like to incorporate a song such as “A Gray Elephant in Balance”.
- Ball pass – Sit cross-legged with your back to a partner. Pass the ball to your partner and reach out to collect the ball when they pass it. Try this standing up. While standing, you can also try to pass the ball under your legs and over your head to your partner.
- ThePartner balance – Stand with the ball between your back and that of your partner. Crouch while balancing the ball. Also try to walk with the ball between your backs.
These activities are very fun and you will also work on other skills such as bilateral coordination, shoulder stability, teamwork while providing sensory support (proprioception and vestibular).
Watch our You-tube video to see these activities in action. This video features “Pig the Pug” (aka Master YKOT) who really hopes you enjoy the video. Click the Like button or let us know in the comments if you would like to see more videos featuring “Pig the Pug”.