Archives For Toys

I had a close friend of mine (who is a PT also, primarily works with adults) contact me the other day asking, “Tricia, how do convince a 10-year-old to do exercises?” Now there’s a question! Kids can be very motivated . . . for what they want to do, not necessarily what any adult wants them to do. The said adult could be their parent, grandparent, therapist, teacher, babysitter, etc.


I have learned a couple tricks to get the results I need out of children. These ideas are of course age-sensitive, as well as maturity-sensitive.

If the child is a teenager, or at least wants to be older, I always try to pull the athlete talk. I ask them what sports they are interested in. Once they have told me their sport of interest, I tell them that in order to be the best athlete they can be, it is mandatory to exercise to create a strong core, desired flexibility, hand-eye coordination, etc. I tell them that all athletes, whether high school, college or professional, exercise and train regularly. I’ve had several kids, that as long as I remind them of this every now and then, it keeps them fairly motivated.

Of course, the sport talk sometimes only goes so far. I frequently incorporate an obstacle course or game into my exercises. Games with pieces, such as Jenga, Connect 4, Checkers, etc. work great to have your child use stairs, or a stepper (on a stepper, you could do forward steps, backward steps, or side steps), walk along a balance beam (a 2×4 board works good for this), or heel raises to reach up high for each game piece.

With a game like Candy Land, I will place the cards across the room and have the child do animal walks to pick each card. Animal walks can include penguin walks (walking on heels), frog jumps (squat jumps), crab walks (hands and feet with stomach facing the ceiling), inch worm (on hands and feet with stomach down, walk hands out first to lengthen body, then walk feet to hands to shorten body), bear walks (walk on hands and feet with stomach facing floor), duck walks (“walking” in squatted position), tip toe quiet like a mouse, or jumping like a bunny.

Kyler Balance Beam

If you are working on an exercise that requires multiple sets of 10, you could have your child perform 10 sets of the exercise (straight leg raises, bridges, hamstring curls, etc.), then they can take their turn with a game, or blowing bubbles, or whatever activity they enjoy doing. Then repeat.

One trick, I mean “idea”, is to not call them exercises. When it’s time for exercising, say, “Let’s play a game!” Or call it something that encourages your child – basketball training, animal tricks, etc. One of my kiddos always says when therapy is over, “Thank you for dancing with me today!” (even though we may not have “danced”). 😉

These ideas should jump start your child’s exercise routine.

What have you done to encourage your child to perform exercises? Share your ideas in the comments below. You never know, your idea may help another parent or therapist!

The purpose of this blog is to provide resources for parents who want to carry over therapy activities with their child at home. The information provided here does not replace therapy or medical care provided by a qualified therapist or medical professional.
These activities are safe for most children. However, some activities or materials may be inadvisable for children who have certain allergies or medical conditions. It is recommended that you consult your child’s medical provider or therapist before engaging in the activities you have selected.

I have parents ask me multiple times per week, “What are the best toys to buy for my child?” This was a question I frequently asked when I first started treating children as well.

When I was taking my NDT Certification Course, I wanted to explore all my instructors’ “suitcases of toys”. They always had the coolest gadgets to entertain the kids. Most of us would have at least 5+ activities or toys lined up because kids have pretty short attention spans, as we all know (especially those who have kids themselves). The instructors, on the other hand, could keep a child engaged for an entire hour session with just 1 small toy! I was always mesmerized by this and still to this day am always on the search for the perfect toys!

Of course it depends on the age of the child, but the following are 3 of my favorite toys (currently):

1. Flying Monkey

Flying Monkey

All of my kids LOVE the flying monkey! – I found this odd little toy being sold from a box at the register of a local gas station. This little monkey has stretchy arms and pockets on his hands where you place your fingers . . . pull back his feet and tail and off he flies across the room (of course with his super hero cape fluttering behind him). Once he lands, he makes loud monkey sounds (enter monkey screaming here). I use him to knock over towers we have built, to land in a bucket (add this to my previous bucket blog), or simply to walk across an obstacle course I’ve built.

2. Connect 4

Connect 4

This classic game I have found to be so handy to work on fine motor skills (pincher fingers), reaching up high to work on sitting or standing up tall (to place game piece in), to work on sit to stand (grab piece from floor, then stand to table to drop piece into game), trunk/back strength when played lying on belly and having to reach forward and up to place piece in game, etc. I use this with my older kids and my younger kids. My younger kids may not play the traditional game, but they love to fill it up and slide to watch them all crash down.

3. Bead Necklaces

Beads with Reacher

Cheap bead necklaces that you buy for parties are always a blast! With little girls, of course the obvious dress up always entertains. Boys like to use them as pirate treasure. I frequently use the beads to provide tactile input – I will roll the beads along a body part (the feet for example) when a child does not have a lot of body awareness of their feet. The child feels the beads on his feet and then I may have him reach with his feet to roll the beads toward him. I have used reachers to have the kids pick up the beads. They are perfect for working on reaching tasks to put a necklace on mom or on a doll.Beads with Lucy Doll

These are usually standard toys that you will always find at the bottom of my bag of tricks.

What are your favorite toys that keep kids motivated? Please share below in the comments. Thanks and have a great day!

What’s in a Bucket?

March 5, 2013 — 1 Comment

Everyone thinks you have to buy the most expensive, elaborate toys out there to provide well for your children.  I disagree.

What's in a bucket?

What’s in a bucket?

I think having a few strategic classics will provide endless opportunities for imagination, learning, creativity, and fun!  Today’s pick: a bucket!  Buckets come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, with handles, without handles, there are so many to choose from.  And what house doesn’t have a bucket?  If you don’t think you have one, look closer.  Mom’s Tupperware drawer is a good place to start.  The cabinet of pots have many sized “buckets”.  And dad’s garage must have a can or bucket of some sort that could be shared.  Here are the activities I have used with buckets, baskets, barrels, pots, and containers.

  • Throw a ball or bean bags into a bucket.  Or even better, play basketball!  To incorporate your child’s therapy goals into her play, have her stand on a “mountain” (aka: pillow, piles of blankets, sofa cushions, etc.) to challenge her balance while playing ball.  This can also be used to practice her catching.  You can stand by the bucket and toss her back the ball or bean bag.
  • Make “soup” in your bucket with play food or animals placed on other side of room.  I frequently have kids walk through an obstacle course for my bean bag frogs to make “froggy soup” and then we “stir” it up with a stick or dowel (or a pretend spoon if there is nothing else available).
  • What young child doesn’t love the anticipation of dropping a marble down a spiraled pop tube or even a paper towel tube?  It’s a great cause and effect learning tool waiting for the marble to hit the bottom of the bucket.  To slip in his therapy goals, have him reach way up high to grasp the marble or to put in the pop tube to encourage extending his back.  Or if he is working on strengthening his legs, have him reach up high onto his tippy toes for each marble.Buckets 021
  • If you have multiple buckets, you could stack them up, have action figures hiding inside and launch the flying monkey or roll a ball at it to knock them all over.  I have some kiddos I treat who will do anything to make something crash!
  • Play dress up!  Use a bucket as a top hat, or a purse, or a construction bucket of tools.  Your child’s imagination will take him on all kinds of adventures!
  • Go outside and play!  Take that bucket outside with a shovel or wooden spoon and dig, dig, dig!  Take it to the beach and make a sand castle, or collect sea shells!  Use the bucket to sneak up on someone and pour water on them on a hot summer day!
  • Help dad in the garage!  I know as a kid, my brother and I loved to hang out in the garage with Dad.  He would give us little projects, like sorting his nails, screws, and bolts.  Doesn’t sound like too much fun to us adults, but to kids, they love to explore the grown up world.  Have your kiddo sort anything into buckets or cans, whether it is nuts and bolts, beads, macaroni, beans, etc.

That’s just with a bucket!  Imagine what your kids can come up with.

What activities have you used with a bucket?  What are your kids’ favorites?  Comment to share!  And as always, have a great day!