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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Importance of Tummy Time by Trisha Roberts

What is the big deal about “Tummy Time”?

 There is such a Buzz about that term—what does it mean and why are childcare professionals so adamant about it?

Crawling is Important for Many Reasons
Crawl, Baby, Crawl!

Tummy Time Builds Head Control and Strength
Prone on Extended Arms Position
Prone Positioning is Important to Development
Prone on Elbows Position

 The American Academy of Pediatrics started to encourage parents in 1994 to put their babies to sleep on their backs to help reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  “Back to Sleep” Campaigns have helped reduce the occurrence of SIDS, but therapists have seen an increase in children who do not like to be on their tummy at all!  Sometimes parents hear, “back” and block out the part, “to sleep”.

  • When a child is awake, they need to be placed on their tummy in order to develop extension through their body, leading to head and trunk control and the gross motor skills for crawling.  When a child gets to a prone on elbows position or prone on extended arms position, they experience weight bearing through their shoulder girdle.  This weight bearing facilitates the development of the shoulder joint leading to proximal stability.  If a child does not develop good proximal control (control at the center of the body), they do not have the stability and control they need at the distal end of their extremities, in this case their wrist, hands and fingers.  So a child who is not bearing weight consistently through their shoulders will have a more difficult time with fine motor skills like holding their bottle, holding and passing a toy from hand to hand, feeding themselves, and eventually coloring and writing.When a child gets into an all fours position (hands and knees), the same thing occurs at the hip joint—the muscles around the joint ‘firm up’ and prepare the hip to perform its task of stabilizing the pelvis and lower extremity. 

Crawling Builds Shoulder and Hips Strength
Crawling Develops Proximal Stability
  • If children are not placed in prone (on their tummies), they don’t develop good core control and they will be delayed in their crawling skills or not crawl at all.  Why is this a big deal?  I have had mothers say to me in a proud way, “My baby never crawled—they went straight to walking!”  Well, this is not really a thing to celebrate!  Crawling is a very important part of development.  It develops core strength and control as well as the control of the hips and shoulders, as previously discussed.  But it also develops eye acuity—when a child crawls they look down in front at their hands and then up and out to where they want to crawl.  This allows the eyes to develop the ability to perform close-up work and then adjust to focusing at a distance, which are skills necessary for classroom work.

Crawling Develops many skills
Looking Up and Out

  • Crawling is also a skill that requires the use of arms and legs together as well as the coordination of the left and right sides (bilateral coordination) of the body.  The right side of our body is controlled by the left hemisphere of our brain, and conversely, the left side of our body is controlled by the right side of the brain; reciprocal movement (alternating sides) is extremely important to develop the skills for walking and coordination. When we perform activities like crawling, we are using both sides of our brain.  A baby develops connections in the brain in the Corpus Callosum that allow this coordinated control of both hemispheres. These connections serve that child for their entire life!  In fact, more connections are formed in the first year of life than at any other time in a person’s life. When a child doesn’t crawl, less connections are formed; non-crawling children are often clumsy and uncoordinated, even as adults.  They have more difficulty with left-right skills, like writing, reading, and most sports, as almost all sports require the coordination of both sides of the body and crossing mid-line.
  • When a baby is on their tummy, they are getting sensory input through their entire ventral surface (front side)—their skin is in contact with the floor and they are taking in information and learning about their world. Tile is hard and cold.  Carpet is soft and giving. A blanket will bunch up and form a lump under their tummy.
    Tummy Time Sensory Input
    Great Sensory Experiences in Crawling
  • Babies who are frequently placed in an infant seat, baby carrier, car seat, bouncer, Exersaucer, walker, etc. do not develop the same skills as readily as a child who is allowed to move freely on the floor.  Many parents think that it is better for their children to have all of these ‘great’ pieces of equipment to use, but the opposite is true.  As a therapist, I often refer to these children as “Container Babies”—kids who are moved from one type of restricted seating system to another and not allowed time to move and explore with their whole bodies.  I have visited Daycare Centers that use walkers and Exersaucers on a regular basis to help “protect” from more active toddlers or aggressive kids or control children and “keep them from getting into trouble”. Children certainly need to be protected and kept from harm, but confinement in a ‘container’ is not the way to achieve this!
  • Frequently parents or daycare workers will point to all of the wonderful toys and gadgets attached to a seat or saucer and say, “See—they have all kinds of great things to play with.” Or “Look—my 4-month old is standing!”  These are not good things!  Playing with a toy is wonderful, but when a child is only allowed to play with a toy in a restricted, confined space, they are not getting the full benefit of play.  When a child is placed in a walker or Exersaucer at an early age, they tend to develop increased extension through their trunk and lower extremities and frequently rise up on their toes, which can lead to poor muscle tone and oftentimes, to toe walking. Children don’t develop good control of their “core” musculature when constantly supported in a walker or saucer.  I am not saying that you should never use a walker or an exersaucer, but the time in these devices should be restricted to no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time once or twice a day.  I have seen children placed in an Exersaucer in front of a TV screen for hours at a time!  This is NOT good!
In my next Blog, I will focus on:


Author:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Biking with Young Children--Choosing a Bike and Teaching Safe Biking Skills by Trisha Roberts

Biking is a great outdoor activity for the entire family! When is it feasible to start your toddler on a bike? 2 and 3-year old children are able to start using a tricycle when they can reach the pedals.  Nowadays tricycles come in a variety of sizes that allow young children to start biking.  There are folding tricycles
Red Folding Tricycle
Red Folding Tricycle
that are extremely portable, easy to store, and are a perfect fit small children.  They easily fit in the trunk of a car and can accompany you to the park or grandmother's house!

Folding Tricycle Stores Easily
Folds and Stores Easily.  Fits in Backseat or Trunk of Car!
There is a new type of bike for young children learning to balance and ride called a “strider”  or "balance" bike.  It is a small bicycle without pedals that basically lets children learn the skill of balancing on a bike without the necessity of pedaling. 

Strider Bike or Balance Bike
Strider or Balance Bike
They 'stride' or run with their feet on either side of the bike frame.

Some tricycles are 3-in-1 units, allowing a child to use the toy initially with just their feet, Flintstone-style and then progress to feet on pedals with an adult helping to push and steer, and finally, to propelling the tricycle independently.
3 in 1 Bike
3-in-1 Bike

When choosing a bike you should take into consideration the child's size, level of coordination and balance, and motivation. There are four  basic components to learning to ride a bike:  
  • Ability to place and maintain feet on the bike pedals
  • Coordination--the smooth, reciprocal motion of the lower extremities (legs)
  • Balance
  • Steering
Adaptations may need to be made for an individual child. A child must have the balance to sit independently, so a child with poor trunk control may need a seat with a higher back support--you may need to adapt a tricycle or look for one with more support. If your child is vertically challenge, you may need to secure small blocks of wood to the pedals to adapt them to their shortened legs.

When teaching the components of biking, it is important to stress Biking Safety as well.  It is essential to wear a helmet when biking or participating in other sports activities where falls are common (skating, skate boarding, etc.).  Proper road rules and etiquette should be taught from the very beginning. Learning to stop at stop signs, yield the right of way, allowing pedestrians the right of way in crosswalks, and staying alert and attentive to surroundings are important skills to keep children and others safe and also serve as building tools for later driving skills.  

A fun way to teach driving rules and safety  is to set up a small obstacle course on a driveway, playground, or bike park.  You can use small traffic cones, pre-made signs, or cardboard boxes with magic marker symbols. Invite the whole neighborhood to participate!
Street and Traffic Signs
Teach Safety and Life Skills in a Fun, Interactive Way!

Summer is almost here--Get outside and Enjoy a Great Bike Ride whatever your age or Skill level!

See our Blog Post about Strider or Balance Bikes for starting young children!  

Author:  Trisha Roberts

Copyright © 2016 TNT Inspired Enterprise, LLC, All rights reserved.

Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Balance Bikes by Trisha Roberts

A recent addition to the biking scene comes in the form of a bicycle known as the ‘strider’ or ‘balance’ bike.  There are several companies that produce a line of these bikes for young children.  
Balance Bike Strider Bike
Balance or Strider Bike

Learning to ride a traditional bike is a complicated skill requiring the acquisition of several sub-skills. There are 4 basic components to learning to ride a bike:  keeping feet on the pedals, balancing, coordination or the smooth, reciprocal motion of the lower extremities (legs), and steering.  All of these components need to be present to ride a standard bike.

The beauty of a balance or strider bike is that it removes the need to keep one’s feet on the pedals and move them in a reciprocal fashion; in fact there are no pedals or drive chain on a strider bike. A child is basically learning to balance on two wheels while seated on the bike. They use their feet to propel themselves forward (Stride) and can place their feet on the ground for balance when needed. They learn to steer and balance in a controlled, safe way that is extremely fun and enjoyable rather than the tense, scary way many of us learned in our youth. 

Learning to ride a tricycle involves significant training and input from and adult.  Most children are able to climb on Balance Bike and take off; many claim that the transition to a regular bike occurs much sooner than children learning on a tricycle and later on a bicycle with training wheels.

The balance bike eliminates the need to achieve all four components of biking at once; they can concentrate on balance and steering.  This makes a Balance Bike a simpler and safer way to get a young child started down the biking path! The whole family, from youngest to oldest,  can enjoy a day biking in the park. Check out the Balance Bikes and Helmets we offer on our website. Click Here!

Author:  Trisha Roberts

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pretend Play—Why is it Important? by Trisha Roberts

Do you remember clomping around in your mother's shoes?  Taking your Dad's briefcase, putting on his hat and going 'off to work'? There is a universal fascination with dressing up.
Child dressed in mother's shoes
Pretend Play Lets Children Role Play

One of the main appeals of Halloween, besides the free candy, is the opportunity to dress in a costume and pretend to be your favorite character. Most Day Cares have a Costume Closet where children can use clothing, props, and tools to re-make themselves into doctors, astronauts, veterinarians, cowboys or Hawaiian Hula Dancers.  Pretend play is an important way children imitate others and try on new roles, but it is more than that. Through Dramatic Play children learn many skills; let's discuss a few.
Boy pretending to be a pilot
Kids Learn Creativity and Improvisation

  • Children learn to cooperate and solve problems when they take on new roles.  They have to coordinate and plan, improving social skills with others in order to turn the living room into a Zoo for their friends to visit. They learn creativity and improvisation as they turn the underside of a table into a cage for the lion.
  • Children settle conflicts and confusing situations they have encountered in their lifetime experiences. They experiment with how to handle arguments and disagreements, loss of a loved one, separation from a parent. Children have a chance to ask questions, postulate answers, and draw conclusions in a safe environment and without judgement.  They learn to examine and sort their emotions and reactions, leading to good emotional health.
  • When children “go shopping” or open a restaurant and cash out a customer they are applying their math and organizational skills.  When they gallop, hop, or crawl they improve their coordination and strength.
  • Pretend Play improves language development and vocabulary skills as well as good interpersonal communication.  Children learn to organize and manage tasks, give instructions, follow directions, develop leadership skills and learn to be a good follower
Dress up Hats
Pretend Play Develops Skills on Many Levels

Kitchen Helper Dramatic Play
Pretend Play--Role Play

So if Dramatic Play is so important, how can we foster imaginary fun?
  • ·        Keep a tub or box filled with odd pieces of clothing and props: a scarf, a stethoscope, a feather boa, a police badge, a variety of hats, a plastic hammer, a rolling pin, fake dollars and coins. 
  • ·        Purchase a variety of puppets and buy or make a small theater.  Encourage your children to put on regular performances for the rest of the family.
  • ·        Read stories and then have the kids act out the story in their own words.  Add a new twist to the story, for example, what if Goldilocks negotiated the rental of a room at the Three Bears’ Home?
  • ·        Play the “What if” game.  What if a Martian landed in our back yard? What if Grandma lived next door?  What if we only went to school 3 days a week?

    Most importantly, make sure that your children have time for unstructured play that doesn’t involve a “screen”. Let them explore a universe of possibilities!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Road Trip with Kids: “Oh, No!” or “I’ve got this!” by Trisha Roberts

Spring Break and Summer Vacation are just around the corner—do I hear a “Hallelujah”?  As exciting as vacations in spring and summer can be, there is always the lurking concern in the back of our minds, “How are we going to get through the long drive with the kids?” What is the goal of a vacation?  For most people it is to enjoy new places and relax. Make it more than a constant battle over which movie to watch. Take the stress out of your trip and make it fun and educational by following some of these tips.

My husband and I traveled extensively when our children were little, so I know how daunting entertaining little ones in the car can be.  From my experience let me share a few tips to making it to your destination and home again without pulling out all of your hair.

Happy Child Traveling in Car
Travel Can Be Fun for All!
            Preparation is Key

Making a running list of Things to be Done or Packed several weeks before a trip can decrease stress.  Put it on the refrigerator or make a note on your Smart Phone.  Add to the list every thought that pops into your head at odd hours of the night or day, so you can address it at a later time.

Be Realistic in Your Travel Plans
Planning to travel 12 hours straight every day in a car for 3 days to go across country with an 18 month old, 3-year old and 5-year old is not realistic unless you plan on checking yourself into a mental hospital on your return!
Be prepared to stop every 2 hours to stretch and for Potty Breaks.  Vacation is not about, “Conquering the Road,” as much as my husband would disagree!

Take Appropriate Travel Toys
Large toys, toys with 2000+ parts and pieces, toys that are messy or noisy should be left at home! Appropriate travel toys will keep children entertained without driving their parents nuts!
Each child should have a toy bag or small backpack with their own toys.  Spend time with each child in advance, thoughtfully planning what should go with them on the trip.  If they need their special blanket or stuffed animal to ensure a good night’s sleep, make sure you include this!
If we had a trip of over 2 hours, I would buy in advance several new, small, low-cost toys along with a juice box, package of small crackers or cookies, gum etc. for each child. Remember to choose snacks that don't melt! I then wrapped each ‘gift’ and put it in the children’s backpacks the night before the trip.  Every hour the children could open one of their packages (who doesn't look forward to opening a gift?!), giving them something new to play with or enjoy for the next span of time. I called them our Travel Surprise Packages and I can’t tell you how much pleasure my kids received from this simple act. (See our commercial website: for pre-wrapped gift boxes for girls or boys and other toy ideas for travel).
Strap or hook baby toys to the car seat whenever possible.  Older children might like a lap tray with a raised rim that allows them to keep their toys and snacks in a perfect position for playing and eating while preventing the items from escaping and rolling under the seats of the car! (Check out our fabulous Travel Tray Here)

Stop at Grassy Rest Areas and Play
Play ball at Rest Area grass
Taking a Break Actually Makes the Trip go Faster!

Giving children (and adults!) a chance to stretch and move every couple hours is healthy for bodies and minds alike. The time spent playing will make the remaining time in the car go much easier!
Make a game of running from one tree to the picnic table.  Time each child and try to better their time, best out of 3.
Play a quick game of kick ball, Frisbee, or ball toss.
Play a favorite dance tune on your Smart Phone and let everyone do a Wiggle Dance for 2 minutes.

Tell a Story
Start a story and let each person in the car add to the story.  You could start with a story your children know well and let it take a new "twist".  You can add places and people to the story from your current trip.  Take several hand puppets and let each person use the puppet to tell a story!

Our children have fond memories of our travel times together.  Remember that travel is part of the vacation and should be enjoyed!  We welcome your comments and travel suggestions for young children.  HAPPY TRAVELS!

Author:  Trisha Roberts

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Toys--What Makes a Toy Great? by Trisha Roberts

What Makes a Toy Great?

by Trisha Roberts

We are inundated daily with advertisements for new toys—in magazines, on the television, walking through stores, and scanning the internet.  So many toys look exciting and promise untold hours of fun and learning, yet not all toys are created equal.  So what makes a toy great?

Fine Motor Skill--Coloring
Actively Engaged

A great toy needs to engage the interest of the child.  If you know the child for whom the toy is intended, you will usually know their likes and preferences.  Some children like more sedentary activities. We all know children whose middle name is “Energy”! Some children prefer to play alone, especially those birth to three years old.  There are children who love to play with another child and engage in cooperative play with few squabbles. There are those who love loud, noisy activities and those who find great enjoyment curled up with a book in the lap of someone they love.  Whatever the preference, there is a toy out there to thrill your youngster. 
Mother child play interaction
Interactive Play
A great toy should encourage interaction.  Children Love Playing with their Parents or Primary Care Providers!! Children seek the attention and approval of the significant adults in their lives.  How many times have you heard your child say, “Mom,  ( or Dad, Grandma, Uncle, Auntie, Grandpa, Miss Teacher……) Look at me!” Playing games, reading books, and engaging with toys builds vocabulary, emotional trust, shared memories, and a stronger Child-Parent or Child-Adult bond.  It can’t be over-stated how important playing together builds interpersonal relationships that are a basis for a lifetime of healthy interactions and communication. 

Gross Motor Skill--Tummy Time
Play Promotes Development
A great toy should promote development.   Whether cognitive skills are being challenged or gross motor skills are honed, an activity or toy will be working on different areas of growth.  Toys should Teach! Playing gives Little Ones a chance to learn and grow in a fun way.  Children explore their world through play; they learn spatial relationships, social relationships, mathematical concepts, perseverance, communication skills, fine motor skills…and the list goes on!

Puzzles Fine Motor and Cognitive Skills
Fun AND Challenging
A great toy should be fun but also a challenge.  If a child immediately masters the skill of the toy, they often become bored and discontinue play.  If a toy is too difficult for the child, they often become frustrated and refuse to play with the toy.  Finding a balance can be perplexing at times. It helps to have an adult interact with the child when exploring a toy for the first time.  A simple toy can be used in a way that will challenge and a challenging toy can bring simple enjoyment when explored together.

Pretend Play Imagination Dress up
Imaginative Play
A great toy should ignite the imagination.  Rather than purchasing toys that get a response with a simple touch of a button, look for toys that expand a child’s vision and horizons—building blocks that let them construct skyscrapers to the heights…crayons and markers that allow them to dream and produce new worlds…games that challenge them to conquer new skills...imitate and role play the important people around them. 

Any given toy can be used in multiple ways to teach a variety of skills. We will explore this in upcoming Blogs!  We welcome your comments.

Author:  Trisha Roberts