If you know what Physical Therapists do, you know one of the big things we focus on are MUSCLES! I’m sure you have heard all about your glutes and your abdominal muscles, but there is one group of muscles you may not have heard that much about, because it gets a little neglected sometimes. These muscles are the ones that help you BREATHE! Yes, there is a whole group of muscles that help you breathe, and just like every other muscle in the body, they can be EXERCISED to improve strength, endurance, and control. Normally, you don’t have to think when you breathe, which is really awesome because if we did have to think, we would probably not have the brain power to do anything else. But when we do think about breathing, we can teach the muscles to work in new and more efficient ways. Once you do train these muscles to work better, they start working like that for automatic breathing too! We miss doing these types of exercises at the clinic because of COVID, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be done in a safe, COVID free home environment!

Now, you might be asking yourself, why does this matter? Well, if you notice your child becoming out of breath while trying to walk and talk at the same time, they might have difficulty keeping their breathing efficient while they are moving around. If your child frequently becomes quiet or holds their breath when trying difficult things, they may have trouble coordinating breathing with complex motor and cognitive tasks. If this sounds like your child, here are some exercises that may be helpful for training their muscles for breathing for greater efficiency:

  1. Sipping through the imaginary straw (Breathing IN through pursed lips): That motion your lips make right before blowing a bubble or drinking through a straw, when you push them very tight together, that is what pursing your lips looks like! Breathing in through pursed lips (the imaginary straw) increases the resistance you have to breathe against, which means that your diaphragm, the large muscle at the bottom of your lungs whose main job is breathing, can work toward getting STRONGER!
  2. Blowing BIG imaginary bubbles (Breathing OUT SLOWLY): This one has a similar idea, but instead of strength, it’s all about CONTROL! When your child breathes out SLOWLY, they have to control the speed at which their diaphragm is relaxing back to its normal resting shape. If you add counting to this as well, the task involves even more control and coordination because they then have to match the speed of their exhale to an external rhythm, which adds motor COORDINATION into the mix as well! If this is too hard, start with a small mouth, which will help decrease speed naturally due to increased resistance.
  3. Singing: Singing is AMAZING for COORDINATION and CONTROL of breathing. Someone who is singing has to match the timing of inhales and exhales to maximize how many words they can sing before taking each breath, which involves using breath control to prevent the air from leaving too quickly. All of these features are wonderful, not to mention that singing is so fun it has the power to bring a smile to anyone’s face!
  4. Diaphragmatic Breathing: Diaphragmatic breathing is always a favorite because it works on breathing control, as in some of the exercises listed above, but it also increases relaxation. For this one, have your child lie down on the ground with their hand over their tummy and make sure you can feel see belly move up and down with each breath. Tell them to fill their belly with air while they count for 5 seconds, hold that breath for 3 seconds, then exhale for another 5 seconds. Adding counting to your diaphragmatic breathing again adds an extra coordination component because it requires them to control the rate their breathing muscles contract and relax to an external rhythm. If the specific times listed seem too long, they can always be adjusted to fit your child’s current ability so that the exercise is appropriate for you. 

If you found this information interesting and believe these concepts may apply to your child, but would like a second opinion, come on over to KidPT for a consultation with one of our Physical Therapists! And remember, inhale, exhale, and you will go places!

Disclaimer: All information in this post is for educational purposes only. If looking for medical advice, seek a doctor or related healthcare provider.

We’re all back in the swing on school after a nice holiday break off! With the transition back to school comes a shift in priorities, back to classes and schoolwork, and we know all you want to do is set your child up for success in the new year! Many kids have trouble keeping their posture upright throughout the day, and good, supported posture is one of the key elements leading to good focus while in school. Though you might not be able to do much about this while they are in person, you can adapt their environment to support them while they are remote learning. Here are some things to look for and tips to get you started:

  1. When nice posture turns into not so nice posture
    1. If you see your child starting the day with nice posture but then see their spine taking on a C curvature throughout the day, they may be having a difficult time sustaining activation of their postural musculature and they may have trouble with ENDURANCE of these muscles. If this is the case, try placing a small towel roll behind their lower back for additional support when you see them starting to get tired. Then, when some time has passed, you can try removing it and seeing if their muscles have gotten the rest break they needed to work efficiently again!
  2. When nice posture is hard to find
    1. If you see that finding a nice, supported spine with good posture is hard for your child to figure out, they may have trouble ACTIVATING their postural musculature. This may be the case if when you have told your child “sit with nice posture” in the past, they assume a Military-esque posture that would be impossible and uncomfortable for anyone to maintain OR they simply can’t find that upright position you’ve seen in blogs and pictures. Often these kids have a pelvis that is tipped very far back and pushed away from the back of their chair. Try placing a small wedge under their pelvis, with the taller end close to the back of the chair and the shorter end toward the front of the chair. This wedge will help place them in a more appropriate position to learn how to activate their musculature, so that when you ask them to try “good posture” again, it isn’t such a big ask. 
  3. When they find many different slouched positions
    1. For the child that seems to never sit still but also never sit with supported posture, using a balance disk under their bottom is a great tool to encourage activation of postural musculature on both the front and back sides of their body. Sitting on a balance disk creates the need for the body to sit with active, supported posture to stay upright and on balance. If you are trying this, don’t forget to test it out with supervision to make sure that your child can stay on balance while sitting on the disk so that they do not fall out of their chair.
  4. Make sure they are supported by the floor
    1. This one is SO important. Many people don’t know how difficult it is to sit with supported posture if your feet are not flat on the ground. Using the ground can help activate your whole body from the feet upward and creates more stability in sitting because you are not just relying on your bottom to keep you upright (but your legs too)! A nice clue to look for to see if they are supported from the ground up is the presence of 90 degree angles at their ankles, knees, and hips, if you see these angles AND they are sitting upright, you are good to go!

Remember, it is hard for anyone to focus when they are having trouble staying on balance or trouble activating their muscles for the long virtual school day. But, with these tips you can have your child on the path to postural support while learning in no time! You got this parents!

If you liked these tips or want to watch the video for this post, click here:

Stressed about the challenges the new year will pose for your child with learning new skills and reaching new goals? Don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place. Here at KidPT, we’re here to help your child to reach and exceed their potential. Just like we use every tool at our disposal to help our kiddos become successful here in the clinic, we believe parents should be empowered to do the same at home! To help you to help your child on their path toward success, we’ve written down some helpful hacks and philosophies that we use in our PT sessions every day that you can start to implement at home: 

  1. Provide positive feedback for a job well done
    1. When you see your child is particularly good at something, or if you see them improving in an area they were previously less confident in, make sure to give them lots of positive reinforcement. This will help build their confidence! Confidence is a key driver to give them the agency to push themselves further and continue to reach new heights.
  2. Make sure feedback is specific
    1. For any feedback, whether it be positive or constructive, make sure you are letting your child know WHAT part of the task you are complimenting or wishing to tweak. A generic “Good Job” doesn’t give them the information they need to repeat the good thing they did or to adapt areas where they need more growth. A good example of specific feedback is “Nice job walking up the stairs using only one hand”, because you are telling them exactly what about the task they just did that you thought was stupendous, and then they know to do it again next time!
  3. Try breaking down challenging tasks
    1. For any task that is hard for your child, try breaking down the task and attempting to introduce small parts of it rather than having them try to achieve the whole task on their first go. Then continue to add on small parts until they have built up to the whole task. This concept is called “scaffolding” or “forward chaining” and is used by many teachers and therapists alike to set up a framework for new tasks to make them more attainable. Start with a part of the task the child has down, and build on that piece. If trying this with your child, make sure you demonstrate the whole task first, so they know what they are working toward. If you are not quite sure how to break down a certain task for success, ask your physical therapist where you should start, and we’ll be able to guide this process!
  4. Remember, everyone is different, and that is GOOD!
    1. Every single person on this earth is very different from the next, and that’s how the world was meant to be! Each individual person brings something new and diverse to the table, and this is how the world learns and grows. Your child’s strengths enhance this world and though they might have room to grow in other areas, so does the rest of the world!
  5. Breathe, you got this! 
    1. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself and to affirm to yourself that everything is going to be okay. Just by taking the time to be informed you are taking steps to supporting your child, and that is what is important.

You’ve got this, and so does your child, and together you can be a confidence boosting TEAM!

Happy New Year! We all know what ringing in the new year means, new goals and shiny aspirations! We all hope that with the shift into a new year, we will be able to do things we haven’t done before, reach new heights, and achieve our dreams. With all of our heads in the clouds, we also have to remember that 2020 was a difficult year for everyone and that even though 2021 is a new year, we should cut ourselves some slack and give ourselves more time to work toward our goals along with time to destress. We don’t want to put too much pressure on ourselves, and we don’t want our kids to do this either. For them the new year means a new semester and new topics at school, and they can feel just as much stress from this shift as we adults can! Here are four ways that you and your child can destress and center yourselves with movement for a more successful and calm transition to the new year:

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing – This activity can be helpful for anyone, of any age! Just lie on the ground or sit in a chair. Place one hand on your belly and make sure you are “belly breathing”, aka, make sure you can feel your tummy moving up and down every time you breathe. This way you know you are doing it correctly. You can stack your breathing by counting up to five, then down to five. Repeat the counting process about ten times to allow the body time to relax, the heart rate to slow down, and the nervous system to slow down with it!
  1. Heavy work activities – this one gives the body a sense of where it is, which works especially well for the kids who seem to physically be in one million places at once, touching everything, bouncing and jumping around, and having difficulty focusing on one task at a time. Heavy work activities can be done by pushing or pulling a loaded wheel barrow, carrying a full laundry basket, or helping stack heavy cans onto low shelves. (PS this is also a great way to get your child to help out with chores as well – its a win win!)
  1. Make the “Bubble” – This game uses similar principles as heavy work, and turns it into something fun and interactive you and your child can do together! First, have your child hold their hands in front of them with their palms facing each other. Then you put your hands on the outside of their hands with your palms touching the backs of their hands. Tell them to push out into your hands as hard as they can, and meet the resistance they are giving you (aka give them as much force as they are giving you). Count to 60 together while pushing with force, then slowly release their hands. Tell them to now slowly move their hands apart and together, but don’t change their hand position or let them touch their hands to each other. While they move their hands in and out slowly, it will feel like they are making a large bubble bigger and smaller right between their hands! When they’re ready to be finished with the bubble, tell them to POP it by clapping their hands together!
  1. Slow Rocking on an exercise ball – this activity uses the vestibular system (the little system of tubes and fluid in your ears that helps with balance, sensing the body in space, and understanding movement of the body through space). Lie on an exercise ball with the belly downward. The hands will touch the ground with every forward movement. Make sure the rocking is SLOW, if the rocking is too quick, it may have the opposite effect!

If you tried any of these strategies or if you would like more tips on how to stay calm and focused in the new year, email us at info@kidpt.com or message us on instagram @kidpt or facebook @kidptnj.