NAPA pediatric PT Larissa is here to share a few go-to proprioceptive activities for toddlers and children used in physical therapy.
Good proprioception is an important part of everyone’s life whether you are 1 year old or 99 years old. Proprioception refers to your body’s ability to sense where your body is in space and it is one of the 3 main components of balance. It comes from nerve input from joints, tendons, and muscles, and informs your brain where your body is and the action and movement your body is doing. For example, when you move your right arm in front of you, proprioception tells your brain where it is.
A child with decreased proprioception may appear clumsy and uncoordinated due to having poor motor planning and control and having decreased body awareness. You may notice that your child has poor postural control or poor balance, having difficulty standing on 1 foot or slumping frequently at their desk. You may also notice your child having issues with pushing too hard on their pen/pencil during writing, chewing or biting on something to focus, or constantly moving while at their desk, all these issues can be associated with decreased proprioception awareness. But here is some good news, there are proprioception exercises that can help improve this!
Exercises to improve proprioception focus on increasing the input throughout our body, especially our joints, to provide feedback to our brain on where our body is in space.
Here are 5 of my favorite exercises to improve proprioception in children.
Army crawling is a great way to provide a ton of information throughout your body due to the increased surface area on the floor and the effort of pulling/pushing yourself forward with your limbs. To make it even more fun, build a low “fort” made of blankets and cushions and then have your child army crawl through it. The weight of the blankets and cushions, along with the action of army crawling will provide a lot of deep input and information to your child’s body,
This can be done standing or on the knees. Add or detract weights depending on your child’s strength level and monitor for good alignment and safety. If your child is leaning their body on the sled/basket, cue them to utilize their arms to push.
Jumping up and down, jumping on a bed or couch, or jumping off of a raised surface, all provide a lot of information to our body. Just make sure your child is safe, and maybe decide beforehand which items you want to prompt your child to jump on. Because if you do it for exercise, they are for sure going to do it for fun later!
Using both of your arms and legs for climbing is not only a great activity for improving coordination, but the push and pull of their limbs provides great input through their muscles and tendons. This increases their awareness of where their body is in space.
This can be done with 1 object in both hands together, or placing 1 object in each hand. The weight of the object will increase the use of your child’s limbs and core, yet again giving great input to their brain. So, Mom and Dad, have those kids of yours help you carry in those groceries!
Larissa Perry, PT, DPT, grew up in the Pacific Northwest but moved down to Southern California to complete her Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Loma Linda University. She has been a Physical Therapist for almost 8 years but has specialized in Pediatrics for the last 5 years. Larissa loves working within the pediatric population as she can incorporate play and silly songs into her sessions to make therapy fun.
At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.