My favorite toys and pieces of equipment are those that are open ended, lending themselves to a variety of therapeutic and playful uses. A scooter board is one such piece of equipment!
The scooter board can be used either inside or outside. It can be used in a variety of positions: sitting, prone, supine or even standing for the most adventurous of friends. It can be used as a sensory tool providing tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive input or it can be used as a strengthening tool for the arms, legs or core. Talk about a good bang for your buck!
The following are just a few of my favorite scooter board activities used in occupational therapy. Try them out and let the good times roll! See what I did there?
Forget the pilates reformer classes you’ve been paying for and try this exercise out yourself and then let your child take a turn. Start in a quadruped (hands and knees) position with hands on the scooter board and knees on the floor. I recommend having a soft surface for your knees (e.g. folded towel, floor mat) for increased comfort. Keeping knees stationary and shoulders stacked over elbows and wrists, push the scooter board out in front of you, approximately 1’ to start and then pull it back toward you to the starting position. Your core stays engaged the entire time.
Increase the difficulty by increasing the distance in which you push the scooter board out away from you. Another way to increase the difficulty is to perform this exercise laterally (off to the side) in addition to performing it in midline. Increase the difficulty again by increasing the number of consecutive roll-outs performed before taking a break. To make this more engaging for your child, assign your child the role of bulldozer and set up blocks for him to knock down with each roll-out. Return the bulldozer to the construction site (the starting position) and repeat.
Looking for upper extremity or back extensor strengthening? Start prone (belly) on the scooter, have your child use his arms to reach forward, place open palms on the floor and pull to propel himself forward across the floor. Decrease the challenge by using both arms simultaneously. Decrease the challenge further by having the child hold onto your hands, a PVC pipe or a hula hoop while you pull him forward, encouraging him to keep his head up.
To increase the challenge, have him use a reciprocal pattern, alternating pulls one arm at a time (front crawl swim stroke.) To start, your child can travel in a straight line. To advance, set up obstacles for him to weave through.
Don’t have a rope? Try a jump rope or a few scarves tied together. Attach one end of the rope to a heavy, stable surface (e.g. bedframe) to act as an anchor. Starting at the unattached side of the rope, have your child pull on the rope, one hand and then the other, to propel himself forward.
Your child can participate in a number of positions. Try having him sit criss-cross on the scooter board, making sure he keeps his sitting balance with each pull of the rope. Try having his belly on the scooter, keeping feet off the floor and looking forward with neck extended. Try having him on his back with feet elevated facing the starting point and head in the direction of the ending point, pulling the rope to propel himself head-first.
If you’re in the need of some extra lower abdominal work or linear vestibular input, your child can make himself into a rocket ship with this leg press activity. Position your child on his back with his legs in a tabletop position (hips and knees flexed to 90 degrees) and feet up against the wall. 3, 2, 1, Blastoff, encouraging him to push his feet against the wall, extending at the hip and knee to propel himself backwards. Set up some soft targets for a moon landing, increasing the distance of the target on later trials to inspire a more forceful take-off.
If you’re working on upper extremity strength, bilateral coordination or forearm supination, this one is for you! From either a sitting (less challenging) or standing (more challenging) position, have your child hold onto the handles of the scooter and press the scooter board up against the wall. Then, roll it up the wall as high as possible and roll it back down slowly with control.
Increase the challenge by creating a “road” on which to drive the scooter using painter’s tape. The road can be vertical, horizontal, zig zag, figure eight, you name it!
In this video, NAPA Director of Intensive Therapy Services, Jessica Hernandez, shares her favorite scooter board exercises and explains how they will benefit your child. Click here to view the video transcribed.
Samantha Berger is a pediatric occupational therapist at NAPA Center Los Angeles. When not engaging her clients through play, Samantha can be found balancing her love for ice-cream with spin or barre classes or trying to cuddle her dog, Cassidy, who would much rather have her personal space.