Since April was National #OTMonth, I wanted to switch gears from our usual parenting library. So for this edition of Child(ish) Reads, I bring you “Patti reads an OT book”.
I asked Mary for a few title recommendations on occupational therapy concepts that could help the everyday parent understand child development, and I landed on:
Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow
by Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman
First things first, this is a very short book. It has about 50 pages of actual text so that you can get a sense of the all the sensory systems (including Proprioception, Vestibular, and Interoception), as well as foundational developmental skills: bilateral coordination, visual tracking, spatial awareness, crossing the midline, etc.
After the text, it offers 60 beginner, intermediate and advanced activities you can do with your kids to build these development skills. Most are super easy and quick. Then, there are additional appendices that group the activities by skill and age for quick reference.
Here are some of my main takeaways:
- “Mature thinking and learning are founded on neural pathways that develop as a child masters physical coordination, skilled movement, balance, and many other skills inherent in sensory and perceptual motor development.”
A real-world example of this is when I was training for my first 10K race. I was on a training schedule that had me running long and short runs, adding one or two miles each week. Troy asked why I couldn’t just run six miles every other day so I’d get faster every time.
I probably could, but then would I enjoy running by the time the race came? Would my body be too tired? Would it build my endurance/breathing/conditioning/speed enough if I wasn’t already in running shape? Probably not.
The same with little kids. If they want to learn how to Double-Dutch, you can’t just put them in the rope and expect them to figure it out. They’d have to start with being able to jump, balance on one foot, body control, have a sense of rhythm, jump with one rope, visually track the ropes, etc. Everything goes back to starting small and building a strong foundation.
Another way of looking at it, you can’t expect a kid to do high-level skills (physical, emotional or academic) if you skip the basic fundamentals. They build the brain and the body.
2. Occupational Therapy activities don’t look like “therapy”
We’re not talking about high-level assessments or super specialized equipment. Most of the activities shared looked a lot like yoga flows, helping around the house or warm-up exercises you’d do in PE. Some of them could actually be small games you’d do with your kid on a rainy day.
As the activities evolved to intermediate and advanced, they incorporated music, rhythm, spelling and telling time. So, take a break from drilling the alphabet and try some of the activities that help with weight-bearing, coordination, and sensory processing
3. “Most kids develop in the same sequence, but not at the same rate.”
This is the basis of the In-Sync Program, and probably the hardest for parents to grapple with. Parental pressure/competition/worry that my child is behind are all reasons why we think we need to push our kids to do things faster, sooner, first. Please try to throw out this type of thinking.
This goes along with another tip they share: Faster isn’t always better. Just because your child doesn’t master a skill immediately doesn’t mean they aren’t receptive to it. Chances are, the slower they pick up a skill, the better it’s integrated into their arsenal. They are able to repeat the skills longer, and are more aware of when they are ready to move on to the next skill. If your baby likes crawling but doesn’t seem as interested in walking just yet, that’s fine. Let them work it out and move at their own pace.
4. Real-World Stuff
This is for all the parents who think all these little things have no practical application. For each activity, it lists what skills are developed or enhanced, and gives an example of what that skill is needed to do.
For the Follow the Feather activity (pg. 19), your kid will use different parts of their body to keep a feather in the air. The book says that this will help your child’s: balance (for staying upright), body awareness (for dressing themselves), midline crossing (for sweeping or raking), motor planning (for coordinating movements with another), and visual tracking (for watching a tennis match).
These change for each activity, so by the end of the book, you have hundreds of examples of when you use these development milestone skills in your daily routine. So stop thinking practical and break down those big macro-tasks into micro-skills.
5. A Realistic Timeline
I found one of the appendices particularly helpful and will probably refer to it constantly for the next five years. It’s the “Watching Your Child Grow: Development Milestones”. It takes the big macro-skills and shows at what approximate ages your child would be able to progress and eventually master them.
The big basic motor skills are: Walking, Running, Jumping, Climbing, Balancing, Throwing, Catching, etc. Each skill has its own breakdown of “Between ages 2 and 3, your child will be able to…”. For example, between the ages of 2 and 3, a child will be able to walk with less toddle and without watching their feet. Between ages 3 and 4, a child will be able to have a well-established heel-toe movement and swing their arms instead of using them for balance. Between the ages of 5 and 6, they will be able to take longer strides and walk with ease and grace (pg. 191).
It illustrates that many of these basic skills aren’t fully mastered or matured until age 6. It really drives home that we as parents have to adjust our mindsets and think more long-term on how our kids develop.
Before Growing an In-Sync Child, author Carol Kranowitz wrote The Out-of-Sync Child and The Out-of-Sync Child Has Fun. Both titles are for parents of children with Sensory-Processing Disorder. This book however is applicable for all children to help develop early motor development. The authors also developed Activity Cards if you want to turn these sensory exercises into a game.
Overall, I really liked this book. It was very straight-forward and not jargon-y or too theoretical. I’ll be trying out a few of the beginner activities with my girls this week, so stay tuned for how it goes!