For the Holidays

The holidays are a great reason to celebrate during the month of December. Through the season, there are many ways kids can have fun, whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa or any other special occasion!
Here are some fun ideas for crafts, gifts, festivities and holiday traditions.

Looking for something new to put on the tree this year? Family Education recommends special homemade gifts as a great way for your children to take part in holiday festivities and to create the perfect keepsake that you’ll treasure for years to come.  Homemade ornaments, whether it’s made out of dough, beads, yarn, or even macaroni, become a creation that is special because your child made it. To personalize it, you can inscribe their full name or place a photo in the center. What friend or relative wouldn’t love a holiday greeting card made out of cotton balls and colorful paper? Skip the extra trip to the Hallmark aisle and have craft items on hand for kids to create snowmen, Santa, reindeer, or other holiday creatures.

BabyCenter provides some great tips to keep in mind for the holidays, including making accommodations ahead of time and during family gatherings, including your child in festivities and holiday preparations, and delegating the holiday decorating.

Passing down a toy to younger siblings, driving around neighborhoods to view holiday light displays, preparing holiday activities, inviting family and friends, singing carols, taking pictures with Santa are just some of iVillage’s many ideas for celebrate holiday traditions this year.

Amongst the business of the festivities, there are many ways to make the holidays meaningful for your child.

Happy Holidays from Pediatric Therapy Partners!

Holiday Resources:

iVillage Network:

Tips for Toys

Looking for that perfect toy this holiday season? Oftentimes, children with special needs may benefit most from toys that engage them in a social, physical or educational manner.  Take into consideration particular hobbies or ways your child can learn.
Here are some tips for toys this year:
1. Consider Unusual Interests
Many children with special needs many not enjoy typical toys and instead may be more interested in items like fans, vacuums, or even plugs and cords. Taking their interests into consideration can give us insight into what to choose. Try and consider what aspect of an unusual item holds the child’s interest. For example, if the child enjoys linear items like cords, strings and belts, we might wish to choose toys like wands, dolls that have lots of stringy hair, or pull toys that have a rope or string attached. Toys should have meaning to each individual child. Without meaning there is no assigned value to play with that toy.
2. Get Moving                                           
Toys or games that get children moving and provide sensory input are a must from birth to two years, but are equally important throughout the lifespan. The body learns through movement and sensory experiences and the body’s skill set improves with repetition and practice. 
  • Athletic games like football, basketball, baseball, soccer, hockey, gymnastics, swimming, and horseback riding
  • Electronic gaming systems are equipped with activities that allow for either imitated movement or movement in response to changing game parameters.
  • Toys or games that require increased physical output will also help increase overall body strength.
3. Make Sense of Things
Toys should also foster sensory processing and encourage tactile (touch); auditory (sound); visual (sight); vestibular (movement); and proprioception (input to muscles and joints).
Tactile items should connect with the sense of touch.
  • Play-Doh
  • Putty
  • Shaving cream
  • Finger paints
  • Bubbles
  • Sand
  • Goop/gak/slime
  • Textured balls
  • Gel pull toys
  • Moon sand
  • Foam
  • Fidgets
Auditory input should provide some form of sound or music which the children have to differentiate between. Examples include games like Simon that make a variety of sounds or musical CDs that provide fun dance instructions which the children have to follow.
·         Therapeutic CD’s

Visual input should provide opportunities for differentiation between color, size, and shape, as well as the opportunity to identify, scan and track objects.
  • Mood lamps
  • Sand panels
  • Kaleidoscope
Vestibular examples are swinging, spinning, hanging upside down, and general moving around such as walking, running, and jumping.
·         Bilibo – sit, spin, or rock back and forth; turn it upside down to work on balance and motor skills
·         Hand-held vibrating back massager – great for tactile systems and can be calming

Proprioceptive input will provide sensory information to the muscle and joints of the body.  Games that get children moving, jumping, running, rolling, catching, and kicking are just few examples for proprioceptive input.
·         Body Sock – children crawls and inside and pushes through with arms and legs
·         Balance discs
·         Small trampolines
·         Peanut balls,, hopper balls or round therapy balls
·         Kid’s yoga cards
4. Motivate Motor Skills
Toys that promote the use of the hands and fingers are essential. Fine motor skills start to develop as an infant, gradually become more distinct leading into 18 months of age, and really start to blossom by age two to three and continuing into adulthood.
There are many toys available now that put the child in the driver’s seat for building or constructing an object or structure.
Examples include:
  • Legos
  • Model cars and planes
  • Robotics sets
  • Electronics sets
  • Arts and crafts
  • Jewelry-making kits
  • Coloring or painting with a brush
  • Board games that require the use and manipulation of small game pieces
5. Learn for Life
Toys or games that provide education are a great way to get children learning without the structured classroom or home environment. Children learn constantly from birth, but age 15-18 months to 2 years is a critical age to get children learning because they think they are playing when in fact they are learning.
  • Games or toys that promote learning should have a setup where the child has to answer questions or respond to cues in the game that require cognitive processing, such as answering with the correct animals, shapes, colors, or numbers.
  • Games that use clocks to tell time or complete a task by certain amount of time also work well.
6. Release the Imagination
Toys should allow the child to escape to an alternate place where they can be silly. By age two children have emerging imagination skills and by age three their imagination really begins to take flight. Toys should allow a child to create, build, or design an idea or concept that has meaning to them.  More importantly, toys should support their expressions, ideas, wants or needs in their daily life.
  • Action figures
  • Arts & crafts
  • Building (Model cars or robot sets)
  • painting, drawing
7. Play Alone & With Others
Toys should also allow for independent play as well as combined play with other children. Initially, children play by themselves and eventually merge into parallel play and combined play. The age ranges for these types of play may vary depending on the child’s social skills, however independent play usually begins with before age two and combined play starts between two and three years of age and older.
Independent play lets children feel in full control. Toys that promote combined play allow children to play in a more diversified manner and make for greater learning opportunities.
  • Dolls
  • Cars
  • building blocks
8. Get Social
Toys should also help promote social behavior. Games, toys, and play activities should initiate language for communication between two or more individuals. Board games that engage the children in language such as “want to play?” “you go first,” “what do you need?” or “I will win!” are a few examples of how language can assist with social behaviors.
Games that engage children in good sportsman’s conduct such as “way to go,” “great job,” or “oh, that’s okay” are a few more examples. These types of activities are great as they can help bridge the challenges with social interactions and help make communication stronger and more understandable between two or more individuals. 
Therapists at PTP can work with families in creating “wish lists” of toys that will help your child.
If you have any concerns with your child, please visit us at and request a free screening today.

Toy Resources:

Child Safety & Protection Month

The month of November is Child Safety Protection Month.

According to the National Network of Child Care, there are several classifications of safety and protection to keep in mind, including car safety, dental health, emergencies and disaster, food safety, healthy routines and habits, illness prevention, indoor & outdoor safety, poisoning, and toy safety.

While creating awareness about the dangers in the outside realm is important, it’s just as important to bring attention to the dangers that children may face in their own home.

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has provided some additional tips to ensure a safe holiday season:

·         When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label "Fire Resistant."
·         When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
·         When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
·         Cut a few inches off the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This allows for better water absorption and will help keep your tree from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.
·         Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly. 
·         Check all tree lights - even if you've just purchased them - before hanging on your tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
·         Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
·         Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them.
·         Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
·         Turn off all lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
·         Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals.
·         Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked over.
·         In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.
·         Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
·         Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child or can cause a fire if near flame. 
Toy Safety
·         Select toys to suit the age, abilities, skills and interest level of the intended child. Toys too advanced may pose safety hazards for younger children.
·         Before buying a toy or allowing your child to play with a toy that he has received as a gift, read the instructions carefully. 
·         To prevent both burns and electrical shocks, don’t give young children (under age 10) a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy toys that are battery-operated.
·         Young children can choke on small parts contained in toys or games. Government regulations specify that toys for children under age three cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.
·         Children can have serious stomach and intestinal problems – including death -- after swallowing button batteries and magnets. In addition to toys, button batteries are often found in musical greeting cards, remote controls, hearing aids and other small electronics. Keep them away from young children and call your health care provider immediately if your child swallows one.       
·         Children can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons; do not allow children under age 8 to play with them. 
·         Remove strings and ribbons from toys before giving them to young children. 
·         Watch for pull toys with strings that are more than 12 inches in length. They could be a strangulation hazard for babies.
·         Parents should store toys in a designated location, such as on a shelf or in a toy chest, and keep older kids’ toys away from young children.
Food Safety
·         Bacteria are often present in raw foods. Fully cook meats and poultry, and thoroughly wash raw vegetables and fruits.
·         Be sure to keep hot liquids and foods away from the edges of counters and tables, where they can be easily knocked over by a young child’s exploring hands. Be sure that young children cannot access microwave ovens.
·         Wash your hands frequently, and make sure your children do the same.
·         Never put a spoon used to taste food back into food without washing it.
·         Always keep raw foods and cooked foods separately, and use separate utensils when preparing them.
·         Always thaw meat in the refrigerator, never on the countertop.
·         Foods that require refrigeration should never be left at room temperature for more than two hours.                       
Happy Visiting
·         Clean up immediately after a holiday party. A toddler could rise early and choke on leftover food or come in contact with alcohol or tobacco.
·         Remember that the homes you visit may not be childproofed. Keep an eye out for danger spots like unlocked cabinets, unattended purses, accessible cleaning or laundry products, stairways, or hot radiators.
·         Keep a list with all of the important phone numbers you or a baby-sitter are likely to need in case of an emergency. Include the police and fire department, your pediatrician and the national Poison Help Line, 1-800-222-1222. Laminating the list will prevent it from being torn or damaged by accidental spills.
·         Traveling, visiting family members, getting presents, shopping, etc., can all increase your child's stress levels. Trying to stick to your child's usual routines, including sleep schedules and timing of naps, can help you and your child enjoy the holidays and reduce stress.
·         Before lighting any fire, remove all greens, boughs, papers, and other decorations from fireplace area. Check to see that the flue is open.
·         Use care with "fire salts," which produce colored flames when thrown on wood fires. They contain heavy metals that can cause intense gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting if eaten. Keep them away from children.
·         Do not burn gift wrap paper in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
Therapists at PTP can work with families in creating strategies to help your child and to help prevent injuries to those with physical, developmental or cognitive disabilities.
If you have any concerns with your child, please visit us at and request a free screening today.

Safety Resources:
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
National Network of Child Care

National Epilepsy Awareness Month

This month brings an opportunity to spread the word about epilepsy. 

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month, in which Congress passed a formal declaration in 2003.

Epilepsy affects more than two million people in the United States and 65 million people worldwide. This year, another 200,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with epilepsy. Despite all available treatments, 30 to 40 percent of people with epilepsy continue to experience seizures (Epilepsy Foundation).

Epilepsy affects children in various stages in their life, in many different ways. Especially in children, epilepsy can limit participation in recreational, educational, or work-related activities.

According to the CDC, epilepsy can begin in children as little as 2 years old, as well as adults above the age of 65.

Epilepsy is a medical condition in which reoccurring abnormal electrical activity in the brain causes involuntary changes in the body, including movement, function and behavior. When a person has two or more unprovoked seizures, they have epilepsy.

When the physician has made a diagnosis of seizures or epilepsy, often the next step is to select the best form of treatment.

Pediatric Therapy Partners can provide therapy and treatment plans that will compliment additional methods, including surgeries, special diet, or medical treatments in the effort to prevent further seizures and avoid side effects throughout the child’s day.
Pediatric Therapy Partners is also a host for the Epilepsy Support Group “Parent Connect Support Group” for parents of kids of any age with epilepsy.  Amy Haugen, the F-M Regional Community Outreach Coordinator for the Minnesota Epilepsy Foundation, leads the group the first Tuesday of each month from 7:00-9:00pm.
“PTP has been opening doors since we started Support Group a year ago,” Amy said. “It’s been a lifeline for parents and the best way to connect with each other.”
Amy personally understands the struggles with epilepsy through her children. She feels gratitude towards Pediatric Therapy Partners and the support that was given, including the opportunity to join forces in creating a great stroll team for the annual Epilepsy Stroll, a family-friendly fundraiser to raise awareness for those living with seizures and overcoming the strugglers of epilepsy. In addition to support groups, the Epilepsy Foundation also provides educational trainings with various organizations and schools and forms relationships with local businesses.
“I knew how great services were,” she said.
Amy mentions how Pediatric Therapy Partners is really involved in the lives of the parents, “trying to help the community at large.” she said. She also feels Pediatric Therapy Partners has such a great presence at the schools, as several parents take kids to the clinic.
If you have any concerns with your child, please visit us at and request a free screening.

Epilepsy Resources:
Epilepsy Foundation:
Epilepsy Support Group: Amy Haugen

National Physical Therapy (PT) Month

As National Physical Therapy (PT) Month comes to an end, we’d like to share with you the ways physical therapists help heal, restore, and improve our ability to move. This month gives physical therapists and assistants an opportunity to highlight their expertise in improving quality of life.
No matter what area of the body, physical therapists help many individuals of all ages. They can work in hospitals, clinics, schools, or homes. The American Physical Therapy Association describes physical therapists as “trusted health care professionals with extensive clinical experience who examine, diagnose, and then prevent or treat conditions that limit the body’s ability to move and function in daily life.”
Pediatric physical therapists work with children and families to assist each child in reaching their maximum potential to function independently and to promote active participation in home, school and community environments (APTA). Pediatric physical therapists also help motor development and function, improve strength and endurance, enhance learning opportunities, and ease challenges with daily caregiving.
At Pediatric Therapy Partners, our physical therapists work to improve a child’s gross motor skills, the everyday activities that use the body’s large muscle groups. Pediatric Therapy Partners holds certification and extensive training including:
·        Aquatic (pool) therapy
·        NDT (Neurodevelopmental) based treatment techniques
·        Lower Extremity orthotic and prosthetic evaluation and training
·        Childhood athletic injuries
·        Childhood health and fitness
Some common diagnoses seen in pediatric Physical Therapy include:
·        Musculoskeletal
·        Orthopedic
·        Neuromuscular
·        Gross motor development
·        Coordination and balance
·        Mobility training
·        Motor planning
·        Adaptive equipment assessment and training
Pediatric Therapy Partners works together with each family, seeing as they have a primary role in their child’s development. The therapists at PTP collaborate with the family to stimulate development and implement treatment strategies with the goal of reaching further for our clients to help them laugh, love, and live life to its fullest.
If you have any concerns with your children, please visit us at and request a free screening.

PT Resources
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
Pediatric Therapy Partners