Spring Forward – To The Park

The playground is a natural environment for kids of all ages.  It’s a place where kids can congregate in open spaces, and where there’s something for everyone. Here’s another instance where planning ahead, problem solving, and creativity comes in handy for parents of children with additional needs. The possibilities are endless.   Some children swing, climb, walk, kick a ball, and slide. While others move about, explore and experience this setting in a different way.  Although there are some physical obstacles to conquer, all the above are activities that children of all abilities can enjoy. And when you see the smile on their face, you will be so glad that you made the effort!

The playground is a world for exploring

For children who are ambulators, the playground offers unlevel surfaces such as mulch, grass and/or tire tread to walk on.  Walking on this type of surface helps develop balance.  If a child is not yet an ambulator, there are many large pieces of equipment that your child can hold onto, lean on, or climb on. This can also help develop strength and balance. If your child can grab something, they can try to move around on their own, navigate around obstacles, and explore their environment. Then you can assist as needed.

For children who are not ambulators, there are numerous spots in the playground that can provide support for them in a supported sitting position. The grass is a front row seat to the action around them.  Sitting in the grass is not a static activity, it involves gazing, tracking, head rotation, trunk rotation, arm movements, and often smiling.  From a sitting position in the grass your child will have easy access to safely move around and experiment with body movements. The barrel swings and rocking toys can be modified with blankets for extra trunk support, and gliding movements in any direction is just plain and simple fun!

Balls, bubbles, and blankets

Balls, bubbles, and blankets are a welcomed pastime for all children. The playground is a place where children gather and where they can learn from one another. Where they can move around using a carriage, a walker, a scooter, a bike, or a wheelchair.  Regardless of the activity, being out and about is another opportunity for a child to be around their peers. It’s a place where kids can learn how to share, learn acceptance, develop empathy and social skills. 

Each day at the park is a new experience, because the people, the activity and the environment is constantly changing.  So, pack up some snacks, some drinks, and some toys, SPRING into a new experience with your child, and take them to the park or playground!!

Springtime is a real time sensory experience

Springtime means that it’s time to get outside.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, everywhere you look; there are trees and flowers blooming and growing, just like your little one.  Raising a child with additional needs often means that you may have to modify the environment or the activity, to make it accessible to your child. The colorful landscape, and endless outdoor experiences, offer any family a great opportunity for storytelling, imaginative play, and new experiences.

Sensory garden activities

The mild weather and longer days are perfect for gardening activities.  Some activities such as digging, planting, or weeding offer some great opportunities for fine motor developmental, upper extremity muscle strength, and motor planning.  Your child can help with watering plants, bushes, and flowers.  There are so many ways to water the plants. One can use a hose, a watering can, a plastic water bottle or using a cup and a pail of water.  Either way, your child will be thrilled to witness the changes over time, just from their watering. They’ll also be proud to be ‘your helper’.  If your child is a bit older, this is a great time for them to participate in outdoor experiments or art projects that are just too messy to do inside. 

One of my favorite outdoor activities includes a water sensory table with a theme (such as small plastic animals, shapes, or colorful ping pong balls).  Another great sensory activity for all ages is simply standing a piece of plexiglass up against the house.  Your child can be sitting, in supported sitting or standing, or standing independently.  Spray shaving cream on the plexiglass, let your child create a masterpiece, rinse, and repeat. 

Every nature walk outside can be a visual extravaganza

Every nature walk outside can be a visual extravaganza.  The colors everywhere, the abundance of different hues of green, the people that are out and about around. These all create some pretty neat things to look at, talk about, draw, or to visually track.  Each experience, be they tactile, auditory, or visual creates an empty canvas for you and your child to design.  The more they experience, the greater their memories and feelings on which to build upon. 

Experiencing nature at its best is low cost, convenient, and so exciting

Experiencing nature at its best is low cost, convenient, and so exciting. As a caretaker, here are simple things to consider during this season.  What brings you joy outside? Is there any equipment you need to help your child experience the outdoors? What’s your child’s favorite activity to do outdoors? Is there one novel experience that you can share with your child this season?  Spring: To leap, jump or move forward. How will you help your child leap, or move forward into this season?

How to use your laundry basket for strengthening, body awareness and fun

A simple laundry basket can be used as a surface for an older child to sit on, a working surface for a toddler to kneel or as a place to seat a baby who may need a little extra help with trunk support in sitting.  With a little bit of imagination, a laundry basket can double as a seat, a train, a short table, or a large container, to fill, empty, push, or climb.  Here are some ideas If you have a simple laundry basket at home.

5 ways to use a laundry basket for little ones who can pull to stand:

Gross Motor

  • Climb in and out
  • Climb on and off…..
  • Kneel beside it and knee walk

Fine Motor

  • Place clothes items in and out
  • Turn the laundry basket over and enjoy playing the drums
  • String a scarf through the holes


  • Count and match socks
  • Identify and sort clothes of the same colors….
  • Request a specific article of clothing from the pile

Body Awareness

  • Give your sibling a ride (or place a bunch of cans to add some weight, cover them with clothes)
  • Cover your little one with clothes and play peek a boo…
  • Hide under the basket, role up into a tight ball and take 3 deep breaths

Core control

  • Play eye spy, put on music and collect several items around the house.
  • Use the laundry basket as part of an indoor obstacle course…
  • Sit on top of the basket and reach down across midline to pick up pieces in a game that contains many different pieces.

When a child pushes or pulls a toy, this provides sensory feedback to their body.  Sensory feedback is important because it’s vital to know where one’s body is in space This will activate muscles to move around that space.  The more resistive the activity, the more alert the brain becomes and thus, the more muscles are activated.  A simple laundry basket can help a child build motor coordination, muscle strength, cognition, mobility, and balance. You just need a little bit of imagination.  You can even use a laundry basket as part of an indoor obstacle course. How many games can you think of using a laundry basket?

How to help your child become more independent

The ultimate goal for any child who has physical, cognitive or communication difficulties, is for them to be as independent as possible.  How can you help your child get there? There are some concepts to keep in mind and small changes that you can implement immediately.

Studies show that active learning is the best way for kids to learn

As a parent, it’s important to let your child explore their surroundings and experience a variety of experiences. That can include a trip to the park, the supermarket, or the beach. A child sees or feels something, processes what they’re seeing, and they react. If a parent or caretaker assumes any of these roles, the baby has not learned.  All children learn through experiences.

Sensory motor is the first area of the brain to develop

All children learn through their 6 senses (taste, vision, hearing, smell, touch, and kinesthetic).  They visually track and seek out toys and people, touch and feel toys, experience different textures, all while they listen and react to different sounds around them.  Let your child have many experiences to stimulate their brain. 

Container syndrome is a real thing

A newborn spends a lot of time on their back, in a swing, in a bouncy seat, in a bassinet……It’s important that a child experiences the world from different angles.  For a newborn, that means on the floor, on their belly, but also on their side. As a newborn, a baby’s cranium is soft and if a baby is in one position too much of the time, there is a chance of developing torticollis. 

If your toddler or child has difficulty with movement, get creative with ways to change their position.  There are swings, adaptive seats, adaptive bikes, bungee cords, and harnesses to help with weight bearing.  Your child will experience the world in an entirely different way.

Dr. Sharon Galitzer

Pediatric Physical Therapist

What will 2022 look like for your family?

Regardless of where you live in the world, this year has been full of uncertainty, modifications to your lifestyle, and constant change.  Parenting is stressful, this year has taken the cake. This year has taught all of us a little about ourselves and our ability to adapt and deal with stressful moments, days, or weeks. Maybe you’ve surprised yourself with how strong you can be when you have to adapt to changes, and you’ve discovered your inner strength.  I’m also certain that on some days, you felt depleted. What would you do differently?

It’s a new year, a new start and a new beginning. I’m talking to you!

You’re a very important person in your child’s life.  When your health or spirit is depleted, you can’t be there for your child and the rest of your family.  Maybe this year can begin with you taking care of yourself.  Start small and make small changes.  I’m only going to recommend one thing because if I recommend 3 or 4, you’ll do none.


Stress can cause fatigue, burnout, and even physical illness.  Mindfulness is one strategy that is free, can be done anywhere and only requires a short time. Mindfulness has been shown to decrease brain activity in the amygdala. The amygdala oversees emotions and elicits stress reactions in the body.  Are you getting it?  As little as 5-10 minutes a day can decrease anxiety and depression and increase mental and physical health.

The practice of being mindful slows down thinking, emotions, and responses.  It causes you to pause, identify what you’re feeling, and generate a response that isn’t driven by emotion.  Each moment that we have in and around our children creates memories and teaching moments.

Start here:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Pay attention to what is around you at this moment.

You may notice your child’s beautiful eyes, a tree outside, the feeling of your muscles tightening up.

3. Now just take a deep breath.  Imagine filling up the two large balloons in your chest cavity with oxygen as your rib cage expands, then exhaling intentionally, as if you’re blowing out candles.

This intention has been scientifically proven to increase empathy, increase gratitude, and decrease stress.  I think we could all use a little bit of that these days.  Be good to yourself first, and then you’ll be better for everyone else! 

To Sit or Not to Sit? Is Your Baby Ready

I know that you’ve read the blogs, seen the apps, and according to your developmental tracker it’s time for your baby to be sitting.  The truth is that there are so many small things your baby must learn before they are ready to sit.

Body awareness

Babies start to learn about where their bodies are in space, when they’re on the floor.  Each time they actively move on the floor, they are strengthening their muscles, experimenting with their limbs, and always return to rest either on their back or their tummy. 

Head control

From the moment a child is born, they can lift and turn their head side to side. This control increases and eventually a child can lift and maintain their head up in all positions.  It’s much easier to work on sitting if you don’t have to simultaneously work on keeping your head upright.

Core control

The core consists of abdominal muscles, back muscles, and pelvic muscles.  All these muscles work symbiotically when a child is sitting.  If any one of these muscle groups are weak, a child may fall frequently, fatigue easily, or require upper extremity support for prop sitting on the floor.

Balance reactions

Body righting and balance reactions emerge slowly but surely.  Body righting occurs when one loses their balance and tries to regain it before falling. Balance reactions occur if one has lost their balance and reaches out with one or both hands to break their fall.

 A baby is not ready to sit if:

  1. Their head is bobbing in an upright position.
  2. Present with a rounded back when they’re sitting on the floor.
  3. They just sit there with their hands propped in front with their eyes looking downward.

Dr. Sharon Galitzer Pediatric Physical Therapist

Help Your Child Experience the World!

Experiences during a child’s first 2-3 years of life can have an effect on later school achievement.Early experience in life creates brain circuits, learning, and overall well-being.  Look at all the systems that impact a child’s brain and nervous system (Courtesy of Harvard.edu)


  1. Information is gathered from the environment, from a child’s senses, and sent up to the brain. 
  2. The brain processes the information.
  3. The brain sends a response.
  4. If plan A doesn’t work, this loop is repeated and a plan B is created. And so on….And so on…. This loop begins at birth and is refined over time, based on a child’s experiences. 

Therefore, think about these principles:

  1. Set up an environment that lets a child learn in their own way on their own time.
  2. Let your child experience as much as they can.  These experiences are an opportunity to learn.
  3. Consistent routines are helpful for a child’s development.  They know what’s coming first, then next, and the expected outcome.
  4. Chronic conditions are stressors for everyone. Make sure that you stay calm and breathe!  Self regulation is not only essential for a child, it’s also an important quality to have for adults.  Chronic stressors can contribute to cardiovascular disease, hypertension, mental health issues, and internal inflammation. All of which can be positively impacted by finding joy.

Your child’s brain development starts in utero but continues to morph through the first years of life.  A child that lives in a supportive environment, that’s full of learning opportunities and experiences will feel more, think more, and react more.   A rich environment and daily learning opportunities for the brain and body to feel can only help your child.  If a caretaker or parent would like more information about setting up a sensory-rich environment, contact a pediatric physical or occupational therapist for helpful hints.

Dr Sharon Galitzer, pediatric physical therapist

Sensory Play Ideas for Autumn

There is so much out there to experience this time of the year.  Every experience is an opportunity to learn.  We have five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, and sound) and kinesthetics awareness. T.  The fall is a perfect time to enterprise on all of these senses to create learning experiences.  The most obvious and in abundance are the leaves.

Leaves – Whether your child is lying, sitting, stomping, throwing, raking, collecting, crushing…..Small movements yield great sensory benefits.  The colours, textures, and sounds of leaves rustling around provide immediate visual, auditory and tactile awareness like no other. 

Roll around in the leaves-this creates a great environment to explore movement in a safe environment.

Jump on the leaves- a great big pile of leaves is an inviting area to try to attempt a jump even when the execution is scary.

Stomp through the leaves- the soft textures create an uneven surface for all types of little feet to practice balance reactions. Walk, march, crush…whatever fun game you want to create.

Gather the leaves-there are so many fun ways to scoop, gather, mound, rake, and collect all the leaves falling from the trees. 

Touch them- regardless of your child’s position, they can sort, count, paint or glue the leaves onto different surfaces.  A leaf pool or sensory bag, a pine cone, or a big giant pumpkin are all easy examples of sensory sensations. This is a great way to work on fine motor, midline orientation, hand-eye coordination, and in-hand manipulation.

Walk– Whether your child is ambulatory or requires assistance to move about the community, while you walk, talk about the trees, the leaves, and the weather.  What do you think your child will enjoy seeing? Are there any questions that you can ask your child about what you’re seeing or experiencing?

Introduce your child to a mound of fallen leaves and see what they do? How will they explore those leaves? What will they do? This sensory experience will stir up their sensory experience but also complement their motor, coordination, and communication development. As a parent/caretaker or therapist, we’re always looking for a child’s response to their environment because that means they’re taking it in, thinking about it, and the end result is their response. That’s how they learn.  They collect all these experiences, memories, and thoughts, and build on them. Nature can be calming or exciting, but regardless it surrounds all of us. There’s no right or wrong way to engage in sensory play. It’s self-directed, it’s inclusive and it’s hands-on.  These are learning principles that should be applied to all play. 

Dr Sharon Galitzer, PT, DScPT, MS, CIMI

Pediatric Physical Therapist

The ‘F’ Words


When a child has a condition that impacts movement, communication, or processing a parent will seek any and all treatment interventions to help their child.  In this 21st century, there are many robotics, assistive technology, and medicinal options that can support their rehab.  As a physical therapist who has worked with many children through their childhood into adulthood, there’s a ripe time for each of these interventions, and you the parent, will determine when your child may be able to benefit from any or all of these interventions.  However, when I saw the ‘F’ word being introduced by CanChild, Dr Rosenbuam, I realized that these are the essence of a child’s existence.

Function- what can a child do, what type of assistance do they need to experience the world around them

Family- Family-centered therapy where therapists collaborate with parents and involve them in goal setting has shown to be more effective and to have greater outcomes. You’re the experts, you’re the caretakers, and you are better able to identify what is challenging for you and/or your family. As a result, parents can problem-solve with their clinicians to explore treatment interventions and different ways to encounter obstacles and challenges.

Fitness-JUST GET OUT THERE AND MOVE!  Whether it’s therapy or not, recreational activities can also be social events, and a change of position or a change in environment can have a positive effect on the lives of all families and children.

Friends- Encourage peer interactions.  Friends for everyone, parents, siblings, and children.

Fun-Find out what brings your child joy and do it.

Future- As clinicians, we always think about the future and how we can maximize a child’s function.  We recognize that there are daily challenges that parents face, but these early years are so important. They set the base of a parent seeing their child’s strengths, believing in their capabilities, and moving forward with a plan, and willingness to modify the plan as needed. 

There are a variety of factors (economic, accessibility, time-consuming, fear..) that may prevent a child with special needs from experiencing events that other children their age are experiencing.  The most basic event that a child can experience is ‘play’.  I urge you to brainstorm with your physiotherapist about creating opportunities for your child to feel, see, hear, move, and touch on a daily basis. If they can’t move around and get there, bring that world into their space. 

Just think about how these factors can help your child.    

Dr Sharon Galitzer, PT, DScPt, MS, CIMI

Pediatric Physical therapist