Written by: Julianne Janiszewski PT, MSPT
So, you have just started therapy with your child…well, welcome to the team! You have just joined a great group of dedicated professionals all working together to help your child succeed, and you are our MVP! This is because we all depend on you to help carry-over what we are doing in therapy within your own home. It is so important that your child is getting consistent follow-through outside of our appointments to be most successful in achieving their goals. Our job is to make sure we give you all the tools to be comfortable and successful in completing your home program…here are a few ideas that can help:
- Establish a consistent schedule: Just like brushing your teeth for good dental hygiene, exercise needs a specific time during the day’s schedule. Avoid scheduling exercise during times your child is hungry, tired, or about to sleep. Set a timer to signal time to exercise and make sure you are ready to start when the timer goes off. Work with your therapist to find a time where it might easily fit into your day…maybe do stretches while getting dressed, yoga poses as breaks during homework time, etc.
- Create a consistent routine for this activity…start with a warm-up such as dancing to a favorite some, complete exercises, and then reward good participation and completing the work with a pre-selected activity or treat.
- Give your full attention during the home exercise program: Make sure that you schedule a time that works well for you, that allows you to give full attention to exercising with your child, and that you don’t feel rushed. Home programs should not require more than a few minutes per day. This is excellent quality time with your child. They will love to have your undivided attention (put away your phone, try not to multi-task), and it will help them to understand how important these activities really are.
- Aim for completion and then work on form: Your first goal is to create a good routine for exercise. Then start working on improving one aspect of the exercises each time you work together. Too many corrections or pressures can make everyone frustrated.
- Truthfully identify specific positive work: Tell your child something that they did well. It may be completing the activity, using good form, or attending for a specific amount of time. This reinforcement is much more helpful than telling them a general “good job.” You are their best cheerleader, so make sure to give them lots of praise, reinforcement, and attention for a job well done.
- Participate with your child: Children value what you value. If you participate or compete exercises with them you add to the value and make it fun.
- Alternate fun or preferred exercises with the challenging or non-preferred tasks: If a particular exercise is hard, have your child lead you in an exercise of their choice and then you lead in the exercise that is hard. Make this time together fun. Add a fun twist to the exercise such as using a bean bag toy or ball to make the exercise more exciting or to change it up a bit.
- Engaged work during an exercise is more productive than rapidly speeding through a list of exercises. If you are short on time or attention, it is better to do two exercises well than to do 10 that are rushed and possibly incorrect.
- Alternate exercises performed to add variety. Odd exercises one day and even exercises the next day. Add in some other favorite exercises.
- Favorite activity: Allow for time for the child to play a preferred activity with you. Set a timer to play a game together for 5-10 minutes, or to have a snack together when exercises are done.
- Use a reward chart, a marble jar, or a calendar for a long term reward: A star chart, crossing off the activities on a list, a calendar, or filling a jar/bin with small objects for a long term reward are all ways to motivate your child.
We know that you know your child best, and hopefully some of these ideas will help make this part of your day a bit easier and more fun. Your therapist can always help to problem-solve ways to help you be successful at home. Enjoy this time with your child! There are certainly many benefits to your child’s success in therapy by consistently working together at home, but there are many, many other benefits that will come from this time spent with you. Thank you for all you do…we are so happy to have you as part of our team!