More Than Words | RTS Blog

Summer Sensory Activities

A summer break full of fun and sun may mean that your little one won’t actively see his or her occupational therapist, but that doesn’t mean you can’t incorporate sensory play into your warm weather routine. There are plenty of engaging activities you can introduce to keep your child entertained as you provide new sensory experiences and help him or her increase motor skill development.

First, consult with your child’s occupational therapist to ask about ideas and strategies that will suit your child’s specific sensory needs. She will be able to make suggestions for the best activities to improve fine motor and attention skills and coordination as well as assist your child in using his or her senses to explore, experiment, and problem solve.

Some fun and supportive activities your therapist may share include:

Sensory Activities to Calm

Calming sensory activities help children feel calm, increase their attention span, and promote a state of overall comfort and happiness. These activities may help your child successfully transition from screeching and screaming to a calm and organized state of mind.

  • Bubble blowing
  • Swinging on a swing or see-sawing
  • Helping with simple household chores such as vacuuming or sweeping
  • Carrying weighted toys such as plastic sand buckets filled with water or sand for short periods of time
  • Using soft pillows or cushions to apply gentle pressure to comfortably “squish” your child
  • Holding vibrating toys or applying gentle massagers on their back, arms, and legs

Sensory Activities to Alert and Arouse Attention

Alerting and arousing sensory activities enable sensory-seeking children to feel something to support positive behavior and increase attention.

  • Bouncing a therapy ball
  • Spinning in a swivel chair or on a Sit ‘n Spin play toy
  • Jumping on a trampoline or a bed while supervised
  • Walking through an obstacle course using couch cushions, inflatable pool rafts and noodles, and more fun items that offer uneven surfaces
  • Jumping and crashing into soft pillows, play mats and cushions
  • Riding a scooter or tricycle
  • Playing physical games such as Red Rover tug-of-war or Ring Around the Rosie

Sensory Tubs Suggestions

A sensory tub is a simple shoebox or storage bin filled with a variety of materials that help promote sensory exploration by introducing different textures, sights, and smells. Children can place their hands in the box or bin to feel various materials, drive toy cars through them, seek special treasures hidden inside and more. Considering adding the following items to a sensory tub for your child:

  • Dried pasta, beans or rice
  • Cooked, wet noodles
  • Shaving cream
  • Finger paints
  • Playdough in various colors
  • Colorful paper confetti
  • Foam pieces
  • Salt or sugar
  • Dry or damp sand

Add even more fun in a sensory tub with:

  • Small cars and trucks
  • Kitchen utensils like spoons, whisks, tongs or a baster
  • Food coloring
  • Wooden or plastic blocks
  • Small plastic animals
  • Straws and pipe cleaners
  • Shovels, buckets, and funnels

Water Play Ideas

Water enhances any sensory play activity and can be incorporated very easily. Ideas to consider include:

  • Filling and tossing water balloons
  • Playing with a water table with boats and small floats
  • Using water to “paint” wood or concrete with paintbrushes
  • Adding food coloring to the water to watch the color changes
  • Adding glow sticks to the bath and turning off the lights
  • Creating an outdoor obstacle course with a sprinkler, slip-n-slide and baby pool


  Filed under: Occupational Therapy, Parenting Tips

Tip-Toe Walking Toddlers

Have you noticed that your child is walking on her tiptoes? It’s certainly not an uncommon sight, but it is one you’ll want to watch if it goes on past age 3.

It is natural for toddlers 18 months and older to experiment with toe-walking as they learn to walk and run. However, if they continue to toe-walk on the balls of their feet past age 3 and no underlying diagnoses exist, the behavior will need to be addressed. Called idiopathic toe walking, this condition can cause a child’s calf muscles to shorten making it more challenging to walk flat-footed.


Why do children walk on their toes?

The three most common reasons children tip-toe or walk on their toes include:

Sensory Processing Difficulties

Children with sensory processing difficulties may walk on their toes for two reasons due to hypersensitivity to floor textures and surfaces or desire for increased sensory input and feeling within the joints.

Underlying Medical Conditions

Underlying medical conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy may be another reason a child walks on the balls of her feet. These medical conditions cause an abnormal increase in muscle tone, which can lead to toe-walking.

Learned Habit

A child may toe-walk simply because she prefers to walk on her toes.  And, if done continuously, toe-walking or tip-toeing can cause her calf muscles to shorten making it more difficult to walk normally.


How do I help my child stop toe-walking?

If your child’s continuous toe-walking concerns you, please contact your pediatrician to schedule an appointment for further consideration. Your doctor may refer you to a licensed pediatric physical therapist to evaluate your child’s muscles and strength by assessing her leg muscles and ankle movements.

The physical therapist may recommend an at-home exercise program targeting the calf and front leg muscles. The ultimate goal will be for your daughter to walk using a heel-to-toe pattern rather than choosing her tiptoes.

Some common stretching exercises physical therapists may recommend for toe-walkers include:

Calf Stretches

Ask your daughter to lie on her back with her knees straight. One at a time, bring her feet up towards her head while bending her ankle. 

Wall Stretches

Have your daughter put her hands on a wall with her feet pointed toward the same wall. One foot should be behind the other with the front leg bent. Instruct her to lean into the wall keeping her back leg straight. Both of her heels should remain on the floor while she stretches.

Long Sit Stretches

Ask your daughter to sit with both legs straight out in front of her while wrapping a towel around both of her feet. She should hold the towel at both ends and pull the towel back towards her body while keeping her knees flat and back straight.

Heel Drop Stretches

Have your daughter stand on a step. While keeping one foot planted firmly on the step, ask her to place one foot halfway on the step and drop her heel to feel a stretch in her calf muscle.

Please note, while simple to execute, these exercises should be initiated under the guidance of a physical therapist who will demonstrate the correct stretch positioning, the number of repetitions needed and the appropriate amount of time to hold the stretch.

  Filed under: Awareness, Physical Therapy, Raleigh Therapy Services

Speech & Hearing Screenings for Children

May is Better Speech and Hearing Month and now is the perfect time to spotlight the special role speech-language pathologists, more readily referred to as speech therapists, play in children’s lives. It’s easy to think that a speech therapist is someone who works with others to correct mispronounced words and help them speak—however, speech therapists do much, much more than that.

Speech-language pathologists are professional therapists who evaluate and treat speech, language and swallowing disorders. A pediatric speech-language pathologist may work with a child in any of the following areas:

  • Feeding & Swallowing – safely eating, drinking, and swallowing
  • Articulation– producing the correct speech sounds
  • Voice– speaking with vocal quality, pitch, loudness, and resonance
  • Expressive Language – using language to communicate functionally
  • Receptive Language– understanding what is being communicated
  • Pragmatics – using social language in order to convey needs and participate in conversations
  • Fluency (Stuttering)– speaking using a normal flow and rhythm without interruptions
  • Hearing – communicating in the presence of a hearing disorder

Preschool & Daycare Speech and Hearing Screenings

Your first introduction to a speech-language pathologist may actually be at your child’s preschool or daycare. It is a common practice for local speech-language pathologists to offer free speech and language screenings for young students at these early learning centers. With your consent, a speech therapist will conduct a brief screening to review your child’s articulation, language, voice, fluency, and hearing.

The free screening will provide a quick snapshot into your child’s speech and language skills by utilizing a research-based tool to indicate a pass/fail status. A hearing test may also be performed simultaneously. If your child fails his or her screening or hearing test, a more in-depth assessment is typically recommended to determine if a delay or disorder exists.

Some signs of speech and language disorders that speech-language pathologists will watch for in children include:

Feeding & Swallowing Disorders:
  • Difficulty chewing
  • Choking, coughing, or gagging on food and/or liquids
  • Difficulty transitioning to solids or higher textured solids like meat
  • Difficulty transitioning from bottle to cup
Speech Sound Disorders:
  • Incorrect pronunciation of the letters p, b, m, h, and/or w by 1 to 2 years of age
  • Incorrect pronunciation of the letters k, g, f, t, d, and/or n by 2 to 3 years of age
  • Unclear speech to both familiar and unfamiliar listeners at 2 to 3 years of age
Voice Disorders:
  • Speaking with a hoarse or breathy voice
  • Speaking with a nasal voice 
Language Disorders:
  • Not smiling or interacting with others by 3 months of age
  • Lack of babbling at 7 months of age
  • Not using gestures by 12 months of age
  • Inability to understand what others are saying between 7 months and 2 years of age
  • Unable to say more than 50 words by 2 years of age
  • Unable to combine words by 2 1/2 years of age
Fluency (Stuttering) Disorders:
  • Frequently repeating parts of words or whole words at 2 1/2 to 3 years of age
  • Stretching sounds out like “n-n-n-no” for “no” at 2 1/2 to 3 years of age
  • Struggling to get sounds or words out by 2 1/2 to 3 years of age
 Hearing Disorders:
  • Lack of attention to sounds
  • Not responding to name when called
  • Inability to follow simple commands

  Filed under: Awareness, Better Speech and Hearing, Parenting Tips, Raleigh Therapy Services, Speech and Language Development