Babies and toddlers grow and develop at different rates, but in some cases they need extra help to reach milestones and early intervention services can help. Physical therapy for little ones who need it can support gross motor and fine motor development, and help toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays conquer everyday tasks and feel more independent.
What is it?
Pediatric physical therapy is designed specifically for babies, toddlers, and older children. A pediatric physical therapist has experience working with various delays or disabilities that can hinder gross and fine motor development. Reasons children may benefit from physical therapy include genetic disorders, muscular diseases, congenital disabilities, injuries, and developmental delays.
During sessions, a physical therapist follows a comprehensive plan to target developmental challenges. A child might exercise in the water, practice walking without falling, or work on balancing while standing, sitting, or moving. The focus for each session may change depending on a child’s individual needs, but physical therapists usually incorporate age-appropriate play that’s engaging and fun for toddlers.
How can it help toddlers?
If your toddler’s pediatrician has noticed a delay in gross or fine motor development, you might be referred to pediatric physical therapy. A physical therapist will conduct an evaluation and create a plan to target identified areas of concern.
Pediatric physical therapy has many benefits for little ones with physical disabilities, injuries, or developmental delays. Some areas it targets include:
Gross motor skills. From cruising on furniture to tossing a ball, a physical therapist can help get your child moving in all kinds of ways that are appropriate for their age.
Fine motor skills. Fine motor skills, such as zipping a jacket, pointing to words on a paper, and coloring with a crayon, are also crucial areas that physical therapists can work on with your child.
Motor planning. Motor planning is the process of thinking about performing a motor task, planning how to do it, and then doing it – until the task becomes automatic. For example, to learn to walk, a child must have the idea to want to walk, plan how to move the body, and then execute that plan – practicing over and over until the brain and body memorize how to walk. Some children experience a breakdown in motor planning, and a physical therapist can help them make those connections through play and activity.
Balance. Balancing is tough for most toddlers. But when toddlers consistently struggle to balance when standing up, walking, or turning around, a physical therapist can work on balancing activities with them.
Coordination. Coordination is necessary for everything we do! Physical therapists can focus on this area with movement activities that help both sides of the body work together.
Strength. Low muscle tone is a common problem for children who need physical therapy services. Sessions can incorporate fun play and exercise activities to strengthen core muscles, arms, and legs.
You know your toddler best, which is why it’s important to voice any concerns you have about their development to your pediatrician. You can also seek guidance directly from a pediatric physical therapist if you are worried about your child’s motor skills.
If your child receives pediatric physical therapy services, be sure to share your BabySparks daily development program with their therapist. Our activities are a great compliment to therapy sessions, helping your child practice skills at home.