Monday, January 23, 2012

The Motor Story Blog: A Great Calming and Organizing Activity!

Blanket Roll Ups!
By Jill Mills, O.T
I work with children of all shapes, sizes and areas of difficulty. “Blanket Roll-Ups” is an activity all children love! It is simple and requires nothing more than a favorite blanket, a carpeted floor (or mat) and a caregiver’s strong arms.
This activity taps into all sensory areas so it is a hugely integrating activity.

Here’s why:
1.  The chosen blanket should provide comfortable tactile (or touch) input. It is important that the child helps choose the blanket for just this reason!
2.  As the child rolls up, the muscles and joints have to work, especially if the child is able to roll up independently. This stimulates proprioceptor and kinesthetic nerves, which in turn activate organizing parts of the brain.
3.  Unrolling the child, especially if done quickly, stimulates the vestibular system; another organizing system for the brain.
4.  Adding “Get Ready, Get Set, Go!” activates the auditory (hearing) and language centers.
5.  With the head peeking through, the eyes see a whirl of input flashing by as the child rolls out of the blanket.
This is how you do it:
1.Have the child choose a favorite blanket-this is important because you want the touch input to be soothing and comfortable for the child.
2.Spread the blanket out over a rug or mat. Be sure any potential obstacles are out of the way.
3.Ask the child to lie down parallel to the end of the blanket-perpendicular to the length.
4.If the child can roll independently, help the child roll up while holding onto the blanket so it wraps around the child’s body. Make sure the head is peeking through at the end of the blanket.
5.Once the child is rolled up like a hot dog, say “Get ready, Get set, Go!” At “Go” pull on the end of the blanket so the child rolls out.

Special Considerations and Extensions to the Activity:
1.If the child is unable to roll yet, provide help, gently rolling the child up. This is a good time to add a little extra tactile input such as deep rubbing as you roll.
2.Explain how the child should position himself on the blanket then watch how the child approaches this. There is a motor planning and spatial demand to positioning the body correctly. If the child cannot do this independently (and many children can not), then give additional verbal cues as to where the head and feet should be. The last resort is to actually place the child’s body correctly if s/he cannot figure this out independently.
3.If the child is tentative about movement, then initially unroll the child slowly and gently. As the child becomes accustom to the movement you can speed it up.
4.As a language exercise, have the child say “Go!” or the whole “Get ready...”
“Blanket Roll-Ups” is great to do anytime. The rolling up is a “heavy work activity,” which helps to calm and organize the child. The unrolling can “wake up” the body, especially if it is done quickly. Along with providing great sensory input, the action requires work from the core muscles, so it’s great for physical fitness as well.
With the winter weather (finally) upon us, whether it’s rain or snow, this activity works well when the kids need a little exercise. It’s a great activity to incorporate into the bedtime routine as well, right before the bath and story time. Don’t do it immediately before “lights out” as the child might still be a little too energized by the activity.
You can transfer this to summer time outside fun as the weather improves. Beach blankets on the sand and picnic blankets on soft grass work well. There’s hope! Summer is only 5 months away!

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