A huge component of our work as Pediatric Physical Therapists is ensuring that children and their families stay active and engaged outside of “therapy time”. Living in such a fun, vibrant and child-friendly location like Brooklyn there is a wide array of options for children of all ages and skill level, from rock climbing to horse back riding here are a few of my favorites!
Brooklyn Art Exchange: Park Slope. Drawing from dance, yoga, and gymnastics, classes introduce children to body movement, group social dynamics, and creative choice-making.
421 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Sample class description:
"Tumble Jumble(ages 4-5): Drawing from yoga to gymnastics exercises, this class explores basic locomotive and body coordination skills. Students learn forward rolls, log rolls, bear and crab walks, skip, chase and gallop, and engage in basic stretching and strength work. This playful class allows the student to work independently and in a lively group dynamic.”
Brooklyn Boulders: Gowanus/Park Slope. Rock Climbing, Bouldering and Slack Lining for children and their families.
575 Degraw Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Phone: (347) 834-9066
Sample class description:
"Kids Academy(ages 5-12): Activities include stretching, climbing games, bouldering, roped climbing and slacklining! We’ve got a 1:5 belayer to climber ratio, ensuring every participant gets their fill of climbing and stays supervised, encouraged and excited!”
Brooklyn Dance Project: Gowanus/Park Slope. Dance Studio offering Ballet, Rhythm & Movement, Jazz, Tap, Hip Hop and Musical Theater Classes.
495 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 499-5402
Sample class description:
"Mini Camps(ages 3-5): This wonderful and fun performing camp will teach your small children different types of dance like ballet, hip hop, tap, Jazz, Modern and Musical theater “
Brooklyn Design Lab:Park Slope. BDL’s mission is to bring design and art to the children (and grown-ups) of our community!
413A 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (917) 657-7441
Sample class description:
"Wood Lab(ages 2-4): This class will focus on one material: wood. Students will explore the possibilities of wood through balancing, leaning, and stacking pieces. We will experiment with the material as we create sculptures, reliefs, and prints. By working with a single material in many different ways, students will build on what they learn, and discover new things as they create.”
Camp Olympia: Park Slope. Camp Olympia and All Sports for All People is a sports program led by a team of professionals who are dedicated to helping improve skills in many sports.
John Jay High School
237 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 748-7084
Sample class description:
"Butterflyfish with Belts(ages 4-5.5): Class goal: swim the width of the pool unassisted, swim under water, learn basic swimming skills for front crawl, perfect rhythmic breathing.
Sports Camp(ages 5-11): Here we help children improve their skills in soccer, basketball, baseball, swimming and volleyball.”
Berkeley Carroll Athletic Center
762 President Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (212) 717-7651
Sample class description:
“For the earliest athletes (ages 3-4), Dribbl focuses on getting kids comfortable on the court while improving basic motor skills such as jumping, running, and sliding. For the older athletes (grades 3-8), Dribbl offers a chance to apply the skills they’ve learned toward timed league games.”
Everyday Athlete: Brooklyn Heights/Carroll Gardens. Everyday Athlete Kids classes focus on building the strength, skills and confidence that your child needs to get the most out of every day.
130 Clinton Street
136 Union Street
Sample class description:
"EA Kids(ages 4-6): our signature class for kids that blends the best of all our themes from climbing, tumbling, acrobatics, skateboarding and more. EA Ninja and Little Ninja(ages 3-7): are fun, challenging, and dynamic classes for kids who love obstacle courses. Each week, kids will learn new techniques and fun ways to use their bodies to overcome obstacles. Your child will learn basic tumbling and athletic fitness skills and have a great time.”
Gallop NYC: Prospect Park. Therapeutic riding and hippotherapy.
Sample class description:
"Therapeutic Riding: under the direction of a PATH-certified riding instructor, GallopNYC clients learn to sit their horses properly, use their reins to command the horse, and ride at a walk and trot. The horse is led by a trained volunteer and two trained volunteers walk along side.
Hippotherapy:a licensed Physical Therapist works with each child while the child is riding. The therapist is trained in using a horse as a physical therapy tool.”
Imagine Swimming: Manhattan and Brooklyn locations. "NYC’s premier swimming school"
Phone: (212) 253-9650
Sample class description:
"The ‘Classic’ Imagine class: has a 1:4 teacher / student ratio. We believe this class size provides the highest quality atmosphere for both skill development and social interaction.
3-Year-Olds: All 3-year-old lessons maintain a maximum 1:3 teacher / student ratio. This smaller ratio reflects the need for a bit of extra comfort and attention with this age.”
Park Slope Academy of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:Park Slope. "Park Slope’s largest martial arts school."
518 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Sample class description:
"Tiny Grapplers(ages 5-7): This class incorporates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling, Judo, and activities based on teamwork and skill building to improve focus, fitness, and coordination. The class is designed to bring down a high energy student and allow them to use the main teaching principles of focus and confidence to deal with any stressful situation.
YMCA: Park Slope. The Y offers a huge range of classes from swimming to sports.
Prospect Park YMCA
357 Ninth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 768-7100
Park Slope Armory YMCA:
361 15th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (212) 912-2580
Sample class description:
"Gymnastics for Preschoolers: introduces tumbling, rhythmic movement and education to preschoolers and gymnastic skills and combinations to youth.
Karate: develop balance, coordination, self confidence and discipline through this martial art form. Classes focus on the development of the youth’s positive attitude, behavior and character through building self-esteem and self-discipline while instilling respect for themselves and others.”
Prospect Park Tennis: Prospect Park. Private and group tennis classes.
50 Parkside Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11226
Phone: (718) 436-2500
Sample class description:
"Summer Youth and Sports Tennis Program(ages 6-16): personalized tennis instruction by our pros to learn the game and improve their serve, stroke, and confidence on the court. Half-day and full-day sessions are available.”
432 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 369-9880
Sample class description: "Powerplay offers tumbling & gymnastics classes for kids, plus dance, martial arts and rock climbing. Low student-teacher ratios let instructors focus on gross motor skills and increasing muscle tone and coordination.Also offer day passes for families to enjoy the space, afterschool and camp programs.
Classes run in 8, 10 or 15 week sessions and start at nine months. Power Play also has a summer camp; spring camp, winter camp, afterschool program, and kids can have their parties in the space. Families that want something with less commitment can purchase a play space pass where they can visit the center at their leisure. - See more at: http://www.achildgrows.com/where-to-take-a-tumbling-or-gymnastics-class-in-brooklyn/#sthash.h08XQwIS.dpuf
529 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Sample class description:
"Tiny Tigers Program(ages 3-4): This special program was developed by our trained staff of professionals to meet your child’s unique needs which include: Self Discipline, Focus, Concentration, Listening Skills, Coordination and Teamwork. With the use of our proven teaching methods, your child will learn and develop skills that will carry over to other areas of their lives including Home and School.”
Our newest post on pediatric gait analysis!
With the winter quickly approaching it is time for my favorite Dinosaur PT trademarked activity! The PT Winter Olympics! A great way to involve children in creative and active play incorporating a wide range of gross motor skills!
ICE SKATING/SPEED SKATING
Using colored dots to eliminate friction from floor and colored cones to designate pathway, have child remove socks and speed skate their way to the Gold! You can perform skating sprints or even fun free skating routines.
While not an official Olympic sport, ice fishing is a great way to encourage crossing midline while working on hand eye coordination and trunk control! Find an inexpensive magnetic fishing game and a great bolster or peanut ball and fish your way to victory!
Sliding a bilibo seat across the “ice”towards a target. I use the colored cones to mark the distance traversed. Instead of a curling broom we are all about force generated from a strong bilateral push forward.
Using connecting scooter boards have child lying supine, and using only arms to propel forward.
Again using the connecting scooter boards, now have child in prone using arms to propel forward.
Using tactile discs to represent “mounds of snow”, have child jump side to side either in between discs or over discs. Ski poles are optional accessory!
So with minimal equipment and a whole lot of creativity, have fun training for and competing in the “Winter Olympics”! I think its worthy of the gold!
“W-sitting” is a term used to describe a sitting position in which the child’s bottom is on the floor and their feet are splayed out to the sides from the knee—forming a “W” shape with their legs and knees.
This may seem like a benign position that we see many children utilizing, but it comes with many negative implications. “W-sitting” inhibits exploration, does not allow for proper strengthening of the trunk, and keeps children confined to play only in midline. Effects of long-term “w-sitting” include hamstring tightness and tibial torsion and even hip dislocation. In addition, because this position inhibits trunk rotation it leads to overall decreased balance, trunk strength and postural control.
In a W-sitting position, the hips are placed at the extreme limits of internal rotation, predisposing the child to future orthopedic problems. In this abnormal position, the risk of hip dislocation becomes a concern, especially with a diagnosis of hip dysplasia. Pre-existing orthopedic conditions can worsen when major muscle groups are placed in shortened positions and begin to tighten. These shortened muscles are at risk to form contractures—especially the hamstrings, adductors and Achilles tendon.
Another feature of w-sitting is that it does not engage trunk/postural muscles and encourages poor alignment of the spine. In a w-sit, the child’s thighs roll inward and pelvis tips back to accommodate, causing the spine to form a c-curve rather than it’s natural s-shape.
By changing the sitting position from w-sitting to heel sitting, this child’s feet are pointed straight back, toes down, shins in close to her thighs, which no longer roll inward. This reduces the strain on her ankles, knees and hips allows her pelvis to come up into a neutral position.
W-sitting compromises balance development. A child who frequently W-sits does not need to use his or her trunk muscles. Because W-sitting allows the child to lock into an erect position, the trunk muscles are not challenged and balance reactions are not incorporated. As a result, trunk control and balance are slower to develop and delays due to non-use are common. Frequent W- sitters typically lack stability in their trunk and pelvis and will rely on this sitting position to hold their balance against gravity. It is much easier for children who have not yet developed mature balance reactions to W-sit during play because the hips and trunk are fixed and do not have to do much work. This static positional stability means that the child no longer has to be concerned with holding themselves up. The child does not need to use trunk rotation or side-to-side weight shifting, as the position itself offers the child stability not found in other more developmentally acceptable positions.
Because trunk rotation does not occur during W-sitting, midline orientation is avoided. Children naturally begin to bring their hands together at midline to manipulate objects, but a child who regularly W-sits is discouraged from engaging in this important milestone. Instead, the child tends to use the right hand on the right side of the body and the left hand on the left side, disrupting bilateral hand use and coordination. The W-position discourages the child from crossing over midline, which involves shifting the weight of the upper torso onto the opposite arm and using the trunk muscles to rotate in order to retrieve a toy. Midline crossing, bilateral hand use and coordination are important developmental milestones that pave the way for the development of more advanced motor skills.
What to Do
Prevention is the best method if you catch the problem early. Let the child know about and experience alternative sitting positions. Be consistent. Each time you see the child W-sitting or attempting to do so, correct it. Children often assume this position when transitioning from creeping on hands and knees to sitting on the floor. From all fours, the child simply parts the knees and plops his or her bottom down between them, resulting in the W-position. To prevent this, keep the child’s knees and feet close together when either creeping on hands and knees to sitting on the floor. Assist the child into an appropriate sitting position by gently guiding the legs out in front to promote a “long-sitting” position or using the verbal cue “Criss Cross Applesauce”. Once the child has experienced the alternative positions give them opportunities to participate in engaging play scenarios to gain confidence and comfort in these more appropriate seated postures.
1) Tailor sit aka “criss cross apple sauce” or “Pretzel Pose”
The pretzel pose is truly the opposite of W-sit. It allows for external/lateral rotation of hips and knees, which places these joints in better positioning for proper alignment and development. Tailor sit allows for a great deal of trunk and posture strengthening, due to increased trunk rotation and the ability to cross the “midline” of child’s body. When the child is able to cross midline, we are encouraging the development of bilateral coordination. Bilateral coordination is not only a crucial component of coordination and motor planning, but also essential for the development of most academic, perceptual, and handwriting skills down the road.
Note: child is able to cross midline when sitting in “Pretzel Pose”
2) Butterfly Pose
The butterfly pose is similar to the pretzel pose, but allows child deeper stretch of hip adductors and creates more stable base of support for sitting.
3) Long sit aka “Letter L”
In this position the child sits on bottom, with legs extended straight out in front. This is a wonderful position because it is a great challenge for trunk and posture strengthening. It also allows for increased trunk rotation, which will target the oblique abdominal muscles. The long sitting position can be utilized the encourage hamstring flexibility(which occasionally can become shortened over time for W-sitters).
3) Side sitting aka “Letter Z” - legs bent and tucked to side.
Courtesy of Jewelry Mama
This position allows child to incorporate different stabilization tactics utilizing upper extremity weight bearing and helping with transitions from supine and prone to sitting. If you choose side sit, be sure to alternate sides so that the child will develop trunk control and balance in both directions.
4) Tall Kneel
In this position the child weight bears on bent knees with extended hips and trunk, maintaining an erect upper body. This position maximizes strengthening of the trunk against gravity, with also helps to maximize strengthening at the pelvis and hips joints.
5) Prone position
A great way to stretch hip flexors, encourage upper body weight bearing, shoulder stability/strength, developing proximal to distal control.
6) Sitting on low stool/chair with knees and hips flexed at 90 degrees
Courtesy of Miss Mancy
We want to ensure that feet are flat on floor, knees and hips at 90 degree angle. If using a table/desk it should be about 2” above elbows when arms are bent at child’s side. If table top is too high, child will prop elbows up and out, hike up shoulders and may lean against desk. If table is too low the child will be inclined to round back and lean body on desk.
A child learns through their interaction with the environment. W-sitting inhibits much of that exploration, discouraging integration of balance reactions, sensory input and muscle activation. For a child to truly enjoy their ADVENTURES IN SITTING let’s take the W out of sitting once and for all!
Thank you to MamaOT for this wonderful guest post. MamaOT is a wonderful Pediatric Occupational Therapist who offers really creative and functional activity suggestions accessible to families and therapists alike. I love this post about using the Play Table in 8 different ways following along with the child’s natural developmental sequence. Without further ado I will turn the mike over to MamaOT!
I am so honored that Rebecca asked me to share with you today about baby play tables!
Baby play tables are a great invention. As far as I can tell, they came on to the scene fairly recently (relatively speaking), and I have been amazed at how versatile they are. I’ve used them with infants in early intervention therapy, and they also came in handy for promoting my own son’s development during his first year of life. They have all sorts of cause/effect buttons that sing and light up while introducing baby to songs, shapes, spatial concepts (open/close, up/down), ABCs, and 123s.
Unless someone purchases one for you, don’t bother forking over forty bucks for a brand new baby play table. You should be able to easily find a gently used one on Craigslist or at a second hand store for twenty dollars or less. Just make sure it has removable legs so you can use it in a variety of ways throughout baby’s first year.
Here are eight ways you can use a baby play table:
1. Remove all legs and tilt against a couch, wall, or other stable surface so the play surface is nearly vertical.
Developmental stage: Newborn to rolling (approximately 0-4 months).
Interact with baby and talk to him about the lights, music, and sounds. Help baby lay on his side so he can look at and reach for the play surface. It’s important to get baby on his side while engaging, rather than just laying on his back and reaching over to the side. This is because when baby lays on his side, he is able to engage in “midline play”, which means he is being oriented to where the middle of his body is. Babies are not born with a midline orientation, and it is through midline play that they begin to develop a sense of symmetry (a balance between the right and left sides). If baby will not stay put on his side due to lack of strength or control, simply roll up a receiving blanket and wedge it behind his back. This side-lying position is also helpful for babies who have low muscle tone and find it difficult to engage in midline play while laying on their backs (as they would while playing in a baby gym).
2. Remove all legs and place flat on the ground.
Developmental stage: Tummy time to independent sitting (approximately 2-6 months).
This gives baby some incentive to push up during tummy time. It also gives baby something to play with while sitting up, even if she isn’t so sure about using her hands quite yet. Stay close by your baby on this one. It’s easy for the tummy time baby to suddenly drop her head and bonk her face, and it’s just as easy for the new sitter to quickly topple forward…also bonking her face. If your baby is not yet an independent sitter, that’s okay. Just support her trunk with your hands from behind while she sits and plays. The higher up you support her (closer to her armpits), the less she has to work. The lower down you support (closer to the hips), the more she has to work. Assist her accordingly.
3. Remove only two legs so the table tilts at a 45 degree angle.
Developmental stage: Pushing up and shifting weight during tummy time to pushing up onto all fours (approximately 4 to 8 months).
This is more stable than suggestion number one and, thank goodness, because now baby can reach out and clobber those buttons! The more advanced tummy time baby will find this fun and, again, it gives him an opportunity to engage in midline play no matter where he is around the table. As a therapist, I like this stage because it gives baby an opportunity to practice shifting his weight from side to side while on his tummy. He must shift his weight to one arm while he reaches out with the other. This is an important skill to learn before he can ever think about crawling. The more weight he can bear on one arm while he uses the other to play, the closer he is to crawling! This position also requires quite a bit of trunk and neck strength, which is important for — again — developing the muscles necessary for crawling. And, of course, this position is also fun with the baby who sits independently and is now able to engage more freely with his hands while sitting.
If your baby isn’t really comfortable on his tummy or doesn’t weight shift yet during tummy time, try putting him on his tummy on an exercise ball and slowly zooming him forward to the point where he can reach the play surface. You can help him practice shifting his weight by slowly tilting the ball to the left side (only, like, an inch or two, not a lot) while he reaches with his right. And then tilt it to the right while he reaches with his left. Not comfortable putting your baby on an exercise ball? Check out my post with video about how to play with your baby on an exercise ball. Sometimes a demonstration is all you need to ease your nerves.
4. Remove all legs and place flat on one couch cushion (or an object of similar height).
Developmental stage: Pre-crawling to crawling (approximately 6 to 9 months).
This is a great intro to assuming the hands-and-knees position because it’s easier to sustain a semi-upright quadruped position than it is a fully horizontal one. It takes some of the weight off the arms so baby can venture into a pre-crawling position without needing quite as much upper body and core strength. It also teaches baby about moving up and down through space, as opposed to only moving horizontally all the time (rolling, scooting, etc.).
5. Remove all legs and place flat on two couch cushions (or an object of similar height).
Developmental stage: Crawling to standing with support (approximately 8 to 10 months).
This just about mimics the height the play table will have when you put the legs back on, but it gives baby something to hold onto, lean against, and push against as he transitions to learning how to play in a kneeling and half-kneeling position. Translation: baby’s hand won’t slip off the bottom of the play table and he won’t hit his face on the hard plastic on his way down. We want to avoid injury where we can, right? This is also the perfect height and place for baby to start experimenting with pulling to a stand and remaining in an upright position for more than a few seconds at a time. We’re getting ready for cruising and walking!
6. Stand table up on all 4 legs and have baby use with table wedged into a corner.
Developmental stage: Standing with minimal support to cruising (approximately 9 to 12 months).
You’d be surprised at how much a newly standing baby leans into a play table…and how easily the table can slide or tip with that much weight being put on them. Once my little one reached this stage, I always felt most comfortable if I just wedged the play table into a corner so it couldn’t slide or tip. Of course, a baby this age still needs constant supervision because, as you will soon find out, those chunky little legs are still getting used to supporting all that baby weight and they have a tendency to unexpectedly give out. So stay close to your baby, keep a hand on her, and make sure she’s safe while you engage her with play and talk to her about all the fun stuff going on. Also, don’t be surprised if your baby pulls to a stand, plays for a minute, and then begins to cry…it’s probably because she can’t figure out how to get down! Help her problem solve and, over the course of the next few days or weeks, she’ll soon become a pro at using the table to stand up and squat down.
7. Stand table up on all 4 legs and place in an area where baby can access all four sides independently.
Developmental stage: Standing with minimal support to cruising (approximately 9-12 months).
As baby becomes more comfortable in a standing position, he won’t need to lean against the table so much, so you can get it out of the corner and into the middle of the room! He’ll start to experimenting with taking a step or two to the side, which is the beginning of the “cruising” phase. He’ll also start to become better at pulling to a stand and squatting down to the floor when he’s all done. Don’t be surprised if he starts to become a dare devil and tries to see if he can take both hands off the table. Or better yet, he may become so engrossed in his play time that he will “accidentally” take his hands off without even realizing it…and then quickly put them back on as soon as he realizes what he’s done!
8. Stand table up on all 4 legs and place near another surface so baby can reach over and “walk” to it.
Developmental stage: Cruising to early walking (approximately 10-12+ months).
It may take a while before baby gets up the guts to let go of the table AND step away from it. But oh the look of joy on his face when he does! Create safe opportunities for him to transfer between supportive surfaces, whether it’s a couch, a soft chair, or the very best thing — you! This is the beginning of the walking stage and it — in my opinion — is the best stage of all. Soon your baby will be saying good riddance to that play table in exchange for other, more exciting things to explore. You know, really safe things, like glass coffee tables, fireplaces, toilets, and garbage cans.
Always be sure to supervise and interact with your baby while he or she engages with their baby play table. And have fun!
Working with children of all ages we as Pediatric Physical Therapists always need to keep in mind the fundamental components of alignment, weight-bearing and balance. Here are some tips and tricks to achieve success throughout development!
Visual Cues: Using footprint cut out, colored dots or even therabands to provide visual cue and promote awareness of lower extremity alignment
To promote narrowed base of support…
Using pull tubes for negative space footprints…
Tandem stance for dynamic/static balance…
Colored thera-band for gait training with narrowed base…
To build intrinsic plantar muscle strength and develop arch…
Tactile Cues: using textured surfaces and proprioceptive feedback we can incorporate sensory input with learning of fundamental motor skills
Textured discs provide great sensory feedback…
With supportive shoes to encourage carry over…
Dyna-disc can be used to challenge strength, balance and alignment…
The wobble board with a colored dot can also be used for more of a challenge..
For the future circus performer, a pair of rocker bottom stilts can be a great tool…
We can use the premise of visual and tactile cueing to address step ups…
Transitions and beyond: We can utilize the same components in our motor work, reaching overhead(balloon volleyball), squatting down(puzzle work), crossing midline, bilateral coordination…just adding a weight-bearing component such as a tactile disc, colored dot, foot print cut out help to address balance, alignment, flexibility and weight bearing while we work on other activities. Making therapy fun and productive!
In July 2013, the Journal of Pediatrics published a study entitled, "The Incidence of Positional Plagiocephaly". They investigated 440 healthy full term infants. The incidence of plagiocephaly in infants at 7 to 12 weeks was reported to be 46.6%. Because of this and other recent articles stressing the overwhelming number of children now diagnosed with plagiocephaly, now more than ever I wanted to present a comprehensive picture of the most up to date literature on the effectiveness of plagiocephaly treatment.
I recently began working with an adorable little 7 month old boy. His mother contacted me due to increasing concerns about cranial asymmetry and limited range of motion of head and neck. He is a twin who was positioned under his brother in utero and as a result was born with facial asymmetry and torticollis. He underwent a battery of tests to rule out any possible neurologic causes and was given a “clean bill of health” upon discharge from the hospital. The pediatrician recommended Physical Therapy to gain full range of motion and help to remodel his cranial shape. Mom pursued PT through an Early Intervention agency, but at the evaluation was told that they would not qualify for PT and that mom could simply do stretching at home. She was given a short list of exercises and sent on her way. Fast forward 6 months without PT intervention, this adorable man is still presenting with torticollis and plagiocephaly. In the past month since I began working with him, he has made huge gains in passive and active head/neck range of motion, developing head control in various developmental positions and building endurance in prone position, weight shifting and crossing midline to reach objects and people. While mom is thrilled by this progress, she is still concerned about the residual plagiocephaly. She recently saw a neurologist who without performing anthropometric measurements or any true clinical assessment, explained the only treatment for plagiocephaly is a helmet. He instructed her to have an X-ray, MRI and EEG done and schedule the helmet fitting with an orthotist. Mom was upset by his lack of explanation regarding his rationale, the effectiveness of the helmet and expectations for the future. Let’s investigate this together…
Positional plagiocephaly is a condition characterized by changes in skull shape and symmetry. It typically occurs in infants and results from mechanical factors which, when applied over a period of time in utero, at birth, or postnatally, alter the shape of the skull.(1,2,3) Some infants may have altered skull shape at birth that resolves itself in the early postnatal period. Therefore, positional plagiocephaly refers specifically to infants with changes in skull shape, who are older than six weeks of age. Their cranial sutures are open and appear normal and no craniosynostosis is present.(4)
Typical vs. atypical skull shape
Plagiocephaly ranges in location and severity: from bilateral flattening of the posterior cranium to unilateral occipital flattening and various degrees of ipsilateral forehead bossing.(5) Because of changes in skull shape and symmetry, this disorder causes concern for some parents, as many seek treatment to improve cosmesis and reduce asymmetry. As Bridges and Chambers in a 2002 study explained, "positional plagiocephaly does not appear to be associated with long-term physical or cognitive problems." When treatment is recommended, conservative interventions are advocated, which includes parental education, counterpositioning, Physical Therapy and helmet/orthosis. Counterpositioning as defined by studies by Moss in 1997 and Loveday in 2001, “involves active repositioning of the child during sleep and play, to apply pressure to the prominent areas of the skull and allow flattened areas of the skull to remodel.” Physical Therapy may also include positioning, active and passive range motion of restricted cervical musculature and promotion of variety of developmental positions for play, thereby reducing forces on the flattened areas of the skull. The orthotic helmet is proposed to apply pressure to the asymmetric prominences and provide relief where cranial growth is required.
Example of counterpositioning, here baby is rotated off back at about 45 degree angle to take pressure off flattened spot.
In 2005, the Journal of Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology published a systematic review by Bialocerkowski, Vladusic, and Howell. This review aimed to synthesize current research evidence to determine the effectiveness of conservative interventions for infants with positional plagiocephaly. Sixteen papers met their inclusion criteria. The consistent finding was that "counterpositioning with Physical Therapy or helmet therapy may reduce skull deformity".
Six studies supported the use of counterpositioning with Physical Therapy to reduce skull asymmetries. One study embraced the use of counterpositioning alone to effectively treat infants with mild plagiocephaly. Five studies found benefits of helmet orthotic to reduce skull asymmetries particularly in infants with moderate to severe plagiocephaly. Two studies, one by Moss and one by Jalaluddin, concluded that counterpositioning with Physical Therapy is as effective as helmet therapy. Two other studies by Mulliken and Vles concluded that helmets were more effective than counterpositioning because they ‘correct’ the issue more rapidly than other conservative interventions. I think it is only fair to point out that all five studies, which justified use of helmet orthotic over other treatment methods, had affiliations with orthotic companies, which as we can assume may have biased results.
Once we attempt to compare the studies to one another, we encounter obstacles. In most studies the treating clinician assessed the intervention result using outcome measures without evidence of validity or reliability. Informed consent was not documented in any of the papers. There was no randomization of participants to intervention groups. Also the types of intervention, including duration and frequency were not specified making it difficult to interpret universal approach to interventions recommended. Different outcome measures were used to assess the efficacy of the intervention, again making it difficult to compare study results. On the positive end, the sample sizes were all relatively large and response rates were good. While beneficial, this review left us wanting more investigation into the efficacy of each of the conservative intervention options.
Another study published by the Journal of Pediatrics in 2005 evaluated 176 infants treated with repositioning, 159 treated with helmets, and 37 treated with initial repositioning followed by helmet therapy when treatment failed. They found that infants treated with repositioning at average age of 4.8 months, the mean percentage decrease for the orthotic group was 61% compared to 52% for the repositioning group. A few flaws in this study, the first being the repositioning group length of therapy was 3.5 months while the helmet group was 4.2 months. Each group should have been allotted the same time frame to determine relative benefit of treatment. Also this study only compared “repositioning” to orthotic use. The repositioning was performed by parents who were followed “at monthly intervals to monitor progress and encourage compliance”. The specific protocols are not explained. I would be extremely happy to see a similar study done comparing Physical Therapy intervention(with a defined protocol) to the helmet orthotic intervention. I think that is the missing link here!
This study also evaluated the effect of age on helmet treatment, compared outcomes of 44 children who started treatment at the age of 8 months or older compared to 115 infants who started treatment before 8 months(mean age=5.8 months). In older infants the percentage decrease in cranial diagonal difference was 51% vs 65% in the younger group. Again the flaw is that the treatment length was longer in the younger group(4.4 months vs 3.7 months) and the sample size much smaller in the older group. But in general we can reasonably state, the earlier the intervention is begun the better the outcomes are for children.
Many authors have spent time explaining the potential rationale for the increase in incidence of plagiocephaly as of late. This diagnosis has become more common since the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 1992 “Back to Sleep” campaign, which advises parents to place infants to sleep on their backs in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It is important to note that although the campaign may have indirectly prompted an increase in plagiocephaly cases, it has also caused a significant reduction in the number of babies lost to SIDS.
Many cases of plagiocephaly are linked to torticollis. Proper Physical Therapy treatment for torticollis often resolves the craniofacial asymmetry or plagiocephaly. By removing the muscular restriction causing the child to present with limited range of motion of head/neck and positional preference, the child will more freely change positions and promote redistribution of external forces causing the plagiocephaly. Promotion of tummy time promotes motor skill development, as well as neck/head range of motion, offloading pressures on skull and helping to remodel the head shape.
Promoting tummy time will address head control, increase strength, promote weight bearing, reaching, and reduce external forces causing pressure on skull to decrease asymmetries caused by plagiocephaly
One of the overarching themes in each of the research papers I reviewed is the importance of early diagnosis and intervention.
One study from the 2008 Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine proposed that identifying positional preference as early as 7 weeks and treating with a 4-month standardized Physical Therapy program “significantly reduced the prevalence of severe deformational plagiocephaly compared with usual care”.
In the case of torticollis as the underlying cause of the plagiocephaly, Cheng et al and Emery et al both state, “If initiated by 3 months, conservative treatment of torticollis with Physical Therapy is very effective, resulting in full passive range of motion and no facial asymmetry.”
Graham et al explains, “After age of 12 months efficacy of orthotic treatment significantly decreases. Delays in initiating corrective treatment until later infancy may lead to incomplete or ineffective correction…so early diagnosis and treatment is essential.”
Since current evidence suggests that positional plagiocephaly is a cosmetic concern more than a medical one, shouldn’t a clinician stress the importance of functional outcomes rather than anatomic? Once the child develops adequate head control, full range of motion, is without physical limitations which may have lead to or were caused by the underlying plagiocephaly, and can get in and out of developmental positions….why are we still concerned? Let’s take a different look at our outcome, instead of head shape let’s spend more time addressing the child’s functional abilities. The helmet orthotic may correct or at least attempt to correct the skull shape, but Physical Therapy strives to address the underlying cause of the plagiocephaly, promotes development and growth free of restrictions and limitations.
The goal of both the clinicians and the families should shift from an anatomic to a functional perspective. Viewing the child as a whole rather than a composite of individual parts can only help to improve outcome.
1. O’Broin ES, Allcutt D, Earley MJ. Posterior plagiocephaly: proactive conservative management. Br J Plast Surg. 1999;52: 18–23.
2.Teichgraeber JF, Seymour-Dempsey K, Baumgartner JE, et al. Molding helmet therapy in the treatment of brachycephaly and plagiocephaly. J Craniofac Surg. 2004;15:118–123.
3. Rekate HL. Occipital plagiocephaly: a critical review of the literature. J Neurosurg. 1997:1–14
4. Fish D, Lima D. Overview of Positional Plagiocephaly and Cranial Remodeling Orthosis. Journal of Prosthetics and Orthotics. 2003; 15:37-47
5. Cheng, J, A. Au. Infantile torticollis: a review of 624 cases. J Pediatr Orthop. 1994. 14:802–808.
6. Bridges S, Chambers T, et al. Plagiocephaly and head binding. Arch Dis Child. 2002. 86(3): 144-145.
7. Moss SD. Nonsurgical, nonorthotic treatment of occipital plagiocephaly: What is the natural history of the misshapen neonatal head? J Neurosurg. 1997 Nov;87(5):667–670.
8. Loveday B, de Chalai T. Active counterpositioning or orthotic device to treat plagiocephaly. J Craniofacial Surgery. 2001: 12(4):308-313.
9. Bialocerkowski, A., Vladusic, S. and Howell, S. Conservative interventions for positional plagiocephaly: a systematic review, Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2005: 8.
10. Moss SD. Nonsurgical, nonorthotic treatment of occipital plagiocephaly: what is the natural history of the misshapen neonatal head? J Neurosurg. 1997 Nov;87(5):667–670.
11. Jalaluddin, M, Moss, S. Occipital Plagiocephaly: The Treatment of choice. J Neurosurg. 2001; 49: 545.
12. Graham et al. Management of Deformational Plagiocephaly. Journal of Pediatrics. 2005; 146(2): 258-262.
13. van Vlimmeren, L et al. Effect of Pediatric Physical Therapy on Deformational Plagiocephaly in Children With Positional Preference: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2008;162(8):712-718.
Images courtesy of Perth District Health Unit
As a pediatric physical therapist I am constantly being asked about different pieces of equipment. What is best for children? What will help them develop, achieve gross motor milestones, interact with peers, and so on. We therapists try to keep up with new products on the market, reading up on the literature and, if necessary, trying out the equipment on our own before making recommendations and suggestions.
One such piece of equipment is called the Bumbo Seat.
“Bumbo”, as it is affectionately called, is a one-piece seat that is made entirely of a low density foam. As you can see, it has a deep seat with a high back and sides, plus there are openings for the legs as well a front support and a safety buckle.
The Bumbo Seat is marketed to help babies sit upright.
The Bumbo website states the following: “The Bumbo Floor seat was designed to seat young babies who can’t sit up by themselves yet. As soon as your baby can support their own head you can seat them in the Bumbo Floor Seat. The seat has many technical design features that supports the baby’s posture allowing them to interact with their surroundings. The Bumbo Floor Seat has received many awards from around the world for its effective and functional design but be aware of copy products that lacks some important features.”
As a Pediatric Physical Therapist, I am always mindful of motor milestones, and I use these milestones to guide my treatment and the development of therapeutic goals.
When children are placed in the Bumbo before they are developmentally ready for sitting it can interfere with the natural progression of skills.
Babies rely on different developmental positions to promote activation and control of their various muscle groups, from head control to trunk control to control of the extremities. Children utilize the time first on their back, then on tummy, in sitting, and in standing to gain stability and confidence with their physical being in order to allow them to achieve stability, then mobility, and then gradual independence.
The Bumbo website claims the following: “The floor seat stabilizes the child into slight hip flexion, placing the pelvis in a slight anterior pelvic tilt which facilitates lumbar extension. This action, combined with the gentle curve of the seat back that matches the natural curve of the rib cage, facilitates the baby around the lower ribs and trunk for stabilization.The Seat allows for active practice of the head and postural trunk control. It also allows a child the pelvic stability needed to get the hands into the mid line for play. Upright positioning facilitates an improved visual field of the environment, improved respirations and breath control, assists a baby who needs to be upright after feeding due to reflux and many other benefits.”
If you actually observe a child seated in the Bumbo, there is no active control being achieved. The child is passively placed in position and then locked in. There is no room to build trunk control or pelvic stability because the Bumbo is fixing the child and thus not allowing any muscle activation or joint movement to occur. The child is basically wedged into the deep seat with his or her legs held at a higher angle then the pelvis. There is no natural weightbearing occurring.
The child has both hands and legs free, so they do not receive proprioceptive input to the joints and muscles. Babies rely on developmental positions (such as pushing up on their tummy or sitting while propping themselves with their arms) to allow for weight bearing across the joints, which provides that proprioceptive input. The access to sensory input from the world around us, be it proprioceptive (body awareness through muscles and joints), tactile (sense of touch) or vestibular (sense of movement) helps create the sensory integration babies require in order to make sense of their bodies and the world around them. By positioning babies in an unnatural posture without access to the sensory input they require for development, we are really doing a disservice and interfering with an important and natural progression of development.
Stayathomepapa.com explains his experience with the Bumbo: “Someone lent me a Bumbo to try out. I thought it was a really cool idea. I sat my child in it around 3 months, and I was thinking, ‘This is great. She can sit there while I practice piano or tabla.’ And then I took a closer look. She looked anything but comfortable. The Bumbo seemed to be almost forcefully holding her in an up right sitting position. My wife looked into it, and sure enough she found many sources that suggested this thing was potentially harmful for her posture, and is likely to delay her ability to sit up on her own. That was the last we saw of the Bumbo. You know, if we can just wait until she’s ready to do stuff, our child will develop just fine. Indeed, at about 5 months she was sitting up on her own.”
The Bumbo is a seemingly convenient option for parents, but is it really beneficial to your child? Why do we want our children to be sitting upright before they are ready?How can they interact with the environment around them, people or places if they are locked in one position, strapped into a chair with no stimulation?
Physical development aside, the Bumbo seat has been proven to be unsafe. The first Bumbo seat recall occurred in 2007, of nearly one million Bumbos manufactured from 2003 to 2007, after reports of at least 17 infants falling out of the Bumbo and suffering skull fractures. In August 2012, another recall occurred of nearly 4 million Bumbo seats after reports of 95 babies falling out of the seat and at least 19 infants suffering skull fractures.
A statement from Bumbo itself read, “Bumbo International Trust is conducting a voluntary recall to add a restraint belt and new warnings to the Bumbo Baby Seat. Infants can maneuver out of or fall from the seat, posing a risk of serious injuries. Working closely with the CPSC, Bumbo has determined that the potential safety issue can be readily corrected in the home by adding a restraint belt. In addition, Bumbo is providing a new warning sticker for consumers to attach to the seat to re-emphasize existing warnings against use of the seat on any raised surfaces.”
From examiner.com: “Rather than using a chair, parents looking for developmental benefits should play with their baby and encourage movement”, said physical therapist Colleen Harper, director of developmental, rehabilitative and child life services at Chicago’s La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
“No equipment enhances a child’s motor development; equipment is a ‘baby sitter’ so that a parent can cook dinner, eat dinner or take a shower,” Harper said. “A gross motor skill like sitting is achieved through movement and practice. Children fall out of Bumbo seats because they do not yet have the requisite strength, balance and coordination needed for sitting.”
In a March 2012 Chicago Tribune article, Mary Weck, the clinical coordinator of Physical Therapy at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago addressed the claims Bumbo made in relation to its product:
Bumbo says: “The seat stabilizes the child into slight hip flexion, placing the pelvis in a slight anterior pelvic tilt which facilitates lumbar extension.”
Weck says: “Actually, it does the exact opposite. It puts the baby’s pelvis in a posterior tilt, which facilitates lumbar flexion, not extension. That puts the baby’s chest behind the pelvis. Then the head has to come too far forward. It’s no longer positioned directly above the chest.”
Bumbo says: “The chair allows a child the pelvic stability needed to get the hands into the midline for play.”
Weck says: “Children don’t need a chair to get their hands in that position. At the age they’re using the Bumbo, they are able to do that in a variety of positions anyway.”
Bumbo says: “Upright positioning facilitates an improved visual field of the environment, improved respirations and breath control and assists a baby who needs to be upright after feeding due to reflux.”
Weck says: “Studies show tummy time is good at stabilizing the visual field of the environment. Research also shows respirations and reflux are better when the infant is prone rather than upright, as long as the baby is in the proper prone position. One reason the chairs tip over is that babies need to move. This chair holds them from getting the vestibular motion they need to give them control of their eyes and other sensory issues. All the benefits you get from moving are inhibited in a chair.”
I hope this article once and for all puts the issue to rest. Bumbo is a no-go.
Photo Credit 1: US CPSC, Photo Credit 2: Abigail Batchelder, Photo Credit 3: John Wright, Photo Credit 4: Joe Cheng, Photo Credit 5:Jeff Boulter, Photo Credit 6: Joe Cheng, Photo Credit 7: Dana, Photo Credit 8: Brett Neilson
One of my favorite creations, the make your own Yoga mat! Each of the cut outs represents a different body part. For example, the small blue circles=elbows, the purple oblong heart=the bottom, and so on…
You can use the cut-outs with a single mat, placing velcro on each one to change up the different poses for new and creative challenges. If you need more explanation of materials and construction to build your own Yoga mats feel free to email me at email@example.com!