With the exhausting therapy schedules faced by children affected with cerebral palsy, many parents think it wise to promote extra rest when they aren’t in sessions or school. However, regular child-like activity and playtime is just as important to children with CP as any other.
Encouraging playful activity can be especially therapeutic for children with CP as it lets them interact with others and the outside world. It also allows them to practice movements they learn in therapy and maintain range of motion.
Fortunately, there are numerous activities for children with cerebral palsy, with more accessible opportunities opening every day for them to take part in traditional sports. So let your kids be kids!
Therapists resoundingly support physical activities for children with cerebral palsy. They often provide a stress-free substitute for therapy sessions, strengthen muscles to counteract the effects of the disorder and build self-awareness.
Before choosing an activity for your child, consider these tips:
Get physical - Most children enjoy normal roughhousing such as swinging, tossing, jumping and somersaulting. The same goes for many children affected by CP. Despite their limitations, you needn’t be worried about hurting them with typical activity. They’ll let you know if an activity is too fast or extreme, and they will enjoy the physical interaction with parents and other children.
Play outside - Being outdoors can be an excellent motivator for children that have difficulty willing themselves to move. Whether it’s taking a ride in a wagon, crawling around to look at new things, or walking with an aid, everything will seem more fun and rewarding for your child outside! Make outdoor play a regular part of their routine.
Play in the water - The kicking and stroking motions of swimming are excellent activities for children with cerebral palsy. These movements can build stronger bones and stretch out tight muscles, while the buoyancy of water will take pressure off their joints.
Flotation aids like life jackets, arm floaties and flippers will make your child feel safe in the water while they play. Even if you only have time for playtime in the bathtub, this can be transformed into productive activity with warm water, bubbles or some toys.
As important as getting children outside for activity is providing them with the proper toys to match and enhance their physical abilities. Next time you’re picking out toys for your child, consider these tips:
Added Stability - Children affected by cerebral palsy can have difficulty moving around or holding themselves steady. So, to maximize their fun, choose toys that will support them and maintain stability while they play. Some examples are bucket swings, tricycles and low ride-on toys.
Toys that Secure in Place - Selecting toys for your child with CP that secure in place can reduce the risk of falls. Due to their difficulty maintaining steady posture, having toys they can grab and hold onto will help them keep a normal position. This way, they can focus their time on playing rather than recovering. Toys with velcro, suction cups and non-skid strips will give them a stable and slip-free play experience.
Easy-to-Hold Toys - Many children with CP also have trouble gripping their toys long enough to play with them. To help with this, look for toys that are easy to hold, like squares, triangles or balls rather than small objects. Even writing instruments are now offered in these adaptive shapes. Inflatable toys can be made easier to hold by slightly reducing the amount of air pressure.
Outdoor Play Sets - Outdoor play sets give your child years of fun while promoting activities to help their strength and motion. Most sets have stations that involve standing, climbing, sliding and stretching. Many modern sets are also handicap accessible and have safety features like harnesses on swings to keep children secure. Best of all, your child will be focused on play instead of therapy.
In addition to these activities for children with cerebral palsy, recreational therapy is now offered in many locations. This type of therapy combines activities that address physical needs with normal leisure pursuits that children might otherwise be unable to participate in.
With modified and customized equipment, children can nowadays take part in a vast array of sports and activities like skiing, biking, basketball, fishing, golf, skating and kayaking.
Recreational therapy can also meet the needs of patients who wish to pursue art and cultural activities, but lack fine motor skills or steadiness. Adaptive sculpting, painting, dancing and art classes can help form essential neurological connections in young minds and give a creative outlet to those who feel trapped by their limitations.
For more information on recreational and adaptive options for your child in your area, visit our resource section.
The CP Help Center can recommend treatment centers in your area, as well as clinical trial programs and legal professionals for those with cerebral palsy caused by a preventable brain injury.
For more information on the causes, treatment options and research related to cerebral palsy, or to speak with a lawyer, contact us today. We are available 24 hours a day to help.