If your child is diagnosed with hypotonia, or low tone, it means that her muscles are looser than normal. She may be unusually flexible or feel floppy when you pick her up. Low tone can make walking and other tasks that require balance and muscle strength difficult. Practicing these skills during playtime using sensory walking activities will help your child gain strength and coordination. These activities may not turn her into an Olympic athlete, but they will help her to run, jump and climb with her peers during playtime.
1. Balance Activities
Children with low muscle tone tend to have issues with balance even after they learn to walk. You can improve your child's balance and decrease the number of times she bumps her head by helping her practice walking on uneven surfaces. Hold her hand as she walks on couch cushions, through shallow water or even on your bedroom mattress. Have her practice walking with one foot in front of the other, as if she were walking on a balance beam. Start by having her walk along a line of tape on the floor if this is difficult for her. Sensory walking activities like these help your child learn to shift her weight and keep her balance as she plays.
2. Texture Walks
Feeling different textures underfoot helps your child get used to walking on different surfaces. In addition to helping her learn to shift her weight properly, texture walking activities help her to be more aware of what is going on underneath her feet and sensitize her feet to different surfaces. It is best to do these sensory walking activities barefoot unless it is unsafe or your child wears corrective footwear. Walk with your child on carpet, grass, smooth rocks, leafy lawns or sandy beaches. If textures in your area are limited, put beans or sand in an outdoor sandbox and have your child walk around in it.
3. Obstacle Courses
Set up an obstacle course for you and your child to complete together. Have her walk or crawl over as many different textures as possible. Set up a ramp for her to walk up and down, a small ledge for her to step over and a bar for her to duck or crawl under. Practicing with a variety of obstacles will help your child develop the strength, balance and coordination to complete physical activities during playtime. Match the obstacles to your child’s abilities and attention span, and help her to complete the obstacles successfully. If she balks at any of the obstacles, either help her through them or move on and attempt them another day.
Jumping is often difficult for kids with low tone. Looser muscles mean their legs have to work harder to jump, and weak core muscles make it more difficult to stay upright. Help your child practice jumping on small trampolines, on a mattress placed on the floor or off of a small curb or step. If she has trouble jumping by herself, have her bend her knees and support her under her arms as she jumps. Help her to get down on all fours and try to jump like a frog. Both frog jumping and supported jumping will improve your child's balance and strengthen her leg and core muscles for walking and playing. Getting used to the sensation of leaving the ground and landing again will help your child become more comfortable climbing and moving her body through space.
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