Wednesday, December 21, 2011

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This two year old did great following directions and repeating words. I figured out that she wouldn't repeat words unless I moved the holder out of her range, so that she had to repeat the color before I brought it closer for her to insert the pin inside. She seemed interested in naming colors, so that's what I worked on to evoke speech.  When finished she did great putting the pins inside the storage container.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011



I am a hippotherapy/therapeutic riding book junkie, so am delighted to add this resource to my collection. This book is a compilation of yoga like poses with clear directions on how to assume and hold them, breath, how many times to repeat movements and what the benefits are.
I work with very young children who would probably not understand the photographs, but therapists can use this book with older children to assist in explaining the poses and make a copy to practice a special pose at home. I envision children with motor planning impairments and decreased strength using these activities to increase motor skills and body awareness.Certainly, riders seeking to reduce pain will find this book helpful and the instructor can tailor these poses according to the individual's diagnosis or goals. My back feels better, just from looking at the photos!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Vibrating ring Stack

I made this vibrating ring stack by push the motorized pen into a swimming noodle (throwing away the pen point). I knit a holder that the noodle is inside of out of trash bags but one can come up with an easier way to rig this up so that its attached to the tack. Maybe just tie something around it and attach a clip.
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The kids all loved this, it really holds their attention and quite a few said "more". It tends to require using both hands, one stabilizing while the other places the ring. One girl stood on top of the horse reaching high to grasp the ring and then squatting to place it over the noodle.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Promoting Speech with Recorder

It was a beautiful sunny day, pretty warm for November in Massachusetts and sunny enough so that I needed my sun glasses. This 2 year old independently opened and closed the zipper to take my glasses out and put back in the case.

The most fun thing I did today was have a 3 year old (who has down syndrome) repeat what she did into the tape recorder which I played back for her mom later. She mostly repeated one word at a time but did string the phrase "I did it".  Her mom heard a recording of her saying  " five sit ups" and "I went up hill" and "I was kneeling". I am going to do this regularly. These phrases will become more familiar and with practice hopefully she will repeat an entire phrase rather than one word at a time.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Week Hippotherapy

videoI am always looking for ways to promote bearing weight on hands . This little girl avoids this and often curls up her fingers to avoid touch to her palms. But she tolerated when I pushed her hands down on the sqeaky toys I sewed inside a felt bag.

videoIt was great to hear this litle girl vocalize. I know that this doesn't exactly look like a turkey but I think it passed the sensory fun test. She used both hands together nicely and pulling the clips strengthens hands.  Quite a few kids liked using this "remove the turkey feathers toy" this week.....vibration and shiny lights usually work well...... 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pig Picture

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This little girl loved attaching the baby animal pictures to the back of the  large mommy animal pictures. In the process she got to work on postural control as she reached for the smaller picture on the croup and the bigger one that I held up on the mane (requiring her to post).

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Holder attached to pole

videoI attached a pole inside a coffee can filled with cement to stabilize it and can now use it in various activities. This video shows how I use it for a reacgubg abd insertion activity while on the horse. I cut away the bottom of a gallon water jug and slipped it onto the pole through the spout. The yellow swimming noodle covering the pole below it helps to keep it in place.  
This girl in the video is facing backwards. I can vary the challenge by placing the pole/bottle in different locations or have her face sideways reaching to the sides or behind her (great for trunk rotation). Varying the pole's height also allows the therapist to individualize the activity. I can require her to post to reach for the balls while facing forwards or even use the activity while kneeling or dropping them in the holder while standing on top of the horse.
I think that therapists may find this activity useful working with children while on a trampoline or other land based movement apparati. Present the balls to the child's right hand to place in the holder positioned left of the trampoline and then reverse to move left to right. After some success have the child jump ( I like having them count to ten or recite the alphabet so that there is an end) and then stop to do the ball placement activity again. Of course, you can do this same activity tossing balls into large boxes-working on different skills.  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Whoopee Cushion Fun

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I guess I get excited when my kids do well with my activities !

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Some interesting movements near the end of this video where they help the little girl perform kicks while grasping the vaulting circingle. I have never had a child face backwards while standing during the walk. Good idea.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gret rotation

There are so many opportunities during hippotherapy to work on rotation, visual fixation and tracking, cause and effect, reaching and balance. Turning around to touch the ball and then hearing the squeak (staff squeezes and squeaks the ball) works on all of these skills..........

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tactile Ball Basketball

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Tactile balls that feel good to squeeze or pull apart are fun to use during toss activities. They are often calming to squeeze helping kids to focus. Some kids may not like a particular texture but will tolerate it when using it in a basketball game. The girl in the video has a bit of gravitational insecurity so I love activities that promote reaching out of her base of support.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bilateral pin removal activity


I came across this battery operated toy in the discount bin. It has flashing lights on the top and when you grasp the base and raise your arm - it reminds me of the statue of liberty. (Its supposed to be a July 4th  celebration novelty item). I found that the orange cone fit perfectly and I taped it in place. Next I clipped on the clothespins for the kids to remove and drop into the basket attached to the tack. some kids did this as the horse walked. One girl did this while squatting on top of the horse. Another faced backwards and had nice trunk rotation as she reached behind to drop the pins in the basket.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Rotating Ball to develop motor planning

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This ball rewards children who manipulate it by making a squeak. One boy enjoyed doing this repeatedly laughing while I counted 30 squeaks. This little girl is working on using her hands together and motor planning.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Connecting Rings to Toss

I was pleased to find that this client was able to easily fasten the ends of the rings. She enjoyed tossing them and placing them on our heads ! and then







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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Color Matching Activity

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You'll hear me yapping away throughout this short video, trying to get my client to speak. He was actually too busy thinking about how to color match and manipulate the cord.
Sometimes I think that I talk too much and therefore, the child doesn't have an opportunity to talk, but when I want them to do a motor activity, I find that the kids who avoid using their hands by talking- become better focused on the task if I talk nonstop -then they can't talk and they end up doing the activity.  Hope this makes sense.....

Monday, August 22, 2011

Opening Up Cloth Rings

videoWhat a great day at Divinity Farm! Farm owner and riding instructor Maria Hurley had made a beautiful obstacle course with flowers in the cones.  I was pleased to find a mailbox attached to the fence, so I will think up some fun activities to use with it.
I made these sock rings by filling them with plastic bags and stitching the ends. I made sure that they were not to stuffed, so that I could attach them into a chain as shown in the video. This reminds me of the daisy chains made to decorate walls at parties. I thought that it would be a great motor planning skill to open each up before placing on the pole or a ring stack. This client actually did a few by himself,  not captured on video but you can see how he was interested in doing this.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A cute activity to motivate client to kneel. I like doing lots of transitions from sit to kneeling, kneeling to standing, squat to stand etc.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Lacing shapes during walk

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I usually stop the horse to do a fine motor activity but this  little guy was able to do it while we continued walking. I was very pleased with how focused and motivated he was and how his coordination had improved since he struggled to do this six months ago when the horse was just standing still. I cut the donut shapes out of detergent bottles and the cord is tied to the bottom of a bag I knit.

Strenghtening legs-Using Whoopee cushion

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This 2 year old must have posted (standing with feet in stirrups) about a hundred times. He did it while the horse walked up and down hills. I only stopped the horse while catching it on film. This is a great activity to strengthen legs, motor planning and having fun so that you can convince your client to do even  more challenging movements. My volunteers had a great time and I am happy when they are-since I want to keep them working with me for a long time....../

Monday, August 8, 2011

The client who  was resistant to prone positioning last week, asked to do so today! It was a challenge to teach her how to extend her head and arms like superman while I counted to 10, but she understood what I wanted and held the position briefly independently. Maybe next time we can add leg extension to fly!

 I printed these vehicle pictures off the internet and covered them with contact paper to make them sturdy. I had a 7 year old boy with autism in mind when making these, knowing that he likes trucks, tractors, airplanes, wagons etc. But actually these were great in getting the little girl to articulate some S and F sounds when inserting the fire truck and snow shovel pictures. I am also working on teaching them to fold them in half in order to make them fit through the opening.

It was a very good day for a client who gets easily agitated. I am working on gentle pats and rubs rather than slapping the pony and time spent squeezing a puff ball seemed to help too him to be nice to the pony, too. He enjoys being on his belly and when finished and sitting up again he followed directions to ask "give me the ball please".....one of the longest sentences I can recall hearing him use.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I usually put the clips on the mane so that children need to poast to reach them, but this little girl doesn't have the strength to do that, so instead she enjoyed removing them from the reins and inserting them into the blue and yellow bags that I made and clipped onto the tack.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I like how they have a variety of pole activities. My husband just made some for me. Now I need to add cones, rings, and containers to catch bean bags. How else can they be used??
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkpA4srcNJghttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkpA4srcNJg

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy and Sad Faces

I have to say that these are the worst pictures I have ever seen of myself. But the kids loved pointing to the happy face when I asked them if they were happy, or if the toy animals were happy or if the horse they were on was happy. Some verbalized "happy" and others pointed to the happy photo. but they all thought the pictures were funny.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Raggedy Annie gets Therapy

 I brought in a raggedy annie doll to role model position changes and help my clients let go of the handle during movement. The girls did a good job of holding the doll in front of them while the horse walked so that they could work on postural control without grasping the handle. The little girl shown here is usually unwilling to let go of the handle during the walk but after having her move the glitter wand up and down stationary she did it during the walk.
My other client tolerated (after much coaxing) the prone over barrel position. She got a kick out of my doing therapy with the doll , having the doll in prone position, too. I think that the doll is going to be quite useful in many different ways.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hipoptherapy helps children with Hemiplegia



An adorable 2 year old with  right hemiplegia was on my case load today. He is pretty good at using the right hand even though its in a splint (given some encouragement). He especially liked grasping the glitter wand and used both hands to raise it up and down. He did nice reaching using only his right to touch a squeaky ball (a dog toy). The game consists of me making the ball squeak when he touches it and then I move it all over the place so that he works on range of motion.  I also used the ball to provide some support while weight bearing while facing sideways. This works even better when walking uphill so that more weight goes on that hemiplegic side. I have to add that he posts quite well.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fun Fidget Toy

I pulled out one of my many fidget toys to use during hippotherapy but this can easily be used off horse as well.  It can be used to teach concepts of big and little, open and closed, in and out while at the same time working on motor planning skills. All of my 2 year olds found it fun to manipulate while facing sideways and backwards, allowing me to work on postural control as they let go of the handle in order to play.
Vision, Movement and Learning: Activities that Promote Reading Readiness
http://www.brighthub.com/education/special/articles/121233.aspx

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fishing Game

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This is always a nice summer time sequencing activity to promote using hands together, reaching, following directions and balance. I made the fish out of yellow detergent bottles and used a bingo magnetic wand. The folding basket is from a dollar store and I clipped it onto the tack with a shower ring.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Good Tactile Day

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 It was a very good day for weight bearing and touching the tactile toy shown in the photo below (he usually does not like this texture). I can usually get the most resistant child to weight bear on hands while facing backwards as the horse walks uphill. The glitter wand was also a big hit since it is so visually stimulating. One little girl was willing to let go of the handle in order to play with it. Another child held it while he was kneeling and the horse was stationary. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reaching for pins on mane and color matching

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I like activities that involve reaching and balance and also work on cognitive skills such as matching colors as shown in this hippotherapy video.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Removing Toys from Sand


 I always have a few planned activities up my sleeve but it was nice to do something spontaneously. A 2 year old  has been saying "leaf" and trees" and getting all excited about the vegetation. So I made an activity that involved reaching for a leaf and inserting into a basket attached to the tack. He loved it and imitated some numbers as I counted them. As planned I asked clients to remove small toys inside the shown container filled with sand. Nobody was willing to feel around inside to remove them but tolerated (with exressions that said "this is yucky") placing them in the basket. I can certainly tell who is tactile defensive while doing this activity. I recall my son (who is now 23 years) spending many happy hours with his hands shifting sand. He was the opposite extreme and loved feeling different textures. He found it relaxing and he still does, but now he whittles wood and other repetitive crafts :)


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Squeeze Pins into Bottle

videoLast week I hung these bottles on the trees and fence and asked the children to take out toy animals. This week  I attached clips and asked them to pull them off and insert inside-working on counting and speech. Most of them seemed to enjoy this...Next time I may work on color matching putting red clips in a red bottle and blue clips in a blue bottle. My 2-3 year olds are a bit two young to expect them to squeeze and attach the clips but I work with one almost 3 year old who just might be able to do that :)    

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Feeding the Puppy




This activity was a hit with the 2-3 year olds. One of the moms gave me a bag of play doh can lids figuring I would find something useful to use them for. Then I came across a packaging box with a picture of a dog on it. I adapted the box to make it a bit smaller and cut a slit where the dog's mouth was so that the play dough lids fit through.
I realize now that it would be more fun to cut plastic pieces in the shape of dog bones. This will be easy to cut out of the food container lids that come in all different colors, You will see in the video that I attached some cord for storing the "dog bones". The kids loved this so much- some did it while kneeling, standing on top of the horse and while prone over the horse's barrel-all while stationary.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Great Visual Attention

I love seeing children on the autism spectrum visually attend as they look for toys or objects. This child is looking for the bottle that he knows has a toy turtle inside. I several of different colors around the arena. 

I tried to engage him in the game of take the toy and put it in a different bottle- but he wasn't going to give up the turtle.....We still had fun and worked on following directions.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Putting toy Animals in and out of bottles on the Trail

I attached bottles to branches along the trail and had children either remove the animal from the bottle to hold and then put in the bag or put the animal back inside the bottle. This worked on eye-hand coordination and spatial relationships since they had to position the animal to fit inside the bottle. This activity was fun and distracted some of the 2 year olds who were crying a bit today. A few of them were naming the animals and several said bye bye to the toy. My long term goal is to have them pull the reins and stop when they see the bottles. A couple of kids touched the reins when I asked them to stop. The bottles are easier to see than when I placed the animals to find on the ground and I love seeing them use their hands together to insert and remove toys.


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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Counting and Number Recognition

An almost 3 year old didn't want to put his helmet on today (which was unusual) so we walked on the trail with me handing him toy animals to position along the route. His twin brother was able to then find the toys and put them in a bag as he rode his horse. After 15 minutes my little guy not only mounted and rode-he picked up the numbers that I named, out then in a container and then imitated me as I clapped the corresponding number of times (using only the 1,2,3,4, and 5). I was very impressed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

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Squeezing clothespins is a great activity to strengthen fingers and develop coordination between the index and middle fingers and thumb. Pulling the pins off the mane is a fun way to engage in squeezing pins and it doesn't hurt the horse! Notice all the postural control my almost six year old client is demosntrating as he reaches for the pins.

Lots of arena designing this week at DivinityFarm as I attached my home made (knit out of trash bags) basket for tossing activities. I have a bag of weirdly textured balls (i.e. koosh, squishy etc) all ready to use.


I made this stop sign out of a red manilla folder. I figure the octagon red shape with the word STOP is pretty basic in terms of learning to read, learn about danger and follow directions to pull/reins and stop. It will be interesting to see if our work during hippotherapy helps one of my clients learn to recognize and respond to the word STOP.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bearing weight on forearms while supine with knees bent

I have never worked on this postion, but it looks great for weight bearing and at the same time the rider can work on head control while looking around.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Motor Planning to Rake

Today was the first time I had an opportunity to involve a client in raking manure. I did the raking but had him place both hands on the pole and he did most of the lifting to reach the wheelbarrow. This 6 year old on the spectrum has low tone, postural control and body awareness. He started leaning on me while mounting the steps and when I moved away he collapsed onto the ground. So it would be fantastic for his body awareness to independently shovel and I think he understood why this needed to be done.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Wind Up toys

I came across this little wind up horse and thought- what a great fine motor skill to work on with the 3-4 year olds. I found that I could also work on using the hands together to hold the plate while the horse is dancing. This took some bilateral coordination and postural control while stitting on the stationary horse. but watching thehorse dance was very stiulating and motivational.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pointing the Way


Hippotherapy is a great treatment tool used to teach children how to point. I began working with a new six year old client this weak who has autism. He knows how to point but seems to not want to bother doing it. He is quickly learning that I stop the horse movement when he ignores my directions and that he gets rewarded with trots when he communicates. I stopped the horse in a position so that he had a choice of pointing to go up a hill (which he likes) or into a fence and I modelled pointing up the hill. He is able to clearly indicate what he wants by lifting his arm up high and pointing. At other times he tried to get away with a tiny index finger point while holding onto the handle. This was only his second lesson, so I think he will learn that if he wants the horse to move, I want a really clear cut arm in the air point. We will work on both pointing to go places and pointing to choose and remove pictures from a velcro board.

These same principles of demanding that the child work to the best of his ability is beautifully elaborated in the book The Verbal Behavior Approach. Mary Barbera explains that once the child demonstrates the ability to articulate words, we should never settle for sloppy approximations. I also strive to have the child increase the volume so that the horse can hear "go" and other directions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reaching Out of Base of Support ROOBOS

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I worked with a 2 year old today who just loved my squeaky ball. I can't show his face because I didn't have permission, but you can just imagine how much fun he was having reaching to touch the ball and hearing the squeak. this is a great way to have fun, working on reach, balance, following directions and postural control and he even signed to keep going more.....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hippotherapy diver

I like this "diving" move that promotes biilateral integration and postural control.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHmP2YMKPSQ

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sword Activity to Develop Visual Motor Skills and Bilateral Coordination during Hippotherapy

I bought this sword at the dollar store. They are sold in different lengths so you can purchase and adapt according to the child's needs. I cut rectangular pieces that fit over the sword tip so that it can be used like a ring stack. I try to have the children orient the shapes to fit easily over the sword with the longer sides matching, although as you will see in this video they mananged to get some shapes on even when not correctly positioned. (this can be fixed by having shapes with smaller openings....but then it would require greater motor control)

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I placed the shapes inside the pocket that I sewed on top a towel so that they have to pull them out. First I introduce this activity with the towel in front of them, then to make it more challenging I place the towel behind the child so that he or she needs to reach behind to pull the shapes out of the pocket. Swords are fun toys since kids are familiar with them from watching movies and they seem to motivate more than the usual ring stack does-and they get to practice using both hands together.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Horses Like Vibration too!

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I use a lot of vibrating toys with my hippotherapy kids, especially the kids on the autism spectrum who seem to find vibration relaxing. The sound attracts their attention, helping them to focus and the input makes ordinary activities more exciting. Here is a video of Maria Hurley, my hipoptherapy partner giving her horse some vibration in preparation for hippotherapy work.
I use the Princess Wand which vibrates as a ring stack. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Jumping Cow

I really appreciate having access to horses after seeing this cow!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stringing Shapes

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Stringing these flat plastic pieces with large holes and using thick cord teaches the stringing concepts that prepare children to string beads. The flat plastic won't roll away and its easy to grasp as you teach the child the motor planning sequence, I attached the bottom of the cord to a small bag I knit and clipped that onto the tack handle to use during the riding sessions. I like to stop on the trail especially on a beautiful sunny day like today and offer a fine-motor activity.  This girl was about 20 minutes into the session, so had a lot of great sensory input that helped her to focus and persist on a challenging task. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Squeaky Toy to Promote Hand Use

This is a pillow with two attached  dog toys that squeak when pressed. First I put each toy inside a sock and then I sewed the sock onto the pillow. I created this to encourage weight bearing, especially with kids who don't want to touch anything. But today it came in very handy when working with a two year old blind little girl. She loved hearing the sounds while I helped her to press. She also loved the basketball hoop that makes sounds when pressed or a ball is inserted.This weight bearing toy is especially successful when going uphill with the child facing backwards since gravity then helps them to bear weight on hands. You can vary the textures for fun.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1 comments:


Corn Fed in IA (Peter D.) said...

awesome idea! I have been looking for a way to adapt puzzles when seeing kiddos on horses! I love the change of visual focus aspect and makes it managable during the session and for storage! Bravo!!

Peter,
I am glad to hear that you like my idea!
Barbara
HorseOT.com

You might also enjoy ideas on my facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Recycling-Occupational-Therapist/113805848640610?ref=ts

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A very good language day

Although I am an OT, I spend a lot of time working on speech, taking advantage of all the sensory stim. Today a little guy with autism who has never spoken to me (he uses a few words with his family) said "bye baby" when I had him velcro a small animal picture onto a large animal picture. He has finally figured out that when the horse stops and I ask him to say go, he needs to make some type of sound, any sound at all and he was pretty good at patting his hand on the mouth going wha wha wha.
A little girl with a neuromuscular disorder has increased her tolerance in only 3 weeks to sitting upright the full session. I realize that her head control is pretty good facing forwards and sideways but really a struggle while facing backwards, even with the pilllow to bear weight on. That gravity is really a challenge. I am going to avoid having her face backwards until I see her head control improve or maybe try stacking 2 boppy pillows in front of her.   

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two types of Ring Stacks

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I make many different types of ring staqacks to use with young children to work on various objectives and make them more interesting. The candy cane shaped ring stack takes a bit more visual perceptual skills to orient the ring and the PCV pipe ring stack develops motor planning skills as the children manipulate plastic pieces to go down. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Feeding Horse Puppet

This was a fun adaptation. A very nice volunteer gave me a horse puppet. I cut a hole inside his mouth and sewed a sock inside. I cut small plastic orange pieces that I call "carrots" and ask the children to feed the pony. The toys travel down the sock. This is a fun diversion to use with fussy kids. It is also good activity to promote language,especially if you make a variety of food items to feed the pony and then try to have them say "yum yum yum". Some children can also doing this game while on their belly (prone over the horse's barrel).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Button Stringing


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One of my favorite clients turns 3 this week and will be stopping hippotherapy. I made a video of him using my new button stringing activity. It works just like stringing beads or larger plastic shapes- but instead of inserting a string, the child inserts a "button" (I cut out of a detergent bottle).  I sewed the end of the cord to the Home Depot apron I was wearing. I like starting out using rigid plastic and then moving onto using cloth pieces with button holes cut out of the centers.