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May 13, 2022

The Case of the Clumsy Child

Have you ever noticed that some kids just seem to be accident prone? They trip and fall over air, do not have much coordination, and do not seem to move as fluidly as other children, why is this?

 

Well, there are quite a few reasons why a child (or an adult) is clumsy. It can be so difficult and tiresome trying to prevent your clumsy kid from hurting themselves, but understanding the reasons for their clumsiness can help you target activities to help improve their deficits. 

 

Poor Proprioception

Proprioception is one of our eight senses and it helps us know where our body is in space. If you close your eyes, you know where your foot is and where your head is or if you spin in a circle, you know when to stop to get back to your starting place. This sense helps us keep a proper distance from other people and things in our paths.

Clumsy kids might struggle with this sense but you can work on it by incorporating lots of weightbearing activities like crawling, climbing, pulling a full wagon and wheelbarrow walking. Also, play games like simon says and sing hokey pokey to bring more awareness to each body part, it is fun and inviting and a great mind and body exercise for kids!

 

Poor Balance

If a child isn’t able to stand up straight or balance on a bumpy surface without falling, then yes they appear very clumsy. While their actions are normally attributed to climsiness, it could be that they have a weak vestibular sense, which helps them receive information from their movements. In children, poor balance can be caused by frequent ear infections or fluid in the ears since the vestibular sense is housed in the inner ear.

They might also have poor balance from muscular weakness in their core and legs. To improve these weaknesses, incorporate lots of movement that encourage squatting and standing, rolling, swinging, and changing positions (another thing to fill all that free time with, right mama?). Some examples include squatting to clean up all of their toys and putting them into a bin on a table. You can also try yoga or homemade obstacle courses to encourage different body movements and work on balancing through exercise. Finally, venture outside and encourage your child to walk or run across the grass, bumpy sidewalks, or sand at the beach for some great balance practice. 

 

Visual Issues

Vision plays a vital role in how we take in and process the world. The obvious part to that is that a child has to be able to see or have 20/20 vision to be specific. But theres more to vision than meets the eye (We love a good pun!). Depth perception and visual tracking are two key areas of visual development that mature over time and if theyre not up to speed, clumsiness will ensue. Depth perception begins developing around 4 months, especially during tummy time practice. Crawling is also a really important time that depth perception matures. 

 

What you can do? Bring back crawling and tummy time into play (it doesn’t matter that your child isnt a baby anymore!) Play games on your bellies and crawl around the room during a game of chase (you’ll even feel your muscles working hard!). Go outside and blow bubbles up into the air and have your child watch them fall, trying to pop them as they come closer. Play a game of I-Spy to track items around the room and encourage doing mazes and connect-the-dot worksheets. If your child is really struggling in this area, a developmental optometrist is a good specialist to see along with a specialized vision therapist. 

 

Bottom line: All kids fall- and can fall frequently, but if you see your child falling more than most of his or her peers, try to incorporate some of these activities to help improve their daily function and balance. 



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Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

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Hi there!

We’re Allison & Mary.

Over the past decade, we’ve talked with hundreds of parents and educators who want to help their kiddos stay on track developmentally.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it are two entirely different things. So they often feel a bit lost and a lot frustrated.

We created Tots on Target to bridge the gap between parents and pediatric professionals so we can all work together to support every child’s development.

Allison Mell (L), Doctor of Physical Therapy 

Mary Deutsch (R), Licensed Occupational Therapist

Trusted by 100K parents and counting.

 

@totsontarget

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