Resistance Bands: Brain-Building Stretchy Band Exercises for Sensory Integration, Motor Planning and Crossing the Midline
This article provides home-based brain-building activities with resistance bands that can help your child with sensory integration, motor planning and other learning benefits. Affiliate links are provided for your convenience.
When working with children who have learning disorders, attention and behavior issues, emotional and sensory overload, and poor motor skills, the best and most effective activities that build neural connections for higher learning provide a combination of heavy work, crossing the midline, core strengthening, sensory integration and motor planning. It’s not always easy to find one item or toy to accomplish all of those learning benefits. However, there are some tools we use on a daily basis that are very versatile and can be used for multiple purposes. Many of these items are simple, easy to use, compact, inexpensive and small so you can help your child in your home.
What’s important to remember is that your child probably only sees their Occupational Therapist or movement specialist two to three times a week. While this is very beneficial, to see additional improvements and greater success within the classroom, parents can do many of these activities during the other days of the week when their child doesn’t have therapy sessions. We encourage all our parents to do several of these activities with their children at home an additional two to three times a week for greater progress.
To accomplish this, one of the items we encourage all parents to have on hand are resistance bands or exercise bands. The wonderful thing about resistance bands is that they are mobile, small, easy to use, and they provide all the benefits we discussed above for your child’s sensory integration, motor planning, hand-eye coordination, proprioception and spatial awareness.
Benefits of Resistance Bands
Children with sensory needs often crave heavy work. Their bodies and their brain need the resistance and stretching to calm down so they can sit still in their chair. If your child doesn’t crave that movement because we’ve already provided it to them, then they can openly engage in learning. Some parents can even send the resistance bands with their child to school and wrap it around the legs of their desk. This gives your child an opportunity to bounce their feet and legs while at their desk so they can fidget while not disrupting other students. It allows them to concentrate and focus on what the teacher is teaching and their instructions for homework. It even allows them to interact better with their peers and develop better social skills with others.
Another reason resistance bands are so important is to help your child’s posture, hand strength, trunk and core strength. Many of our students who struggle in these areas have trouble copying notes from the chalkboard; they struggle with handwriting and fine motor, are often clumsy and lie on their desk as if they were too tired to actively learn in the classroom. Activities with resistance bands can strengthen those core muscles in the body, trunk, hands and neck to improve in each of these areas. It also helps children work their brains back to front, top to bottom and right to left, which as we’ve talked about in other articles, helps your child’s receptive and expressive language, emotional grounding, auditory processing, retention, reading and writing.
Resistance Band Activities
As we said before, resistance bands are versatile and can be used in many different ways. Here are a few exercises we do with our students that can help get you started. However, there are many more that you can try at home with your child.
Stretching Arms and Legs
Start with some stretching exercises that get your child’s arms and legs moving. First, have your child lay on their stomach with their legs bent, feet in the air. Put the resistance band over their feet and have them stretch the band outward with their feet.
For your child’s legs, have them take the resistance band and put their foot in the middle of the band. With both hands, have them stretch it over their foot almost all the way up to their head. Switch feet after holding for a few seconds.
Another activity for the feet and legs is to tie the resistance band at the end so it makes a circle. Have your child put one foot in the band and tell them to use one hand to pull the band toward them. They can even lift their leg higher for a better stretch.
Back Band Exercises
For this activity, have your child lay flat on their back. Tell your child put their legs in the air and stretch the band over their feet with both hands. Pull the band with both hands toward their head. The tighter they pull on the band, the better the exercise. Have them hold for a few seconds before releasing.
Front and Back Arm Exercises
To strengthen your child’s arms and to incorporate front to back activities for building your child’s receptive and expressive language, you can try these two exercises with the resistance bands. First, have your child tie the band at the ends so it makes a circle. Then have your child stretch the resistance band widely as far as they can with their arms. They can be sitting or standing to complete this exercise. Try to have them put one arm in front of the other. Your child can first cross the band in front of their body and then stretch it over their head to stretch the band behind their head.
Leg Lift Resistance
Keep your child’s resistance band tied together in a circle. While your child is standing, have them put one foot inside the band and stretch it to the floor. Have your child’s hands pull the band as high as they can to their chest or toward their head. Then have them slowly lift their leg so their knee is bent. Repeat the exercise and have your child switch legs.
Balance and Coordination Stretch
To improve your child’s balance and coordination, have them sit on an exercise ball if you have one. Then take your resistance band and have your child stretch it behind their head as widely as possible. This gives your child the opportunity to strengthen their core muscle and improve their balance as they stretch the band over their head.
Straight Leg Stretch
For this activity, have your child untie their band. Have them put one end of the band in one hand and the other in the opposite hand. Help them press the band to the floor with their feet while keeping the ends in their hands so it stretches to their hips. When they have that stretch, help them raise the band even higher close to their head to get an even wider stretch.
Crossing the Midline
To help your child cross the midline, have them stand in the same position as above, but bring the band closer to their hips. Then have them cross their arms over each other (right over left). Hold for a few seconds and then have them switch arms.
While your child is standing on the band, have them keep their right leg on the band and move their left leg behind them, crouching into a lunge position. To include a midline stretch with this activity, have them move their left arm over their right arm (opposite feet with opposite arms). When they have held that position for a few seconds, have them switch both legs and arms.
Cool Down Stretches
When your child is ready to finish these activities, have them end with a few of these exercises. First, have them wrap the band over their foot and bend their leg behind them. To get a better stretch, have them bend their leg further behind them and switch legs after a few seconds.
Next, have your child stretch the resistance band over their head behind them as they stand. Lastly, have your child put their foot back in the band and lift their knee toward their chest, similar to the leg lift exercise above.
Additional Learning Exercises
To try more activities that help your child with crossing the midline, back to front exercises, primitive reflexes, heavy work and sensory integration, join our video membership club now to get started with all the exercises we do at our center. We now have three new options available:
- Pick and choose which series works best for you for one price.
- Sign-up for our monthly membership to gain access to each new series on a monthly basis.
- Register for our annual membership to gain access to all the videos we release for the whole year.
Depending on what option works best for you, each series is typically only $1 per video. Each video series allows you to track your progress and reach certain goals you set with your child. To join, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs
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