How Sensory Path Products Support Physical Therapy Goals: Bear Paws

This week and over the next few I will be doing a series on The Sensory Path™ products and ways to incorporate them into treatment sessions or activities to address different goals. If you remember several weeks ago in PT Goal Setting for Students, we discussed PT goals and how a student’s goals enable us to track progress as well as assist in directing & guiding our therapy sessions. 

For example, one of the students I see for school-based physical therapy services has a goal to skip 10 feet. 

By the end of 2022-23 IEP year, Name will skip 10’ with only an initial visual demonstration, without loss of balance, and with oppositional extremity movement in 4/5 trials to improve PE skills & overall participation in PE.

Now there are many ways we could address this goal. One of the ways being simply to demonstrate how to skip and to ask the child to attempt. However, as many of the children I see struggle with body awareness, balance, strength, and coordination it’s usually not quite that simple, requiring a lot of practice & repetition.

As skipping is a higher level coordination activity, it often takes modifying or breaking the activity down into smaller chunks in order for a child to perform & have success with the task. For our student to skip, what other gross motor skills would they have already had to master in order to be successful?

They should be able to:

  • Stand on one leg.
  • Hop on one leg.
  • Have minimal to no range of motion restrictions in their shoulders, elbows, hip or knee joints.
  • Have adequate trunk rotation.
  • Coordinate use of opposite extremities (i.e. right arm & left leg; left arm & right leg).
  • Be able to move eyes & turn head to scan the environment for obstacles.

In this example the student has no range of motion restrictions, has adequate trunk rotation, can stand on one leg, can hop on one leg, and can appropriately scan the environment tracking with their neck/head & eyes. The deficit is in their ability to coordinate opposing extremities. 

One of my favorite activities to work on with my kids who are learning to skip is through bear crawling. Bear crawling is a type of animal walk that involves placing hands & feet on the ground and crawling forward using opposite arms & legs. Sound familiar? Babies who have mastered the ability to creep (crawling on hands & knees) use opposite arms & legs. The ability to perform skills involving opposite arms & legs illustrates a good, working communication between the left & right hemispheres of the brain and performing skills such as these continually enhances this communication, improving body awareness, bilateral coordination, left versus right discrimination (differentiating between left & right sides of the body), motor planning/sequencing, and even academic skills.

The Sensory Path™ has an excellent product to practice & promote bear crawling known as…. BEAR PAWS!! The Bear Paws can be purchased separately or as a part of the Going on a Bear Hunt Sensory Path™ and can be arranged in a variety of different layouts. The Bear Paws are super cute and really mimic actual bear paws which truly makes it fun for the kids as they engage in role playing & pretend play as a bear. The Bear Paws also provide a perfect, non-slip visual cue for appropriate hand & foot placement. Some of the paws also ask for a specific hand or foot (i.e. right or left) which challenges left/right discrimination. Furthermore, bear crawling improves trunk rotation and shoulder girdle/core/pelvis/lower extremity strength as well as provides vestibular input and proprioceptive input to joints, especially the upper extremity joints. These are all important & necessary components for skipping! 

It’s crazy to think that such a simple activity like bear crawling can be beneficial in so many ways and in such a manner that it builds skills which can be carried over to other skills…. even one seemingly so unrelated as skipping! 

Check out The Sensory Path’s website for their Bear Paws, Going on a Bear Hunt Sensory Path, and more amazing products! Also check back in the next few weeks for more ideas of how to utilize & incorporate The Sensory Path™ products into treatment sessions or gross motor activities. 

See y’all next week!


Catherine C. Skelton, PT, DPT

Pediatric Physical Therapist

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