Developmental skills | LifeScape

Developmental skills

By Megan Johnke, OTD, OTR/L, Therapy Director, LifeScape

All children develop differently, and a boost here and there can make things go more smoothly! Pediatric therapists from LifeScape have pooled together their top tips to help kids master some important developmental skills.

Balance Bikes: These bikes without pedals allow children from a young age to master balance and steering, and make the transition into pedaling a bicycle much easier. Our favorite is Strider® (they are made in Rapid City!)

Fat Wheels: For those children (and adults) who need more support to ride a bicycle, but don’t need an adapted trike. Fat Wheels are large training wheels that can fit any bike from 16” to 27”. This is a cost effective way of adapting a typical bicycle for those who just need help with balance.

Rocket Laces: These laces are stiffer, but look exactly the same as regular shoe laces. They are sturdy yet flexible to allow novice shoe-tiers to be more successful and less frustrated with floppy laces.

Hickies No-Tie Laces: For kids or adults that are unable to tie shoes, try Hickies no-tie laces. They look cool and come in a variety of styles and colors. Find them locally at Scheels and Menards.

Chewies: Are you tired of chewed collars, shirt sleeves and gnawed pencils? Our occupational therapists recommend pencil topper chewies that are clear, and therefore less distracting to peers. My own 5 year-old prefers his robot or shark tooth chew necklaces, and the girls love the bracelets!

Handwriting Without Tears®: A developmental approach that teaches correct formation and establishes good writing habits from the start! HWT ( has an excellent pre-writing curriculum. It’s so much easier to develop the right habits early than to fix or break them later. Bonus – their website has a ton of free tools for parents!

Pool Noodles: These inexpensive fun toys can be used for all sorts of things! When cut lengthwise, use under baby’s chest to elevate them during tummy time, cushion sharp edges or corners, provide extra support in a highchair, or use as a positioning device (instead of a rolled up towel). They can even be used to cover trampoline springs!

Pictures to communicate: Try this for children struggling to say the name of things they want on a regular basis. Take a picture of the item – milk, water, toys, bath, diapers, favorite snacks, etc. - print them and affix to a magnet and put on the fridge (or somewhere accessible to the child). Have your child choose the item he wants and give it to you in exchange for the real item (while you model saying the word). It will decrease frustration for you both, and actually will encourage expressive speech!