A peanut ball is a versatile therapy tool utilized by both physoitherapists and occupational therapists which can also be used for simple and effective home exercises for your kiddo.
Here are some ways you can use your physio ball or peanut ball at home:
Have your child straddle sitting over the peanut ball with feet planted firmly on the floor. The dynamic nature of the peanut therapy ball will challenge core strength and postural control. In this position you can practice reaching for toys (bonus points if you work on reaching across midline.) You can also try playing catch if your child appears to be balancing well or doing something simpler like reading a book/watching a show if your child is having a harder time balancing.
Have your child lay on their stomach over the peanut ball and plant their hands on the floor in front of the ball. Place toys or something of interest a few feet out in front of the ball. Assist your child (as needed) to maintain balance on the ball and walk their hands forward while rolling over the ball to retrieve the objects you set out. This exercise targets motor planning, core strength, and most of all upper extremity weight bearing/strength! It is similar to wheelbarrow walking with less strain on your back!
Have your child sit in the center of the peanut ball or physio ball with both feet planted to one side (like sitting in a chair.) Place some toys behind the peanut ball towards the right and left sides. Assist your child by holding both knees while they lean back to pick up the objects off the floor and return to the sitting position. This exercise is great for general trunk stability and core strengthening. Have them reach for the toys on the right side with their left hand and vice versa to encourage trunk rotation and more oblique strengthening.
Does your child seek external sensory input and appreciate tight squeezes and deep pressure? If so, the peanut ball is a great tool to provide sensory proprioceptive input for them. To use the peanut ball for sensory input, have them lay on their back or belly on a mat and roll the peanut ball over their body in all directions to provide some deep pressure. This can oftentimes help children calm down when they are feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated.
If your child is efficient with cruising along furniture, a good way to increase the challenge is to have them cruise with their hands on a dynamic surface (like a peanut ball). You can utilize suction toys to place around the ball and have your child cruise along the perimeter of the peanut ball to retrieve toys and work on dynamic balance strategies.
If you have a child who is unable to hold the hands and knees position independently, the peanut ball is a great tool to help. You can place the ball under their belly with their hands and knees on the floor. This position is beneficial for upper extremity weight bearing tolerance and strength. If holding the position becomes easy, you can then work on reaching one arm up at a time to target posterior core strength and functional skills. For an even bigger challenge, you can work on kicking one leg out at a time to strengthen posterior core and hip musculature.
Have your child stand with one foot on the floor and one foot planted on the peanut ball. Hold this position for 10-30 seconds on both sides. If this is too easy, you can always play catch while standing in this position, practice kicking the ball after balancing without letting top foot touch the floor or work on reaching outside of the base of support while balancing. This exercise is a great bridge for kids who are not quite able to stand on one foot yet because it targets hip and ankle balance strategies, strength, and postural control.
As you can see, the peanut ball has a wide range of therapeutic benefits and can be a fun and engaging way to sneak some play-based therapy into your child’s daily routine!
BONUS Video: NAPA Therapist Shares 4 Additional Therapy Ball Exercises/Activities
Karleigh enjoys play based pediatric therapy as it gives her to the opportunity to create both a positive and exciting experience for children. Karleigh works at NAPA Denver and likes to substitute her desk chair for her favorite ball, the peanut ball.