MUSCLE STRENGTHENING: KICKING THE LEGS

STRONG LEGS FOR ROLLING, CRAWLING, AND WALKING

Ivan learns “Left-Right-Left-Right-Left-Right!”

Ivan received his second lesson at six weeks.  Both parents enjoy watching his lessons and were present that day.  He was laying on the floor listening to the bell inside the rattle and kicking his left leg…left-left-left-left-right.  They said he was kicking quite a bit, but favoring his left leg.  Ivan continued to play with a different rattle, delighted at the chop-chop sounds of the wood blocks.  When the rattle dropped out of his hand, he would start kicking his legs, or at least the left one.  Left, left, left, right, left, left left, right!  “How do we get Ivan to kick his right leg as much as the left one,”  I could hear his parents thinking.  Most people think the obvious solution is to strap a little weight on his tiny right leg or to hold the left one still so he could only move the right one.  Isn’t that the solution – to work on strengthening the weaker leg?  Let’s see what happened with Ivan during his lesson.

We started by working with his left leg – yes, the one that was stronger and more active.  We started by gently squeezing the leg so he could feel it very clearly. Then we began bending and straightening his leg.  I was talking to him the entire time:  “Ivan this is your left leg, we are bending your left leg, and now straightening your left leg.”  Ivan’s face was very focused, it was clear that he was paying attention to the sensation of his leg moving and the pressure from the squeezing. His proprioception of the active leg was improving. I continued for a couple of minutes with only that leg.  Once the more active leg is clearer in his own body image or feeling, then he can improve the kicking of the less active right leg.  As a reward, I let Ivan rest and shake the rattle for a minute or two.  I began working with the right leg next, repeating the squeezing, bending, and stretching.  These slow movements focused Ivan’s attention on this leg.  And, then, all of a sudden he began to kick the right leg much stronger than before…and then he was kicking right, left, right, left, left, right, left, right, etc.  He was now using his right leg more often and with more strength.  His father noticed immediately, “Look, he’s kicking his right leg more!”  So, we see that Ivan’s less active leg improved by working first on the more active leg.  By firmly squeezing the leg that was easier to move, Ivan learned to feel his leg much more clearly (proprioception), which helped him to improve his motor skill of kicking.  All the hours spent kicking develop strong leg muscles, the first step toward achieving the motor milestones of rolling, crawling, and walking.

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