As a pediatric OT who treats many children with sensory and motor difficulties, I am always looking for simple, fun treatment ideas that will make kids feel like they are playing instead of working.
So I was super excited when I was contacted by occupational therapist Francesca Avalli, whose new product combines sensory integration, strengthening, and kid-friendly activities, all in one!
Meet Handee Band.
Handee Band is a cute, fun, powerful program that helps kids strengthen their muscles and their brains! The Handee Band kit is recommended for children approximately 3-6 years old and includes a yellow resistance band with adorable little handprints on it (known as the “Handee Band”) and a book containing 15 “exercises” kids can do with their Handee Band. The book stands up like an easel for easy viewing and flipping of pages and the band provides up to 6 pounds of resistance.
Displayed on each page of the Handee Band book is the name of the exercise, the suggested number of repetitions, step-by-step directions, and a picture of a silly monster completing that particular Handee Band exercise. Here is an example:
At the back of the book are two dry erase checklists where kiddos or grown-ups can keep track of the exercises completed, as well as a dry erase marker, stickers with the names of all the Handee Band monster characters, and a zip pouch where you can store the Handee Band and dry erase marker in order to keep everything together.
Okay, so you’ve gotten the rundown of what Handee Band is and how the book is laid out. You can see that it’s cute and colorful and easy to use. But I bet you’re wondering, What do you REALLY think about Handee Band?
I LOVE IT.
I have been using Handee Band with several kiddos in both my clinic- and school-based settings over the past few months, and it is awesome. The children who have used Handee Band with me vary in their diagnoses, including Autism, Developmental Coordination Disorder, hemiparesis (one-sided weakness), low muscle tone, and Cerebral Palsy.
I am so excited about Handee Band that the OT who created Handee Band, Francesca Avalli, has agreed to partner with Mama OT to give away a FREE HANDEE BAND KIT to one lucky winner! You can enter the giveaway at the end of this post, so keep on reading!
You know what I love about Handee Band specifically?
Handee Band . . .
- is self-explanatory and is always ready-to-go and easy-to-use. Because of the nature of the job, OTs rarely have time to set up elaborate sensory or motor activities and often have to rely on materials they can quickly grab and use without much additional setup. The Handee Band booklet has everything you need, including directions, and requires no setup other than simply getting out the band and opening the book. So helpful when you are working with a fast-paced kiddo or are dashing from session to session without an extra moment to take a breath!
- is light, compact, and mobile. This is SO IMPORTANT for therapists, but especially for school-based therapists who typically have to carry therapy materials with them from site to site while also juggling other bags and binders.
- provides kids the opportunity for “heavy work”. This is so important for our children who seek and crave proprioceptive sensory input to their muscles and joints (what’s that?). Proprioceptive input is important not only for organizing the little bodies that seek that heavy input on a regular basis, but also for those who have difficulty with body awareness, gross/fine motor skills, and those who appear to be generally “clumsy”. Learn more about the benefits of heavy work and proprioceptive input HERE.
- helps kids strengthen their hand, upper body, and core muscles. This is especially great for kids who might not be as willing or able to participate in other forms of strengthening such as playing on monkey bars, doing wheelbarrow walks or crab walks, or digging small objects out of theraputty. The fact that they even have to squeeze the band in order to use it in the first place encourages hand strengthening practice right there! Every single one of the 15 Handee Band exercises challenges kids in their hand, upper body, and core strength and stability which, as we in the therapy world know, plays a huge role in the ability to develop more refined fine motor skills.
- addresses other common areas of challenge such as motor planning, bilateral coordination, trunk rotation, dissociation of left-right and upper-lower body, body awareness, and praxis on verbal command. Motor planning is challenged when kids have to look at the picture or the demonstrator and try to make their body look just like the model’s body (aka – postural praxis). Bilateral coordination is challenged in all 15 exercises, including activities that involve doing the same action with both arms (symmetrical) and doing different actions with both arms (assymetrical which, as you can imagine, is much more challenging). Trunk rotation is involved in many of the assymetrical bilateral exercises, as well as dissociation of the left-right and upper-lower body, which really stretches kids’ ability to perform different actions with the opposite sides or ends of their bodies. An example of this combination of challenges is the Bow & Arrow exercise, which is currently many of my kiddos’ favorite! Body awareness and praxis on verbal command are challenged when the directions are read aloud (without being demonstrated) and kids must figure out how to make their body parts match the verbal directions.
I have been so impressed by Handee Band’s versatility because it can be used to address SO MANY different skills and areas of difficulty, all at the same time!
So how would I suggest using Handee Band in real life?
You could use it as a sensorimotor warm-up activity prior to working on fine motor or handwriting activities. You could use it as a regulating activity as part of a comprehensive sensory diet (what’s that?). You could use it as a heavy work activity prior to requiring a child to sit in therapy or at school, in order to increase their ability to organize their body and attend to the next task. You could use it as a pre-homework or mid-homework sensory/movement break to organize the body and focus the brain. You could use it as a station within an obstacle course or a circuit of therapy stations. I have done this in the clinic, and the kids have enjoyed flipping to the next page of the Handee Band booklet each time they go around the obstacle course. You could use it in individual sessions or even as part of a group session.
And speaking of using Handee Band in groups . . .
I recently ordered an additional 10-pack of Handee Bands (you can order 5-packs or 10-packs in addition to the complete kit from the online Handee Band shop) and have started using this program as part of a weekly sensorimotor group in the special education preschool where I work. We have gotten off to a good start, and I am so excited to see where it takes my students over the course of the next several months!
Handee Band creator Francesca Avalli shared with me that she actually developed this product while she was working in a special education preschool in the Los Angeles area. And now she is actually in the middle of a pilot research study looking at the impact of Handee Band use on preschool-aged children. How cool is that?! I will be sure to keep you posted once results can be shared!
Before I introduced Handee Band to my group of school-based preschoolers, I asked Francesca for some pointers on how to use it in a group setting. Here are some of the tips she shared:
1. Kids love being helpers. Pick one helper to hand out a Handee Band to each member of the group.
2. Take a minute or two to “warm” the body and hands up first…jump up and down, shake and wiggle, open/close hands (you can sing the “Open/Shut Them” song), clap, stomp, shrug shoulders up and down, rub hands together, shake out hands and wrists, wiggle fingers.
3. Now, it’s time for the Handee Band!! Each child can place their Handee Band out flat. Look for and find the Handee Prints.
Now place each hand right on top of the Handee Prints. Ask the group, “Hmmmm……are your hands bigger, smaller, or just right?” Then pitter patter hands or squeeze and release the Handee Prints a few times. “Now you know exactly where your Handee Prints are!!!” Talking about the size, shape, the way the Handee Band feels, or even smells, is a perfect thing to do when learning about the Handee Band. Don’t worry, kids will need reminders of where the Handee Prints are while exercising. Just say, “Don’t forget to find your Handee Prints!!”
4. Now, it’s time for getting stronger with your Handee Band and Handee Band book! Kids love taking turns and flipping the pages, picking an exercise, and showing their friends the pictures in the Handee Band book. This is a great idea when you have time, but when you are short on time, pick the exercises you want to do with the kids and get moving! You don’t have to do all 15 exercises in the book, just the ones you think the kids can do and get done in the amount of time you have. You don’t have to read all the directions, just use the ideas that fit best! Over time, with routine and practice, kids will be able to do more and you can introduce the more difficult exercises, like Over the Rainbow. Have fun, count out the exercises, make sound effects, talk about what the pictures look like, and reinforce slow movements and the importance of big breaths!!
5. When you are done with the exercises you want to do, have a helper collect the Handee Bands. Have the kids look at the checklist with you. Go down the list and ask them the exercises that have been done and then check them off. Kids love being the one to check off the list and maybe the child that worked the hardest can be a “checker helper”. If check marks are hard, make a dot, an X, a circle, or a happy face. Briefly, talk about how hard the kids have worked and the importance of exercise to keep a healthy, growing, and independent body! I always like to talk about why we need strong muscles….to carry a backpack, open a snack box, push a box of toys, to kick a ball, hold a pencil, or to reach up and pick your favorite toy off of a shelf.
Are you not as excited as I am about using Handee Band with the kids in your life?!
So I’m pleased to tell you we are giving away ONE FREE HANDEE BAND KIT to ONE LUCKY READER!
The giveaway kit will include one (1) Handee Band book (which includes the 15 exercises, 2 dry erase checklists, and a page of Handee Band monster character stickers), one (1) Handee Band resistance band, and one (1) Handee Band dry erase marker. This kit normally retails for $24.95 on the Handee Band website, but you can enter for your chance to win it for FREE by submitting your entry in the Rafflecopter box below. And you can even earn multiple entries by completing additional entry options listed in the Rafflecopter entry form. Check it out!
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Open to individuals ages 18 years and older. Must possess valid U.S. mailing address to enter. The giveaway will begin at 12am PST on Sunday morning, August 31, 2014, and will end at 12am PST on Tuesday morning, September 9, 2014. Winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter and will be notified by email within 48 hours of end of contest. Winner will then have one (1) week to respond before an alternate winner is chosen at random via Rafflecopter. Please read FULL RULES BEFORE ENTERING, available in the Rafflecopter widget below.
I am looking forward to continuing to use Handee Band with the kids in my life, and I hope you will consider trying out Handee Band with your kids, too. So whether you win or not, be sure to check out Handee Band online HERE!
*This post was sponsored by Handee Band. However, as I hope you can tell from the post, my interest in and praise for this product is 100% genuine. I only review and promote products I have personal experience with and believe in. I hope this post was helpful and that the child in your life will benefit from their time spent using Handee Band!
Join the newsletter!
Want more handy tips & tricks to help the kids in your life?
Subscribe to Mama OT so you can receive updates about new posts, helpful tidbits & a look at what's going on behind the scenes.