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Using the Nintendo Wii in Occupational Therapy

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Here we are in the beginning of Fall and some kids are in full sports mode playing soccer or baseball. While the weather is still nice we encourage our kids to get outside and play. But, soon Fall turns into Winter and the kids are inside looking for some ways to play and entertain themselves and they may ask “Mom\Dad, can we go on the Wii?”

Initially we may say “no” because we don’t want to encourage “screen time”, however with a little ingenuity and creativity the Nintendo Wii can be turned into a powerful therapeutic tool. The Wii and Wii Fit games come packaged with numerous activities for strengthening and aerobic activity such as yoga and running. They were designed to be played as you would naturally play any sport. This may become trite over time, so let’s change it up to be more innovative, dynamic and even therapeutic.

To work on shoulder or neck strengthening, try the Wii Fit board.  For the soccer game (in the balance game section) for instance, you can get on your hands and knees, place and push your weight over your hands and try to play the game that way. This encourages neck extension and shoulder strengthening. Still too easy?  Then put your feet\knees on a low chair or low stool and your hands on the board to maintain your full body weight on your hands for a harder challenge.

Looking to gain endurance, try the running game. Instead of running on the floor try standing on a mini trampoline and jump\bounce, or do jumping jacks for the duration of the game. Try sitting on a therapy ball and bounce for extra sensory input. Bouncing on a large ball works with many children who can’t run. You can even put the Wii in front of your treadmill and exercise while playing the game. You can really simulate those hills!

Can’t stand for long periods of time? Then place the Wii board on a chair and sit on the Wii board. Shift your weight from side to side to make the characters move.

If you are playing the Sports games such as baseball, boxing, bowling, you can increase the challenge by putting on wrist weights. Try to improve balance to play the games while standing on a Bosu ball or other unstable challenging surface. This way you are activating your core muscles as well as your shoulder and hand muscles.

There have been studies that indicate that exercising while using virtual reality systems, such as the Wii, tend to be more engaging, interactive, absorbing and FUN! Therefore, people are willing to spend more time and work harder at home exercise programs that include interactive games compared to those exercises that do not include such activities. Your child’s therapist can always recommend specific games and adaptations to meet your child’s individual needs.

So now when the kids ask “Can I play on the Wii?” you can safely respond yes knowing that with a little creativity and ingenuity they are getting a good therapeutic work out.

Gershon Kravetz MS\OTR\L

This entry was posted on Thursday, October 7th, 2010 and is filed under Boost Gross Motor Coordination & Rhythmicity.

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