“I’m Bored”: Down Time and Praxis at Home
As we continue to practice social distancing, we all have a lot more free time on our hands than we are typically used to. While the beginning of quarantine may have been very productive, the motivation for most of us has diminished over the long months. Recently, you may notice that you and your family are having an increasingly difficult time coming up with constructive activities to do and are turning towards technology more and more. This can be particularly true during school breaks that would typically be spent visiting family or traveling, but now are filled with hours of down time. Your children (or spouse) may be coming to you more saying: “I’m bored”, despite having many things to do around the house. This feeling, one we know all too well, can be amplified for children that have difficulty with praxis.
What is Praxis?
Praxis is often associated with motor planning or planning movement, but this is really only the tip of the iceberg. More specifically, praxis is the neurological process where cognition directs motor actions (Ayres, 1985). In other words, praxis is the planning of what to do and how to do it.
In practice, praxis is the complex series of events that an individual’s body must execute in order to produce a desired outcome.
- First, we must conceive the idea of what to do using ideation (i.e. kicking a soccer ball into the net);
- Then, we have to plan how we are going to achieve the desired outcome using motor planning (i.e. giving self a running start and kick with your right foot).
- Next, we need to execute the movement correctly in order to be successful (i.e. kick the ball with enough force and good aim);
- Lastly, we need to be able to reflect on the feedback from the movement to adapt our actions to increase likelihood of success for the future (i.e. kick the ball harder using a longer running start);
For most people, praxis is a complex process that we take for granted since it occurs mostly automatically. However, for some children, learning novel activities is something that requires extra practice and effort due to a missing piece in the multi-step process. In today’s society where a lot of activities are planned and video games have rigid objectives and processes, praxis can be underdeveloped simply because it has not been practiced! Think of riding a bike; while most people learn this skill at a young age and practice it throughout their lives, there are adults that have never learned how to ride! Similarly with praxis, if we didn’t learn and practice this skill as children, we may not have developed it fully. Either way, working on praxis can help everyone, especially when we think of what to do in down time.
Signs of Praxis Difficulty
If your child is having difficulty with praxis, you may observe:
- Difficulty learning new motor skills or requiring more practice time than their peers (i.e. riding a bike, learning a dance, etc.).
- Appearring clumsy or uncoordinated.
- Unable to follow multi-step directions to complete a physical task (i.e. an obstacle course). This becomes particularly apparent with verbal cues (instead of visually demonstration)
- Avoidance of gross motor or novel activities.
- Difficulty retrieving the right materials for a play activity.
- Appearance of laziness and incomplete work (Caused by not knowing how to start).
- Failure to perform movement(s) safely.
- Difficulty knowing where their body is in space.
- Frequent falling, tripping, or bumping into obstacles.
Praxis Difficulties & Technology Use
Simply put, technology is both a blessing and a curse. Even prior to the pandemic, balancing technology and physical play was a common concern voiced by parents. However, during the pandemic, the world has increased its reliance on technology to include almost all daily functions. From attending remote school to having virtual holiday parties, technology has become one of the only outlets to safely interact with the people around us. With this increased reliance on technology, children and parents are having an increasingly difficult time separating the now blurred boundaries between productive technology use and “down-time” technology use. Video games and YouTube videos are a preferred activity for children with praxis difficulties because it eliminates the need to come up with activities to do independently. Technology use also fulfills our natural need for stimulation and impacts the pleasure systems of the brain by releasing dopamine and can, therefore, become addictive. In addition to making children feel good, it is often used more so as a crutch for children with praxis difficulties due to their difficulty with planning and executing activities. Methods to decrease technology reliance include but are not limited to: setting “tech free” breaks, fostering motivation by including siblings, giving explicit ideas of activities, encouraging outdoor play, and setting expectations for screen time and down time.
Home Praxis Activities
Try these activities to try at home to increase praxis skills:
- Simon Says
Can help improve ability to spontaneously movement plan and improve body awareness.
- Floor is Lava
Can help to improve ideation and problem solving skills determining safe and efficient ways to avoid touching the floor.
- Unstable Obstacle Course
Create an obstacle course with unstable surfaces: walking or climbing over unstable surfaces is a great way to increase strength and motor plan unpredictable movements.
Increase body awareness while building upon the problem solving skills to determine the best way to move your body with obstacles.
- Yoga Cards
In addition to the many benefits of yoga, it challenges the ability to process and motor plan actions by giving a visual demonstration of the movement.
- Animal Walks
Increase problem solving and ideation naming an animal and having your child act out how the animal would move.
- New Card Game
Learn a new card game and teach the family
- Heads Up
This is a great way to help your child learn how to describe a particular topic/word
- Mix ‘N Match
Give your child 5 items and see how many different ways they can use them! For example play dough, a coin, a string, a cup and a marble!
Can help improve ideation of desired movement and increase problem solving and processing when conceptualizing the other person’s movement.
Create your own game! Don’t forget to tag us @SascoRiver in your creations.
Tips for Praxis
Tips for children with praxis difficulties
- Use “first, then” language
This helps the child understand what sequence they need to complete the demand. For example, “first have a snack, then start your homework.”
- Break instructions into parts
Instead of saying, “go and get your shoes and backpack and go outside”, say “get your shoes”. Once that direction is accomplished, you can continue to the next direction, “get your backpack”, and etc.
- Give visual cues
Children with praxis difficulties can rely heavily on their visual system to “mimic” novel motor actions. Giving a visual cue for an action will increase the ease of processing the movement.
- Physical cues
Physically guide the child through the action so that they can learn what the movement feels like.
Practicing the movement allows for increased success rate and increased confidence.
Adapt to Praxis challenges during long breaks from school with these tips:
- Activity Bingo
Use a blank bingo board and put different activities for your child to do in them, you can even have them help you fill it out. You can give a little extra “tech time” or other reward every time they get Bingo!
- Make a visual “menu” of activities
Sometimes it is helpful for children to visually “see” options
- Make a new game!
Keeping things new and novel can increase motivation to participate, including others can also help. For example, have your child make a scavenger hunt for other family members and then take turns doing the scavenger hunt. The act of making it works on praxis and increases the time engaged!
- Have your child “video” their activity to send to family members
While this uses some technology, helping your child feel connected to others while doing a physically engaging activity can be more regulating than simply using technology.
- Make a visual schedule
This can help children to visualize when it is time for “tech” and time to engage in other activities. While we typically think of this for scheduling extracurriculars, it can also help to know when it will be time for their “preferred” down time activity is within the house
If you’re interested in learning more about praxis, see these resources:
- Ayres, AJ (1979). “Sensory Integration and the Child”. Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.
- Kids Sense. (2020). “Planning and Sequencing (Praxis)”. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/organisation/planning-and-sequencing-praxis/
- Mennillo, M. (November 28). PRAXIS: IT’S NOT JUST MOTOR PLANNING. Retrieved December 16, 2020, from https://occupationaltherapychildren.com.au/praxis-its-not-just-motor-planning/