Low Muscle Tone

By June 10, 2024 June 13th, 2024 Occupational Therapy
Low muscle tone with Occupational Therapist in Bondi Junction and Mascot

Understanding Low Muscle Tone in Children and How Occupational Therapy Helps

Low muscle tone, or hypotonia, is a condition where children have decreased muscle tension. This can make their muscles feel floppy and weak, leading to challenges in movement and coordination. Understanding low muscle tone and how occupational therapy can help is crucial for supporting children’s development. Let’s explore what low muscle tone is, its signs, causes, and how occupational therapy can make a difference.

What is Low Muscle Tone?

Low muscle tone means that the muscles have less tension than usual. This can affect how muscles contract and hold their shape. Children with low muscle tone may have difficulty maintaining posture, balance, and movement. It’s important to note that low muscle tone is not the same as muscle weakness, though they can occur together.

Signs of Low Muscle Tone

  1. Floppiness: Babies with low muscle tone may feel limp when held. They might have difficulty holding up their head or maintaining a sitting position.
  2. Delayed Milestones: Children with low muscle tone might reach developmental milestones, like crawling, walking, or sitting, later than their peers.
  3. Poor Posture: These children might slouch or have difficulty sitting up straight. They may also struggle to maintain an upright posture during activities.
  4. Fatigue: Children with low muscle tone can get tired easily because their muscles have to work harder to perform tasks.
  5. Coordination Issues: They may have trouble with coordination and balance, making activities like running, jumping, or climbing more difficult.
  6. Speech Difficulties: Low muscle tone can affect the muscles used for speech, leading to delayed speech development or unclear speech.

Causes of Low Muscle Tone

  1. Genetic Conditions: Some genetic disorders, like Down syndrome or Prader-Willi syndrome, can cause low muscle tone.
  2. Neurological Issues: Conditions that affect the brain or nervous system, such as cerebral palsy, can lead to low muscle tone.
  3. Premature Birth: Babies born prematurely are more likely to have low muscle tone because their muscles are not fully developed.
  4. Unknown Causes: In some cases, the exact cause of low muscle tone is not known. It might just be how a child’s muscles develop.

How Occupational Therapy Helps

Occupational therapy (OT) is a type of therapy that helps people develop, recover, or maintain the skills needed for daily living and working. For children with low muscle tone, occupational therapy can be incredibly beneficial. Here’s how OT can help:

  1. Strengthening Muscles: Occupational therapists use various exercises to help strengthen a child’s muscles. These exercises are designed to be fun and engaging, often resembling play.
  2. Improving Coordination and Balance: Through specific activities, occupational therapists help children improve their coordination and balance. This might include games that involve catching and throwing, or obstacle courses that challenge their balance.
  3. Enhancing Fine Motor Skills: OT focuses on improving fine motor skills, which are important for tasks like writing, buttoning clothes, and using utensils. Therapists use activities like playing with clay, stringing beads, or drawing to enhance these skills.
  4. Developing Gross Motor Skills: Occupational therapists also work on gross motor skills, which involve larger movements like jumping, running, and climbing. They might use activities like climbing on playground equipment, riding a tricycle, or hopping games.
  5. Posture and Alignment: Therapists help children learn how to maintain proper posture and alignment. This can include exercises to strengthen the core muscles and activities that promote sitting and standing up straight.
  6. Daily Living Skills: OT helps children develop skills needed for daily living. This can include self-care tasks like dressing, feeding, and hygiene. Therapists break down these tasks into smaller steps and practice them with the child.
  7. Sensory Integration: Many children with low muscle tone also have sensory processing issues. Occupational therapists use sensory integration techniques to help children better process and respond to sensory information.
  8. Building Confidence: As children develop their skills, they gain confidence in their abilities. Occupational therapists provide positive reinforcement and celebrate achievements, helping children feel proud of their progress.

Fun Activities in Occupational Therapy

  1. Obstacle Courses: Creating obstacle courses is a fun way to improve coordination and balance. Children can climb over pillows, crawl under tables, and jump over small objects.
  2. Therapy Ball Exercises: Sitting on a therapy ball and bouncing can help strengthen core muscles and improve balance. Rolling the ball to each other can also enhance coordination.
  3. Playdough and Clay: Playing with playdough or clay strengthens hand muscles. Children can squeeze, roll, and shape the dough, making it a fun and effective activity.
  4. Drawing and Coloring: These activities help improve fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Using different types of grips and pressures can also strengthen hand muscles.
  5. Building Blocks: Stacking and building with blocks enhances fine motor skills and coordination. It also encourages problem-solving and creativity.
  6. Swinging: Swinging can be both fun and therapeutic. It helps with balance and provides vestibular input, which is important for sensory integration.
  7. Catching and Throwing Games: Playing catch with balls of different sizes and textures helps improve hand-eye coordination and motor skills.
  8. Animal Walks: Pretending to walk like different animals (like bears, crabs, or frogs) strengthens various muscle groups and improves coordination.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  1. Encourage Active Play: Provide opportunities for your child to play actively every day. Encourage activities that involve climbing, running, and jumping.
  2. Create a Supportive Environment: Make sure your home environment supports your child’s development. Provide safe spaces for them to play and explore.
  3. Be Patient and Positive: Celebrate small achievements and provide plenty of encouragement. Building skills takes time and effort.
  4. Work with Professionals: Collaborate with occupational therapists and other professionals. Follow their guidance and practice recommended activities at home.
  5. Use Everyday Activities: Incorporate therapy into daily routines. Simple tasks like helping with cooking, cleaning, or gardening can provide valuable practice.
  6. Set Realistic Goals: Set achievable goals and celebrate when your child reaches them. This helps build confidence and motivation.


Low muscle tone in children can present challenges, but with the right support, children can develop the skills they need to thrive. Occupational therapy offers a range of fun and effective activities that help strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and enhance daily living skills. By understanding low muscle tone and the benefits of occupational therapy, parents and caregivers can provide the support children need to reach their full potential. With patience, encouragement, and the right interventions, children with low muscle tone can achieve great success in their development.

Empower Your Child’s Abilities Today!

At OneOnOne Children’s Therapy, we are dedicated to helping children reach their full potential through personalised Occupational Therapy. Our expert team is here to support your child’s growth and development. We have clinics in Bondi Junction and Mascot. Contact us now to schedule an assessment and take the first step towards a brighter future for your child!

Call us on (02) 80657837 or email. You can book a free 30 minute phone call with us to discuss how we can support your child’s unique journey