Francesca Avalli is a pediatric OT who was looking for a creative way to engage the children in her clinic in upper-body/core strengthening and play. When she couldn't find the right tool, she set about creating one.
The solution Francesca created is the Handee Band, a exercise kit for children 3-6 years old. The kit features 15 upper body and core exercise, led by adorable monsters. The kit also includes a resistive yellow band with handprints for where to hold it, a checklist with a dry-crease marker and stickers.
I connected with Francesca through the recent AOTA Expo. (I swear the more I blog, the more I am blown away by all of the OT innovators out there!) She agreed to be interviewed about the creation process and the ways she sees her product being used by OTs, parents and educators.
Hats off to Francesca, for seeing a need and doing something about it!
An interview with Francesca Avalli, the creator of the Handee Band:
What made you decide to pursue the creation of the Handee Band?
I want kids to be independent and feel confident about their little bodies! When working in a preschool in the public school system, I realized I needed something fast and easy to help kids with their posture and strength, so teachers could do it with their students when I wasn't there. Kids love books and pictures and the hand prints on the band help them do the exercises independently. Life is so busy and parents and teachers are overwhelmed and want something easy to do that helps their kids get stronger and the Handee Band does that.
Everything from the pictures to the way the book stands as an a-frame is so well designed! Can you tell me a little bit about the production process?
Thank you!! I wanted to make things functional, small and compact, all in one, and easy to use. The a-frame tripod book helps the kids already put their bodies in an extended position, rather than looking down, like you would with other books or electronic devices (iPads, smart phones, etc) and it is easier for kids to use it in groups while they are all looking along and following the exercises. I wanted everything kept all together with the band and pen in the vinyl bag, so it is also easy to keep in the classroom without things getting lost or for a parent to take in the car or on a trip. Kids love monsters and sea creatures, action heros, and transportation. I wanted the characters in the book to engage the kids and help their imagination soar even more, while getting stronger at the same time. I am all about trying to make life as easy as possible, while getting the job done!
How are you using the Handee Band in your own practice?
In my practice, I work with kids individually and I use Handee Band as a warm-up before we get started with other sensory motor activities. I use it as a reward, especially because they love working for the stickers and checking off the checklist. I also use Handee Band as platform for drawing, handwriting and motor planning, and coming up with even more ideas with what the characters might be doing. We talk about safety with one of the characters and "buckling up" and pretend to be pirates or race car drivers. The possibilities are endless when you have pictures that get the kids pretending!
What kind of reaction have you had from the kids who are using it?
The kids get very excited to look at the pictures and do the exercises so they can check off the list. They want the stickers and they feel proud when they have done an exercise. It is natural for them to play and pretend and when they can combine that with exercise and getting stronger, like a super hero, then they feel good about themselves and want to do more!!! They remember the characters and choose which exercises they want to do. When we do groups, kids also want to be the leader and demonstrate the exercises to one another....
CHECK OUT THE FULL ARTICLE HERE: The Handee Band for Your OT Toolbox