June 13, 2013
Did you know that lots of movement is essential in developing a child’s motor skills? It’s why playtime is such an important part of a child’s overall development.
The next time you’re at a playground, just take a few minutes to watch the different activities. You are likely to see kids running, darting, climbing, scooting and jumping. But whatever movements you see, they all have one thing in common: they help to develop a child’s large muscle groups.
Fortunately for parents, it’s fairly easy to find simple, fun and creative activities for children to do each day. The following ideas may be a good starting point, or you can always ask your little one what activities he or she would like to do. Just make sure the activities are age- and skill-appropriate, and discuss any concerns with your child’s health care provider.
- Visit your local playground: Playgrounds are all different and require different skills, so be sure to visit several in your area. While you are there, you can practice different skills such as climbing, going up and down stairs, and moving to and from a seated position; play games such as Simon Says and Follow the Leader; or teach your child how to swing.
- Use the sidewalk: This should be done with caution, but you can use the sidewalk as your own personal play area by jumping over the cracks, running or creating artwork with sidewalk chalk.
- Embrace the great outdoors: There is a lot to do outside, including climbing a hill or taking a hike. Or you can play in your own backyard by pretending to be different animals (hop like a bunny, jump like a frog, walk like a bear), dancing (Hokey Pokey or Chicken Dance, anyone?) or jumping rope!
- Play ball: Using both small and large balls, you and your child can focus on developing and improving throwing, catching and kicking skills. Just be sure to use equipment that is soft and won’t hurt the hands or feet.
- Focus on the core and shoulders: Many kids have decreased core stability or weak shoulder muscles. Activities that help to strengthen both areas include wheelbarrow walks, crab walks, bear walks and push-ups.
- Create your own obstacle course: Whether indoors or out, you can set up different stations that focus on jumping, climbing and crawling”¦just to name a few.
- Ride a tricycle: Riding a tricycle develops movement, coordination and sitting balance. Adaptive trykes are available should your child benefit from using one.
- Try a new sport: If your resources allow, you can enroll your child in gymnastics, soccer or taekwondo. Spending time around typically developing kids can also help to model gross motor skills. Plus, there are organizations that offer programs for children with special needs.
~ Gayle Talley, PT, ATP
Physical Therapy Supervisor