This weeks post is the content we handed out to parents at a class we ran called ‘Let’s Play’. Some of these ideas have been in previous posts but worded slightly differently. We are big believers in getting kids playing actively and in ways that are beneficial to their growth and development. I hope that you find these ideas useful!
Sit and Spin
What you need: Sit and Spin
Instructions: Have your child sit on the Sit and Spin and grasp the middle dial with both hands. You may have to show them how to use it by placing your hands over their hands and attempting to turn the dial in one direction. This will cause the bottom part to spin. Make sure you practice in both directions so that they are using their arms and trunk equally. The purpose of this game is to get your children to engage their arms and hands for strengthening as well as their trunk. It encourages rotation and upright posture as well as hip stretching because their legs need to be turned out in a modified ‘criss cross applesauce’ to sit on this.
Sticky Balls (AKA Suction Cup Balls)
What you need: Suction cup balls
Instructions: These are a great toy for practicing throwing, both overhand and underhand. Have your child throw the balls at a mirror or window or any other surface that they will stick to. Make a contest out of it to see who can get the most to stick. If you are practicing throwing for distance make a line on the ground and throw from there. Once they have been thrown have you child try to get them off the surface. Have them take turns using each hand because this is a way to strengthen their grip as well as their arms and shoulder blade muscles. To increase the challenge move the balls up a little out of reach and have them reach up for them by standing on their tip toes to encourage reaching and calf strengthening. Always have them take turns with which hand they are reaching with. Lastly, if they can jump have them practice jumping up to get the ball off the surface. Learning to jump up for something while reaching is a whole different concept than just jumping alone.
What you need: Any toy with multiple parts (piggy bank, shape sorter, puzzle), chair and table or a couch or a bed
Instructions: This activity is to encourage climbing and to strengthen your kids’ legs, hips and upper extremities. Strengthening the gluts (tush) muscles also has the benefit of encouraging proper bone formation as your child grows and develops. I usually put the pieces up high and the receptacle on the floor although the reverse will also work. I have the kids climb up onto the chair/bed/couch to get the piece and then climb back down to put it in. The next time up I have them use the opposite leg. I encourage climbing by using their hands and placing their knee up on the support surface and then shifting their hips so they are over the knee and then bringing their other leg up.
What you need: Stomp Rocket
Instructions: Great toy to encourage standing on one foot, stepping with force and potentially jumping onto things. You can make games out of it by taking turns with their feet to stomp on it. To increase the difficulty you can have them lift their foot up and count to a number (say 3) and then have them stomp. You may need to hold their hand initially as they work on their balance. Make sure they take turns with their feet. If they can jump have them try to jump onto the pump to make the rocket go. Again, you may need to hold their hands to help them develop this skill.
Tennis Ball People
What you need: Tennis Ball and any small objects that can be placed in the tennis ball
Instructions: Take turns with your child being the one to hold the tennis ball. The one not holding the tennis ball places the pennies one at a time into the balls mouth. Squeezing the tennis ball open is a good fine motor strengthening activity. When picking up the coins the child is working on visual perceptual skills, when they are looking for the pennies. These skills are necessary for identifying and interpreting our surroundings. They are also working on fine motor control and use of a pincer grasp, grasping between the thumb and the forefinger. Move the tennis ball around each time they grab a penny so that the child alternates hands, reaches across their body, stands up on their toes, or bends down to place the penny in.
What you need: Play-Doh
Instructions: Explore different ways to manipulate the play-doh with your child. You can roll it into a snake, make a ball and then squish it flat like a cookie. Use your thumb or index finger to poke a hole into the ball or use your thumb and forefinger to pinch small amounts. If your child has trouble with rolling the play-doh into a snake or ball, then use hand-over-hand to help them in feeling the appropriate way to move. Play-doh is a good strength builder for children’s fine motor skills that are necessary for handwriting and self-help skills such as buttoning and zippering later on.