As the weather starts getting colder, it can be harder to get outside and help your child get his or her “wiggles” out. Here are some games/activities to encourage your child to move around both inside and outside your house! These activities do not require many extra resources, other than printing out pages from online or utilizing construction paper. While these activities are perfect for inside play, they can also be played while on an afternoon walk, or at a park!
— Red light, green light
Stand with your child at one end of the room or hallway. Providing a visual line on or “X” or spot on the floor can help guide your child to know where to stand to start. Explain to your child what each sign means: Green means GO!, Red means STOP!, Yellow means SLOW!. (If you have more than one child playing, the children can race.)
Have your child start with an easier skill of walking to grasp the idea of the game, then progress to other motor skills such as crawling on hands and knees, belly crawling, jumping on two feet, skipping, walking backwards, sideways, etc.
You can print out pictures of a traffic light or make your own with construction paper!
To give Red Light, Green Light a holiday theme, pretend you are walking/running/driving to Thanksgiving dinner, to see Santa, being in the snow, or to pick up a Christmas tree etc to get your child in the season/holiday spirit.
— Simon Says
The traditional game of simon says can incorporate as much movement as you want! Some examples of motor activities for Simon Says include:
• Stomp your feet 4 times
• Put your foot in the air
• Touch your toes
• Reach to the sky
• Turn in a circle
• Make your arms like a T
• Make your arms like an X
• Put your feet far apart
• Put your feet together
• Jump up 4 times
• Run in place
• Jump forwards (sideways, or backwards)
• Wiggle your fingers
• Touch your head
• Put your arms straight in front of you
• Skip, gallop (for higher level, ages 5+)
This game also helps to develop hand-eye coordination (by imitating “Simon”) as well as body awareness.
To give Simon Says a holiday theme, you can change the name of the game to “Turkey Says” or “Santa Says” etc. For older children (ages 3+) you can also select one of them to be “Simon” to give them a change to take a turn to lead and work on selecting/stating ideas.
— Rolling a pumpkin
Rolling a pumpkin or ghord from one side of the room to the other can be hard work! This can help your child to work on hand-eye coordination as well as strengthening their legs (as they are in a squatted position) and strengthening their arms as they push and pull. Have your child roll their pumpkin (or ball) to one side of the room. You can incorporate a game by timing your child, “racing” against you or another child, or forming a relay race (if more than two children).
— The animal game
Have your child walk like many different animals. These positions help strengthen their legs, arms, and core, while your child has fun pretending to be various animals.
• Bear: walking with feet and hands on ground at the same time
• Dog or Cat: crawling on hands and knees
• Snake: belly crawling
• Frog: Large jumps that start with feet on floor, knees and hips bent, and hands on floor in front of them as they explode up.
• Kangaroo: Hopping on two feet in a standing position
• Crab: Walking on hands and feet with their stomach facing the ceiling (a more difficult position). Children can modify this animal position by sitting on their bottom and scooting backwards with their arms on the ground.
— Child Yoga
Child yoga positions can be fun yet calming to your child! Getting into each position by imitating a parent/therapist and/or a picture requires body awareness and visual understanding. Changing from one position to another can help your child learn how to sequence activities. While your child maintains the position, the sensory input to their body can be calming as well as strengthening.
For further child yoga positions, look online for Child Yoga downloads.
— Balloon Play
Since balloons are lightweight, they are a great tool to use within the home without worrying about knocking over furniture. Here are a few games to play with the balloon:
• Catch: simply play catch back and forth. This is great for children starting around age 3 who are just learning to catch a ball with two hands.
• “Volleyball” with hands: help keep the balloon afloat and encourage your child to help keep the balloon in the air, by tapping ball with one or two hands. This requires hand-eye coordination as well as lots of movement as the balloon can fly every which way!
• “Volleyball” with feet: the same as above, but encourage your child to tap the balloon with only his foot or knees. This helps with developing hand-foot coordination as well as balance and strength for standing on one leg to contact ball with opposite foot/knee.
— Ball Play
• Encourage your child to throw underhand throws into a opened but wrapped box
• Pretend you are throwing a “tree ornament” into a basket
• To make more difficult for older children: have them stand on one foot or on a pillow as they throw.
— Masking Tape
• Masking tape is great to place on hardwood or tile floors because it peels off easily. You can place tape on the floor and encourage your child to walk on the “balance beam”. Tape is a helpful visual cue that children utilize to guide the place for their movement. It further works on foot-eye coordination as well.
• Straight line, zig-zag, in the shape of a tree (any shape or line works well!)
• Have your child walk on the line forwards, backwards, sideways, heel to toe
• Place the tape making an X and have your child jump or hop from X to X
Play ideas: pretend the line is a bridge over water or hot lava and your child has to stay on the bridge.
Morgan Ahluwalia, Physical Therapist, PT, DPT