School is out for the summer for many families and what a year it has been for everyone. If your children are anything like mine, the excitement of no schoolwork is short lived.
Usually around the second week of summer break, my kids begin climbing the walls, literally. I suddenly find them doing flips on my couches, running laps in the halls, and getting into wrestling matches that always end with an injury. After losing my mind for a bit, I come back to my senses and remember why my kids are behaving like this. They need more gross motor play!
Gross motor play engages the large muscles of the body such as the arms, legs, and torso. Children need to activate these muscles to help build their coordination, calm their sensory system, and release at least a little of their boundless energy stores. So aside from the basics like running and jumping, what else can you do? A LOT! The options for gross motor play are only limited by your imagination. I want to make it easy on you, so I’ve created a list of ideas to help save your sanity.
Obstacle course: Gather hula hoops, jump ropes, chairs, tunnels, slides, anything that your child can jump over, walk on, crawl under, or run around. I usually set up the course and then time my kids to see if they can beat their own personal best. At some point the kids usually take over and create their own courses. You can also use chalk to create a great course that involves hopping, walking on a line, and spinning.
Relay Race: Grab a few friends and set up an old-fashioned relay race. You can carry eggs on spoons, do 3-legged races, or sack races. You can also keep it simple and have each child run, jump, skip, or crawl to a certain point and back.
Animal Walks: Call out an animal name and have your children complete the walk to a specific point and back. Some examples include bear walk on all fours, frog jump, crab walk forward or backwards, penguin waddle, donkey kicks, snake slither, elephant stomp, or seal slide. There are many great videos online demonstrating these different walks.
Bean Bag Toss: Make your own bean bags by double bagging rice or beans in a zip up sandwich bag. Set up some buckets or bowls and assign points to each. See how many points your kids can score.
Backyard Sports: Try soccer, baseball, basketball, lacrosse, or even frisbee. You can make your own bases or goals.
Hot Lava: This is good for a rainy day. Set up pillows, couch cushions and chairs from one side of the living room to the other and see if your kids can make it across without touching the floor.
Yoga: There are so many amazing videos online dedicated to children’s yoga poses. You can also print free cards online. We typically do yoga in our living room using the TV, but sometimes we go outside under a tree and I help lead them.
Climbing: Sometimes kids just need to climb something. My kids love climbing trees. They also love going to the local school playgrounds or parks, both of which usually boast plenty of climbing opportunities.
Nature Scavenger Hunt: Write down or print off a list of items to find around the yard, neighborhood, or community. I include things like: pinecone, maple leaf, dandelion, rock, stick, bird feather, and acorns. We also play a version that is more like “I Spy” such as: yellow bird, blue flower, or a puddle. They have to explore the yard to find these items.
There are so many other gross motor play activities like jumping rope, bike rides, scooters, jumping on the trampoline, rolling down hills, swinging, and swimming. Just remember, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get your kids moving. Follow your child’s cues, and when they start pushing your buttons or better yet, before, redirect them with some gross motor play ideas.
I hope this list was helpful and you all have a great summer full of movement and memories!
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Stephanie Johnson, MS OTR/L, is a proud mama to three and enjoys crafting, cooking, and spending time with family. With a Masters in Occupational Therapy, she has a passion for helping children and adults meet their goals.
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