Fun and easy gross motor games for kids

Summer is the perfect time for children to practice and move their large muscles in their arms and legs. Backyards, driveways and parks provide open areas for gross motor activities. But often I hear (from other mothers and from children) the annoying cry - “I’m bored!” I would often tell my children to “go outside and find something to do” when I heard that complaint. That worked pretty well thirty years ago, but I know that times have changed. Children now often find “something to do” that involves a media screen and very little movement. So parents may need to take a more active and direct approach to encourage children to move their bodies and hone gross motor skills. Here are ten ideas that will make moving fun for kids - even when it is warm and sticky outside.

hopping and switching feet position

Activities to help your child develop Symmetrical Bilateral Integration, or the ability to move both sides of his body simultaneously.

1. Encourage your child to throw and catch a large rubber or plastic ball. To turn this activity into an engaging game, try drawing a large square on the sidewalk or driveway. Divide the square into four smaller squares and assign each a different color by writing a color word or the initial letter of the color word in each square. Sidewalk chalk or masking tape can be used. Ask your child to stand across from you on the opposite side of the large square and bounce the ball into one of the smaller squares, first calling out the colored box he is aiming for. If he correctly bounces the ball into the designated square, he gets a point. You then do the same thing. Players also earn a point for accurately catching the ball after it is bounced to them. Use a large ball and instruct your child to throw and catch with both hands.

2. Take a walk with your child, but add this twist. Each time you come to a crack in the sidewalk, tell your child he must be a bunny or a frog and stop, jump over the line with both feet and land on both feet before walking again. He might also have fun counting how many times he must jump as you take your walk. You can also play this game on a driveway or blacktop using sidewalk chalk or masking tape to create lines, spaced about 2 - 3 feet apart. Or if you are in a park or in the backyard on a grassy area, try finding small twigs to create lines that must be jumped.

3. Blow up a large balloon and ask your child to see how long he can keep it in the air. Instruct him to use both hands at the same time to punch or tap the balloon to keep it from falling to the ground. Your child may also lace his fingers together to make one large fist to hit the balloon.

4. Encourage your child to swing on a swing. Get him started with a big push and then instruct him to use both arms together to pull back on the chains while his legs together kick out to increase his momentum.

Activities to help your child develop Reciprocal Bilateral Integration, or the ability to move both sides of his body at the same time, but in opposite motions.

5. Find a medium - large sized bean bag and place it on the ground or grass in front of your child. Ask him to kick it across the yard as he walks, alternating feet as he kicks. To make this game a bit more challenging, tell your child that he cannot take a step unless he kicks the bean bag before he steps. He will need to control the force of his kick to be sure that he can reach the bean bag on his next step.

6. Encourage your child to pedal a bike or tricycle. Each time his legs complete on full rotation on the pedals, he will have practiced all elements of reciprocal bilateral integration!

7. Create a set of “walking cans” for your child by punching two holes in opposite sides of a can, close to the bottom of the can. Use two identical cans, one for each foot. (Each can will be empty and turned over so that the solid base of the can and the holes are now at the top.) String a sturdy rope through the holes and tie the ends together to create a knot and handle. (You can tie the rope so that the knots are inside the can to create a smooth loop for your child to grab if he is not comfortable holding onto the knot.) Then ask your child to step on the cans, hold onto the ropes and walk across the driveway or sidewalk. Use shorter and wider cans for more stability and increase the difficulty by using taller, narrower cans as your child’s comfort with this activity increases.

Activities to help your child feel comfortable crossing his midline, or moving his arm past the imaginary line from his head to the ground.

8. Ask your child for help washing your car. Children generally love getting soapy and wet! Give him a big sponge and direct him to move his arm like a windshield wiper going from side to side as his body remains still. He can also practice this movement when he dries the car.

9. Encourage your child to create large designs on the sidewalk or driveway using sidewalk chalk. If he seems to prefer drawing without moving his arm across his body, try making some colored lines on the ground and ask him to trace over the lines with a different color to get a new colored line. (Pink chalk over yellow chalk makes orange, for example.) Draw lines in positions that require him to reach across his body as he sits on the ground and traces.

An activity to encourage understanding of “right” and “left.”

10. Set up two large, empty plastic crates or baskets. Ask your child to stand several feet in front of the baskets next to a pile of bean bags, small balls or small water-filled balloons. Instruct your child to toss the items, one at a time, into the baskets as you call out “basket on the right” or “basket on the left.” Water balloons are always fun as they sometimes break upon impact!

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