10 Ways to Maximize Outdoor Play

It’s time to shed your coat (but maybe keep those rain boots around for a bit longer) and embrace the sun! Take advantage of the great weather and spend some time outdoors with your kids. Not sure what to do with your cooped-up, crazy bunch? OCH/Advantage Therapy physical therapist, Jennifer Witt has a recipe for outdoor success:try one of these 10 activities to help promote healthy growth and brain development in your kids.  

Fingers crossed, warm weather is finally gracing us with its presence! It’s that time of year when the kiddos are bouncing off the walls after being cooped up all winter, and to tell you the truth, I kind of am, too.  That can only mean one thing; time to get outside and play! Here are 10 fun and inexpensive play ideas to promote fine and gross motor skills, strength, balance, and coordination in children.

  • Get to the Park: What kid doesn’t love to go to the park? Playground equipment provides an excellent opportunity to work on strengthening with all of the climbing that has to be done.
  • Make a Hopscotch Course: Draw out a course with chalk on an asphalt or concrete surface. Have your child help draw the course to promote fine motor skills and let them “decorate” it to encourage artistic expression. Jumping is a great activity for kids and hopscotch helps with balance and coordination.
  • Videogames, What?: In today’s world of DS’s and Play Stations, a lot of kids don’t know how to have fun with out a controller. Go old school and play games like “Mother May I?,” “Red Light, Green Light,” and “Simon Says.” These are great for learning to follow directions as well as encouraging motor skills.
  • Hoola Hoop: Nothing works on coordination more than trying to spin a hoop around your waist! Mix it up a little and try have your child spin it around their arms, or for older kids, spin it around one foot while jumping over it with the other.
  • Make an Obstacle Course: You can find all kinds of things around the house to use in an obstacle course. Jump ropes, step stools, brooms, books, toys, tunnels, pillows, etc. can all be used to make an obstacle course. Incorporate activities like jumping, standing on one foot, crawling over, under, and around objects, walking on a line, even push ups and sit ups. Make it even more fun by playing follow the leader or timing how long it takes to get through.

  • Be an Artist: Encourage fine motor skills by drawing with sidewalk chalk or take a coloring book outside and have your child lay on their tummy on a blanket. Tummy time is very important for babies, but is also important for toddlers.
  • Have a Zoo in the Backyard: Ok, not really, but have your kids crawl around the backyard like different animals! Do a crab walk, bear crawl, snake slither, frog hop, bunny hop, flamingo stance, any kind of animal. Make a game out of this; yell out different animal names, hold up signs, etc.
  • Have a Ball: Ball skills are important for hand-eye coordination. Have balls of different sizes available. Throw at targets, play catch, throw into baskets, play kickball, use empty water/pop bottles as bowling pins and knock them down by rolling the ball toward them.
  • Play Tug of War: This is great for upper body strength and tons of fun for kids!
  • Have Fun and be Safe: Kids have a great imagination, if you can provide them with props and a few ideas, they will usually think of games to play on their own. Just make sure to get them up off the couch and play! As always, safety is always important, so keep a close eye on the kiddos!

Content provided by Jennifer Witt, DPT. Jennifer works at OCH/Advantage Therapy in Springfield, Missouri and at OCH Christian County Clinic in Nixa. She received both her Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Missouri State University. She has experience in inpatient, outpatient, home health and pediatric settings. Her primary interest in physical therapy is pediatrics, specifically the 0-3 age group covering a variety of diagnoses. To contact Jennifer, call OCH/Advantage Therapy at (417) 777-4749. For more information about OCH/Advantage Therapy visit www.advantagetherapyonline.com

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