Entertainment Ideas to Boost Gross Motor Development
Written by Milanie Niemand
Are you ready for some indoor energy burning fun with the kids?! I will admit, it sometimes takes some extra motivating to get me moving in the cold or wet winter weather, and sometimes that is perfectly ok. But kids need to move, they need to burn energy and strengthen their bodies and skills much more than we do. And they need a little creative help from us on what to do if you can’t go outside. And if you move with them it’s a two-in-one deal!
Before I give you some ideas on indoor play, let’s take a look at why gross motor play is so critical for kids of all ages.
Why Gross Motor Play and Development is Important
As you probably already know, or would have read from some of my previous articles, children learn their skills starting from the basics, before moving on to the more integrated areas. They develop via what we call a hierarchy. Right at the bottom is basic sensory and motor functions which need to be mastered before we move on to more complex balance, fine motor abilities and ending up with the emotional and cognitive areas at the top. For example, a child who has good core control(back and stomach muscles) has more freedom of movement in his shoulders. If his shoulders are strong and free to move then his elbow and wrist has more freedom, and so in turn again it ends up with better in-hand manipulation and good pencil control. Therefore; running, jumping, climbing, balancing, tumbling etc, helps for better handwriting!
But it doesn’t end there. If his core is strong he has a good sitting posture and doesn’t fatigue so quickly during sitting in class, it improves his concentration. And what is the result of a child who concentrates well and succeeds in his writing? Good self-image and emotional stability!
So moms and dads, children must move, and if they can’t do it outside we have to get a little more creative indoors. And do you see how you are now also teaching your child creativity, another essential life skill!
What else should I know about indoor play?
- Firstly, remember that there are many, many ideas for all kinds of different things to do. The internet has a wealth of ideas to get you going, or ask your friends what works for them. It is very inspiring to see all the ideas and will get you motivated.
- Everyone likes different things, your kids might even want to do something different than what you thought they would. Use the ideas you found but adapt it to what suits your home and kids. Allow them to choose and change the activities, remember it is all about them!
- Safety and supervision. It goes without saying that indoor play can cause injuries or damage and children can bet so caught up in the moment that they need a responsible person to remind and guide them. Set clear rules and boundaries and be clear of the consequences if they do not follow the rules. Children can become swept up in the moment. If your child tends to get carried away easily, choose activities that do not escalate as easy or be extra clear about the rules.
- Climb into their fantasy world. Create a world where you are in the forest and hunting for the dinosaurs, or jumping over rocks not to fall into the lava, or fluttering softly like butterflies, the possibilities are endless!
Tried and tested indoor games that have stood the test of time
- Hide and seek. Yes you know this one, your kids probably too. But it remains a favourite for most kids. Children as early as just over one years start to enjoy this and adults can easily join in! There are many variations to this game, some requires running to a common point or score to be kept etc. Get creative and change the rules a bit. Maybe you have a no running policy in the house(probably a good idea…), so you have to crawl to the common point, or hop on one leg, or they have to follow a specific stepping pathway etc.
- Build a fort. Pack the pillows an couch cushions in and around the dining room table or in the corner, throw a sheet over the table or chairs, get the torches and the picnic snacks and plan what you are going to do next. (And who and when the fort will be packed up again..)
- Obstacle course. I love obstacle courses. Anything can be part of it, you can focus on so many different skills and every time it can be different. Paste a masking tape line for a balancing beam or stepping stones. Crawl under chairs or squeeze behind couches, have stop and do stations like hoola hoop or star jumps etc.
4. Dance dance dance! Put on their favourite songs, turn on the volume and just dance! All ages love this and believe me it can get your heart pumping and those feel good hormones going..
5. Make a sensory pathway. Use what you have in the house to create a sensory pathway. Walking barefeet is so important for kids, not only to keep their feet and ankles strong but especially for that sensory feedback from the sense of touch. Towels, egg cartons, squeaky toys, fluffy scatter cushions, lego boards!(yes lego can be uncomfortable so start off with the most comfortable like the big baseboard only, maybe gradually stepping on something less comfortable like individual pieces. Do not force it, ask them what they feel comfortable with).
6. Stepping stones pathway. Use different ways of indicating a stepping stone, one after the other, to form a pathway leading somewhere(maybe past the hallway, to their bedroom, bathroom or to the fort). Different stickers, masking tape, kitchen towel/cloth, toilet paper squares, scatter cushions etc. At some areas, place the steps slightly more to the left/right, requiring a criss/cross step, which is excellent for practicing mid-line crossing. This pathway can even possibly stay there the whole weekend/holiday..
7. Ten pin bowling. Save the empty milk bottles/laundry liquid/water bottles etc. You can throw in a bit if fine motor activity and decorate them first.. Any size ball will do, whether it be a large exercise ball or a small tennis ball, as long as it is rolled and the rules of no throwing is followed it can provide lots of entertainment…
8. Stay on the ball. The exercise ball… There are many exercises that can be done in the exercise ball. Maybe you can take turns to see who can do the exercise correctly, or take turns in creating an exercise for the others to follow, and time who can stay on the ball the longest without falling off during the exercise… A favourite is to see who can plank with their feet on the ball, and for how long. (I know I can’t, can you?)
9. Simon says. Simon says “Do 10 star jumps”. Simon says “put your nose on your toes”. Simon says “crawl to the kitchen and back”. This one has so much potential..
10. Treasure hunt. My daughter loves a treasure hunt, and if a treasure map is involved she is over the moon, she especially likes to create one for me. Start them off by creating a basic map and hiding a few treasures in the house. This can be anything from a banana, an old sock or glow in the dark stars for a night time hunt. If they are at the age where they can draw a map(from around 5 years), they will be thrilled to follow you when using their map. Get creative when you hide things, maybe under the bed or inside the bath or high in the cupboard etc.
If you start with these games your ideas and especially your children’s ideas will soon start flowing for new games. May you enjoy playing with the kids as much as they will enjoy playing with you and you have healthy, happy and smart kids because of it!
For more information, or to experience fun, creative and relaxing family bonding sessions, you are welcome to contact me.
Cell Phone: 083 651 3751
T: 021 976 4985