Motor skill games can help teach children useful skills
Today I would like to feature some ideas to “move” children, integrating motor skills with visual skills. As occupational therapists we know that the integration of the visual and vestibular systems (balance) is essential to our survival. But our sedentary lifestyles in front of a two-dimensional screen (I don’t think 3D movies count here!) has certainly diminished all our abilities to be skilled at moving our bodies through space, eyes open and ready to respond.
Our vestibular systems provide us with important information: which way is up? And, where am I going? In occupational therapy with children we often try to engage that under stimulated vestibular system. To do this, we suggest activities that require watching, listening and timing other body movements.
Yes, all of that can be great fun, too! Here’s how.
While it is indeed too chilly to camp outside, get out you air-filled camping mattress and put it in your play area.
It is great for rolling, bouncing and somersaults.
Better yet, roll or somersault to knock bowling pins over on the mattress. Please don’t forget to teach your child a safe chin-tuck for somersaults. Just about anything non-breakable can stand in for your bowling pins.
Or do this: roll or somersault while playing “I spy” for an object on the facing wall. Every time you flip over, pick out a new thing on the wall to spy.
Do you have a reacher or grabber or large spoon? Have your child stand in the middle of the air mattress and pick up toys around with it. Now try him or her stand on one leg and do the same. How many toys can s/he pick up before falling over? In fact how long can s/he stand “still” on two legs eyes open on an air mattress? A long time? Now try with eyes closed. Can they get to one second?
Ready for some really hard work that is disguised as play? Next have your child try standing on one leg on the air mattress, eyes open and then eyes closed! Don’t forget to balance things out and try the other leg, too. Try keeping arms out to the side, on hips or overhead to really make core muscles work while standing on an uneven and moving surface.
These activities can all be done on the floor, but it is more fun and challenging to add in an unstable surface. Even just a foam underlay is enough to challenge everyone’s core muscles and make that visual system integrate a little bit.
Find even more ideas that are fun and novel in my eBook, All About Motor Skills.