Starfish Therapies

April 12, 2010

Let’s Play!

Here are the games from our most recent Let’s Play class.  As before, some of the items may look familiar.  We hope you enjoy our mix of fine and gross motor skills!

1. Balloon Fun
What you need: blown up balloon, racket (optional)
Instructions: Blow up a balloon. You can use a racket if you have one but you can also start with just using hands. The object is for your child to hit the balloon with their hands as it is coming towards them. At first they may be able to only hit it once before they lose control of it, or they may try to catch it and not even attempt to hit it. If they can hit it once then you want them to go for twice, and so forth. If they are only catching it or not attempting then the goal is to get them to hit it at least once. This works on balance and hand eye coordination and visual tracking, as well as encouraging general movement!

2. Limbo
What you need: pool noodle, rope, stick, etc
Instructions: Set up two chairs (or you can have people holding it) and place the stick or rope or noodle across them. You may have to pile pillows on top of the chairs to start so you can gradually take them away to make the stick lower (towels or blankets or books will work also – the goal is to create height that you can take away). The goal is to go under the stick without knocking it off. Initially they may be able to walk right under it but as it gets lower they will need to duck their head. For little kids you can have them crawl but for older kids you want them to try to bend back as they go under. This is a great tool for creating awareness of where their head is in space and where their body is and working on safety. It also can help with balance as they find new and interesting ways to get under the limbo stick!

3. Hopscotch
What you need: chalk or circles or hopscotch board
Instructions: Hopscotch is a great way to encourage jumping as well as work on balance and pre jumping jack skills. For the little kid who is just learning to jump you can just have them try to jump to the next square or circle (trying to increase the distance they can jump). For those that are jumping pretty well you can have them practice jumping with their feet closed on the single square and then open on the double squares. This requires coordination and body awareness, it is also a precursor to doing jumping jacks when they get a little older. For those kids that have mastered the jumping open and close with their feet then you can start to work on jumping from two feet to one foot and then back to two feet. Initially you will need to hold their hand(s) because the one foot will be challenging but you will be amazed as they begin to practice it how they will really try to keep their foot up.

4. Big Ball Play
What you need: Exercise Ball
Instructions: There are so many things you can do with an exercise ball and I’m going to list a few of them below

  • Situps – These are just like they sound. Have your child sit on the ball and lay back. While you are holding their hips or legs have them sit up. Try to have them do it without using their hands to help push themselves up. You could have them reach for you or you could have them cross their arms over their chest. This way they have to use more of their abdominals. To do extra strengthening have them try to lie down without ‘crashing’ down. The slower they lie back down the more they are working their muscles!
  • Trunk Extension – This is the opposite of the previous exercise. Have your child lie on their stomach (on the ball) with you holding them at their hips. I like to put bean bags or some other toy on the ground and have them pick one up, using both hands, and lift up so they can put the toy on the couch. Initially I may need to give them some extra support at their trunk so they can lift up high enough or roll the back slightly so they don’t have as far too lift. The further forward they are on the ball the harder their muscles have to work. You can also have them work in the opposite direction by taking the toy off the couch and lowering back down to place it on the floor. (I find this one harder to convince the kids to do but its still possible!) The more you can encourage them to lift up without having to push up with their hands, the more they will be working their back extension muscles.
  • Side Lifts – This is very similar to the previous two. Basically, have your child lie on their side with you holding them at their hips. Ask them to lift up so they are lifting their side up off the ball. It usually works better if you have a toy or something they are reaching for, like giving you a high five! The more you can have them lift straight without twisting the more you are targeting specific muscles.
  • Twisting is a good way to strengthen although it opens a whole new can of worms!

Besides working on individual sets of muscles you can also work on the way the core muscles work together to help your child maintain their balance and have effective balance reactions. The way to do this is to have your child sit on the ball with you holding them at the hips or thighs. Some options are:

  • Bouncing – Bounce them up and down on the ball while they try to hold their head and trunk in and upright position. This is usually a great activity to do in between other exercises.
  • Slow Movement – Have your child sit on the ball and slowly move the ball in a direction and hold it there. This will cause your child to work to keep their trunk and head upright and hold it so that they are working on the endurance of their postural muscles. You can make it fun by having someone blow bubbles and have your child reach for them, or reach for a toy. If I am by myself a lot of times I will use songs and have them clap or modify songs like ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ so that they are touch their head, reaching for the ceiling, touching their shoulders, etc. The goal is to have them use their trunk muscles and not their hands for staying upright.
  • Fast Movement – This is very similar to the previous exercise except you are moving at a slightly more rapid pace and not sitting at one position for long periods of time. This will work on your child’s ability to adapt to changes in position. You may have to start out slow and then get faster as they become more adept at it. Make sure when you are moving that you aren’t using the same pattern all the time (i.e. always clockwise movement). Switch it up and use diagonals and circles and any pattern you can think of!

5. Large Lego Blocks
What you need: Large Lego Blocks
Instructions: Stacking blocks may seem simple yet they are the some of the most useful learning toys on the market. Give your child freedom to stack the blocks the way they want. This stimulates imagination, creativity and motor planning. Let them build up towers, knock them down and then start over again. It’s a way of learning how to control their arms and hands (hand-eye coordination and motor skills). Sorting the legos can also work on controlled grasping and release of objects.

6. Toss Across
What you need: Toss across board and bean bags
Instructions: Set up the toss across on the floor or against a wall. Take turns with your child in throwing bean bags at the toss across to get X’s and O’s. Even if your child doesn’t understand tic-tac-toe they’ll still enjoy throwing bean bags at the board. This game works on your child’s eye-hand coordination as well as their ability to adjust modulation (amount of force) they’re using when throwing. Take turns with your child and you can even add to the game when going to get the bean bags by doing silly animal walks to go back and forth. These include bear walk, crab walk, frog jumps, etc. You can have your child make them up as well.

7. Bubbles
What you need: Bubbles
Instructions: Blow bubbles to your child first and have them pop them either by isolating their pointer finger or by clapping. Finger isolation is helpful in developing an appropriate pincer grasp they’ll need in order to pick up small objects or to dress themselves when they’re older. Clapping the bubbles brings their hands to midline, which is important for coordination. This is also an activity that encourages eye-hand coordination. Assist your child in blowing bubbles next. This is a good oral motor tool and strengthens lip rounding.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Starfish Therapies. Starfish Therapies said: Let's Play […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Let’s Play! « Starfish Therapies -- — April 12, 2010 @ 11:51 pm | Reply

  2. […] 4.  Let’s Play! […]

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