Starfish Therapies

October 28, 2010

Animals Galore!




So, to go along with my post from last week I was looking at other imaginative ways to encourage play and gross motor skills (oral motor as well if you throw in the animal sounds!).  Well, one of my favorite is to pretend to be animals.  You can do animal parades, animal races, animal charades, Simon Says animals, etc.  Here are some of the animals I use and I will do my best to list some of the gross motor benefits for each animal.

Bear: Have your child walk on their hands and feet so they are bent in the middle.   Walking this way helps to stretch out hamstrings and calf muscles.  It also helps with balance, upper extremity weight bearing, total body coordination, core strength and leg strength.

Rabbit/Kangaroo: Have your child hop on two feet, for added effect you can have them hold their hands up in front of their chest since both animals have tiny arms.  This works on jumping, endurance, and leg strength.

Dog/Cat: Crawling on hands and knees (although they could also be mouse or hamster, etc).  This works upper extremity weight bearing, total body coordination with reciprocal movement, core strength, weight shifting, leg strength, and head and neck strength.

Lizard: Have your child ‘commando’ crawl on their belly.  This works on reciprocal total body coordination, weight and pelvis shifting, upper and lower extremity strengthening, and core strength.

Crab: Have you child sit on their bottom and put their hands behind their tush, then lift their tush off the ground by pushing through their arms and legs.  Basically they will be making a table with their body.  This one is really challenging because of the motor planning so don’t let your child get discouraged.  Even if they start out scooting along and dropping their bottom keep encouraging them over time to use their arms and legs to walk with, without their bottom hitting the floor! This really works their coordination, reciprocal movement, core strength, upper extremity weight bearing and leg strength.

Snake: Have your child lie on their belly and and use their arms to push up their chest and then pull themselves along.  It can look like the old break dancing move ‘The Worm’ but even the lift and pull will work to start.  This works on upper extremity weight bearing, coordination and core strength.

Duck: Have your child squat down so that their feet are flat on the floor but their bottoms are not on the floor.  Have them walk in this position (and add in arm flapping for good measure).  This really works on balance as well as stretching calf muscles, coordination, endurance, core muscle strength and leg strength.

Frog: Have your child squat down so their hands and feet are touching the floor with their knees bent.  Have them hop forward (use circles for lily pads if you can).  This works on leg and core strength, and jumping.

Bird: Have your child lie on their stomach and lift their head, arms and legs up in the air.  If they can flap their arms also that’s an added bonus!  This works on coordination, and total body strength.

Flamingo: Have your child stand on one foot.  Make sure you take turns between feet.  This works on balance, core strength, endurance.

These are just a few.  Please feel free to add your own if I have forgotten some animals and variations that you and your children use!



  1. Dear Ms Menz,
    I was trying to send this one by email but could not find the address. so it is her in the comment section

    Hope this note reach you while you are in great health. Let me first introduce my self at firs. I am a clinical geneticist and a pediatrician running and supervising a medical forum for families with genetics related disorders in Arabic including Down syndrome.
    I cam across your great and valuable idea for muscle strengthening exercises on the net(Animal shapes to encourage gross motor skills )
    Yesterday I translated it to Arabic! Is that ok?
    I shows it to the mothers in our forum and they like your idea very much.
    need more photos but I used the real animal photos!

    here is the translation

    Comment by Abdulrahman — November 23, 2010 @ 2:10 pm | Reply

  2. […] Animal walking is a great way to develop dynamic cores strength as well as make it fun and work on kids imaginations! […]

    Pingback by Core = More Than Just Abs « Starfish Therapies — January 18, 2012 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

  3. […] Animal walks are a lot of fun and really challenge the core.  Some of our favorites are bear walking (hands and feet) or crab walking or dog/cat walking (straight crawling).  You can have animal parades or animal races.  You can change the terrain by going over uneven surfaces such as cushions or you can go up and down hills.  You can make animal obstacle courses where they have to be the animal and go around cones, over obstacles and through tunnels. […]

    Pingback by Ideas for Helping Kids Develop Better Posture « Starfish Therapies — May 21, 2012 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

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