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Recreational Activities to Promote Gross Motor Skills

It is often that parents ask me for recommendations for suitable physical extracurricular activities for their children that will also help to gymnasticsfacilitate the gross motor skills we work on in therapy. Extracurricular activities are a great way for your child to socialize with his or her peers and physical activities are the perfect way to make sure your child is getting sufficient exercise each day. I strongly recommend any activity that your child is interested in because the best results occur when your child is invested in what he or she is doing.

On the other hand, if your child does not have any preference or is open to trying new things, there are 2 extracurricular activities that I strongly recommend families to look into:

  • Gymnastics– This is a great activity for a variety of reasons. For example, gymnastics focuses greatly on a variety of gross motor skills, such as balance and jumping in a variety of different positions and on a variety of different surfaces. This helps your child generalize these skills so he/she will perform better in our constantly changing environment. Gymnastics also helps with core, arm and leg strengthening and works on coordination between different body parts.
  • Swimming– Swimming is another great activity that targets core and arm and leg strengthening. Along with strengthening, swimming is helpful for working on your child’s bilateral coordination. A majority of swimming strokes require different movements from the arms and legs simultaneously as well as at  different times.

Regardless of what recreational activity your child chooses to participate in, they all are positive for your child’s physical and social development. On the other hand, if you have concerns about your child’s physical functioning, please contact a physical therapist at North Shore Pediatric Therapy.

Heavy Work Strategies for the Busy Family

Young Boy Holding a Pile of LaundryLife can get heavy from time to time and everyone gets stressed out. Unknowingly, many adults cope with said ‘stressors’ by incorporating various self-regulating strategies into their daily routines. They may take a deep breath or find their ‘zen’ in a yoga class. Some may take pleasure in the simplicity of sipping a warm cup of tea, while other more physical individuals resort to running a mile or two. Yet others prefer to lounge under a tree to read an enchanting romance novel. Children, like adults, need to have the ability to calm their bodies and self-regulate. One way for children to gather themselves in times of stress is by incorporating “heavy work” into their daily routine. ‘Heavy work’ activities provide deep proprioceptive input into a child’s muscles and joints, and thereby help them self-regulate in the same way that exercise may help an adult deal with stress.

Here are some examples of preparatory methods that can be incorporated into everyday life and used before a child encounters a stressful situation such as a loud birthday party, busy school day, or long car ride.

Heavy Work Activities To Provide Deep Proprioceptive Input For Children:

  • Help Mom: The completion of many chores can help incorporate ‘heavy work’ into a child’s daily routine. Examples include: carrying laundry, stirring recipes, pushing a grocery cart, or carrying shopping bags from the car.
  • Relay races and other forms of exercise are wonderful ways to build endurance and self-regulate. Examples include: wheelbarrow walks, froggy jumps, bear crawls, army crawls, crab walks, skipping, galloping, yoga, swimming, and gymnastics.
  • Play Outside: Take a walk and pull a wagon full of goodies, push a friend or sibling on the swing at the playground, build a
    sandcastle at the beach, or help around the house with yard work.
  • Rearranging Furniture: Pushing heavy chairs and couches provides deep proprioceptive input to the major joints and muscle groups of the body. You could put a fun spin on the activity and make a fort using furniture and blankets right in your living room!

‘Heavy work’ strategies can be incorporated into everyday life no matter the context or season. The use of these strategies may assist your child with more independence and self-soothing when they are feeling upset. This will also allow them to strengthen their muscles, increase their endurance, and may just help you cut back on the time spent completing housework chores. For other self-regulating ideas, please contact a NSPT occupational therapist.

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