With increased time in our homes due to the pandemic, parents and therapists alike have had to get creative with entertaining and working with their kids.
Here are 6 household items that you can use to work on your child’s gross motor skills including balance, strength, coordination and ball skills:
1. Laundry Basket
Laundry baskets are very versatile household items that you can use to work on different gross motor skills for different age groups.
- Babies- A laundry basket is a safe way to work on independent sitting for little ones by providing boundaries. If your child needs more support, you can load the basket with pillows.
- Toddlers- Use the laundry basket to encourage your child to push and pull in a tall kneel. This exercise is great for core strengthening and can help your child progress to walking.
- Kids- Loop or tie a jump rope or similar item to the laundry basket and have the child pull and work backwards. To make it more difficult, add heavy items in the basket. This is a great exercise to strengthen your child’s hamstrings.
- Kids- Have one child sit in the basket while you or a sibling pulls or pushes. Try different positions such as a tall kneel or high kneel position in order to improve core strength and balance.
- For all- Create a ball pit for the child to play in! Ball pits are good for strengthening muscles when getting in and out. It also is a great sensory play activity
2. Pool Noodles
- Toddlers- Lay the noodles down and have the child step over them to improve single leg balance. This is good for younger walkers that need assistance navigating obstacles and it develops stair climbing skills.
- Kids- Have the child jump over forward, backwards and sideways over the noodle to practice jumping and for leg strengthening. To increase the difficulty level, have them jump with one leg instead of two.
- Kids- Use the pool noodle as a balance beam. This is a challenging activity since pool noodles are round. To modify for greater ease, cut the noodle in half lengthwise.
- Kids- Loop the pool noodle in a circle and tape it together. Use it as a target to have your child throw a ball through in order to work on ball skills.
3. Couch Cushions/Pillows
- Babies- Use pillows or cushions to prop the child up into a sitting position or a kneeling position to improve core strength.
- Babies- Stack the cushions to help your child work on pulling to stand at a support surface.
- Babies- Encourage your baby to crawl over pillows in order to improve core strength and endurance.
- Kids- Create an obstacle course with the cushions to walk on to improve ankle strength and balance.
- Kids- Create a crash pad with the cushions/pillows in order to practice jumping into them.
4. Plastic cups
- Kids- Place plastic cups in a triangle around your child. Have your child lift his leg and tap each plastic cup to practice single leg balance.
- Kids- Place plastic cups in a pyramid and have your child aim and kick a ball to knock over the plastic cups. You can also do this to practice throwing at a target.
- Babies/toddlers- Use a balloon to work on independent walking. Have the child hold on the balloon and move it to encourage them to take steps. This is more challenging than using a push toy or cruising.
- Kids- Place the balloon on the ground and have the child gently tap the ball with their feet. This is good for coordination as well as balance.
- Kids- Practice catching the balloon with hands or use a cone to catch it.
- Kids- Tie a balloon to a ceiling fan and encourage the child to hit it with opposite hands. This is good exercise for hand eye coordination. To make it more difficult, have your child stand on a cushion.
6. Masking Tape/Painters Tape
- Kids- Tape a line on the floor and have the child walk like on a tight rope. This exercise is good for balance.
- Kids- Put tape across a hallway at different heights. Have the child step over or crawl under the tape for a good balance and strengthening exercise.
- Kids- Tape a line on the floor. Have the child jump over forward, backwards and sideways over the line on the floor to practice jumping and for leg strengthening. To make it more difficult, have them jump with one leg instead of two.
-Alexa Bachmann, Physical Therapist