Encompass Blog

Summer Activities to Improve Motor Skills in Children

June 21, 2019  |  Child Development, Play  |  By Kim Hall, MS, OTR/L

Dad and little girl playing with bubbles outside

Summer is officially here, and it’s a great opportunity to spend time playing with your children in ways that help their development. Below is a list of some of my favorite summer activities you can do at home to help strengthen motor skills, like hand-eye coordination and balance. The best part is that most of them make use of items you probably already have around your house!

  • Use laundry detergent scoops to shovel sand or rice, dried beans, dried pasta in a bin. You can also use small beach shovels, pails/buckets, or plastic cups.
  • Push wheeled toys on the grass and on other uneven surfaces only if your child has mastered flat, smooth surfaces first. Adding resistance and varied surface will increase strength and provide a balance challenge.
  • Play with water! Provide easy to operate spray bottles to “water” plants. You can add some food coloring to spray colored water on large paper outside and make an abstract painting. Fill up a small or medium sized container with water and provide cups, spoons, eye droppers, and so forth to experiment with water pouring.
  • Chalk on pavement. Use large or small chalks to draw on the pavement or sidewalk. This is very resistive and can increase hand strength.
  • Weeding can work on fine dexterity in a child’s fingers and hands. If this is too challenging, just have fun picking up different sizes of rocks, pine cones, or shells (if at the beach), and studying them. Or show your child how to pick a wildflower and bring it home to display in a vase.
  • Rake leaves or other yard debris into a pile. This helps with overall strength and coordination of vision and large movements.
  • Have your child push another child or YOU in a swing. This will be fun for them to try and helps with upper body strength and learning how to time their push with the swing. Start out careful and slow so they don’t topple backward!
  • Pull the wagon! Have your child pull a wagon filled with items, even if it’s just around the yard to set up a picnic or other fun outdoor activity.
  • Balloons! Use several balloons at a time and bat them with a pool noodle (you can cut it in half to be smaller and easier to hold and control). Or use one balloon and practice batting it back and forth with your child.
  • Bubbles can be so much fun to play with in the summer. Have your child practice blowing them or learning how to dip the larger wands and waving them. You can play a game of clapping the bubble between both hands or grabbing it with one hand, count how many you pop! Next try stomping the bubbles that land on the ground before they pop.

Now get out there and start playing! Happy summer!

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