Being a developmentally gymnastics instructor; we not only teach gymnastics skills, but talk about developmental milestones and how to build their muscles for their motor skills.
When my first son was younger, I had NO second thoughts about him hitting his milestones. He crawled between 5-6 months, walked at 8 1/2 months, and was running by the end of 9 months. Fast forward a year or two and I started to notice he was different than other kids, and it wasn’t until he was 3 years old that he received Occupational Therapy. They worked on his fine motor skills, messy play, core muscles, and everything in between. I had always thought it was just his socio-emotional development and speech that was delayed, but he couldn’t hop on one foot, grip a pencil properly, and had poor core muscles. Lucky for both of us, I’m also a habilitation provider and could start building up his muscles and practicing his motor skills at home when his OT sessions were up.
Listed below are some of my ways we’ve been practicing building up motor skills.
1. Rhythm Sticks
We use these A LOT in my gymnastics classes, but we also use them at home! Tapping the sticks together is not only great practice for rhythm, but for fine motor development and hand-eye coordination. Building up grip strength is also an important one; have them practice hanging on a stick or gripping it while you pull them around the house! Later in life these fine motor skills and grip strength will help with writing!
– Another bonus is holding onto the skill and pulling each other back and forth like “rowing a boat”, they’re building their core muscles sitting up! Speaking of core muscles, check out #2!
2. Crawl Like a Crab!
In order to have good balance, a person or child must have good core/back strength! Crawling around the house like a crab, with their bottom off the floor is great practice for both. Ask them if they can lift their belly high to the sky, pick up one foot or hand, and even practice kicking a ball back and forth to each other while in this crab pose! This is a great locomotor skill practice and core strengthener. In order for activites like hopping on one foot, or hopscotch; a child can’t have weak core muscles. Building on this theme, check out # 3.
3. Pretending To be Different Animals.
Imitating an animal is imitating locomotion. Pretend to be a bunny with bunny hops (feet together), be a bear with knees off the floor and crawl around, or gallop around the house (step sliding the feet open and closing). Have them get for room A to room B by doing anything but walking or running! One way we like to burn energy is picking an animal to be and then picking a number out of a bag. For example, gallop like a horse for 10 seconds. This could also be an example of taking turns!
4. Threading Practice.
Here’s another one for the fine motor skills – threading or lacing. We used these Lace & Trace Pets. He used to get easily frustrated, but it was awesome to see how much his fine motor skills changed within a few months. I didn’t worry about the lacing being “proper” or all on the same side, as long as he was using his fingers to pinch the string, thread it through and pull it through the other side!
5. Balloon Fun
Kids won’t even realize they’re building gross motor skills when it comes to balloons! I love throwing balloons around with my oldest because it REALLY helped with him learn to catch! Balloons are nice and slow compared to a ball. They fall much slower, which gives them a chance to look at it and get those hands out to catch it! This is a great example of hand-eye coordination.
Have you had a child attend occupational or physical therapy?
How do you guys build up your kiddos muscles?