Achieving Gross Motor Milestones and Play Skills Through Summer Time Fun
By Deanie Barth, MSPT
Summer time is here and that means getting outside to play. Here are some ideas for every age group to get them out of the house as well as help them to achieve milestones and develop the necessary play skills.
INFANTS — TUMMY TIME
Tummy time is extremely important for your infant to develop the strength in her neck, trunk and shoulder girdle, which will enable her to ultimately crawl. Unfortunately, most children are not very tolerant of tummy time, so trying out different environments and stimuli will encourage your child to spend longer periods of time on her stomach.
Take advantage of the weather and bring that tummy time mat outside and in the shade of a tree. Then try blowing bubbles into the air so your child will look up and attempt to prop herself up on her elbows. You could even encourage her to try to reach out to burst one of them.
If you find yourself at the beach, you can place the tummy time mat on a raft on the sand. She’ll really enjoy the bouncy feeling the raft provides. You can also enjoy these same activities together once your child is sitting.
For these activities, we recommend a playmat which can also double as a great place for your infant to take a snooze after all her hard work. The Soft and Snuggly Blanket is very easy to bring along for these purposes as is our Bubble Bucket which can also be used with older children. If your child is content on his tummy and requires less entertaining from you, bring along the Taggies Look At Me Mirror, which has several textures and sights to keep her entertained, including her own reflection!
TODDLERS — STANDING AND WALKING
As your child becomes more mobile, she will need a little help with learning to stand and walk. A great way to strengthen muscles is by climbing. Slides are a perfect tool to use for climbing and sliding down in upright sitting is a great way to help increase trunk strength. Don’t have a playground nearby? No problem, our Fold and Store Slide has a small ladder that can be used for assistance to pull to stand and climbing. It is small enough to take outside with you. If you plan on using it before the recommended age, be sure to supervise and assist accordingly.
If you have a new walker, no doubt he is ready to explore new environments. Take him out to a nice open grassy area and encourage him to walk around. Walking on uneven terrain is a perfect way to challenge and enhance his balance. Try bringing a ball out with you and encourage your child to kick it, throw it, and catch it. These activities will help augment balance, hand to eye coordination and overall gross motor coordination. And the fact that your child will constantly have to squat to retrieve the ball with his hands will increase lower leg strength as well. A great first ball is our O Ball which has finger holes, making it very easy for little fingers to catch and throw.
TODDLERS — RIDING/PEDALING
As your child becomes more adventurous, he is going to want a more efficient way to investigate his surroundings. A tricycle or ride on toy is a great way for him to get around quickly and an opportunity for you to leave the bulky stroller at home. A great, first ride-on toy is our Tiny Trike. If you think you might be going further from home than your toddler’s little legs can handle, then opt for our Push and Steer Trike. He can be as independent as he would like to be, but if he poops out, then Mom or Dad can give him a push home. It is also a perfect toy for new riders who may not have the steering down and could use a little help.
3 YEARS AND OLDER — JUMPING THROWING AND KICKING
Once your child really starts moving, you are going to need more creative ways to develop their play skills. First your child starts jumping and then they’ll learn to hop. A great tool four encouraging these skills is hopscotch. You could bring sidewalk chalk out to a playground and test your artistic skills by drawing a hopscotch board, or you could just take advantage of our Hopscotch Floor Tiles which break down into a small portable carrying case and sets up very easily. In addition to hopping and skipping, you can work on throwing skills using the numbers as targets. Another fantastic toy to bring outside with you to work on both throwing and catching skills is The Fun Gripper Balls which come in a package of three including a football, soccer ball and baseball and are soft and easy for small hands to grip.
Once your child has mastered all the aforementioned play skills, he is ready to move on to more challenging games which will help prepare him for the sports he will engage in once he begins grade school. Our Bat, Ball and Glove Set is a great toy to begin teaching baseball. All items are soft and make gripping very easy which means low levels of frustration when first learning. Once this toy becomes too easy for him, you can move on to Triple Hit Baseball, which grows with your child’s batting skills. The first level is just a batting tee, then it will give a small pop up to attempt to hit with the bat. Once his hand to eye coordination is developed enough to make contact at both these levels, you can move on to an actual pitch from several feet away. After that, get ready for the big leagues (or realistically, little leagues!). If your child is more interested in kicking sports, try our Super Sounds Soccer which provides a net as a target for goals as well as a small bulls eye which will make sounds every time it is hit, encouraging your child to fine tune his kicking coordination. It also has a score keeper for up to two players, so it is great for a play date.
Remember that summer time is a time to get outside and really get moving, but also remember to play it safe and supervise your child at all times.
If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles: