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Special Education Resources – Improve Motor Skills
Though the improvement of motor skills is a continual effort, there are a plethora of crazy fun activities that can help boost development.
Special Education Resources For Improving Gross Motor Skills
First, let’s clarify, by gross we are not suggesting you encourage your children to have food fights, dig through garbage or spend their free time improving their burping skills. In this instance, gross motor means big muscles. If your child struggles with physical tasks like jumping, skipping, balancing or managing tasks that require use of both sides of their body, a summer with some fun games that target problem areas can make all the difference.
If you have a child that has been diagnosed with one or more special needs, you are probably aware of the vast amount of special education resources available to families via the internet. However, parents who have children who have not been diagnosed with a special need and who are struggling often do not realize how much these resources can benefit just about any child.
Gross motor skill delays can be frustrating for any child. While there are things you can do to help boost your child’s skills and confidence levels often there is a developmental factor that simply requires time. Give these games a try… play with patience and a sense of fun.
(Also keep in mind that there are many successful adults who are terrible at games involving balls or who cannot do a jumping jack according to industry standards. Do what you can to help your child, but accept that not everyone is an Olympian.)
1. Go out and create obstacles. Use what you know about your kids and what you have around the house and create an ever-changing obstacle course in your yard. Invite the neighbors to join in the fun. Use things like boxes for jumping up/on/over and plastic lawn chairs for crawling over/under. Make it more fun by putting one or two sprinklers around the obstacle course. Get down and dirty. Put everyone in old clothes that won’t distract you as they get stained. As your child gains skill, make the obstacles more challenging. If you’re unsure about how to make it more challenging, ask your child!
2. Stuck in the house? Play the “The Floor is Lava” game. It’s likely you played some version of this game if you grew up in a climate where you were stuck indoors for extended periods of time. It’s as simple as it sounds. Set an area in your house and let the kids loose. They must get from point A to point B without touching the floor. This involves climbing on furniture, using toys as props and even more surprising creative plots. If you’re aiming to be the “cool” parent, leave things like a few short 2×4’s and a couple of plastic crates laying around your floor in a casual manner. If you’ve never played, join in. It’s fun and funny and you’ll see results.
3. Hire a neighborhood teenager. If your child is school age, hire a teenager who is active in the high school band or in some sport to come 1-2 times a week to “teach” your kids their activity. A band kid can get your kids marching with kazoos or even just sticks substituting as their instrument of choice. A teen who plays soccer/football/baseball can get your kids moving with easy drills that improve their hand-eye coordination as well as their major muscle groups. Yes, you could do the same but, odds are your children will respond with more enthusiasm when being directed by someone closer to their age.
As you already know, each kid is different. Be bold. Experiment. The more you try to more likely you are to find something that works with your child. And, keep in mind what works when a child is six may not work at nine. Conversely, what doesn’t work at six might work quite well at nine. Never rule an activity out completely – just set it aside for another time.
Special Education Resources For Improving Fine Motor Skills
All children benefit from activities that keep them engaged and using the skills they picked up during the previous school year. As a parent, knowing what to focus on and finding ways to keep activities light, fun and productive present a hefty challenge. If you have a child with special needs or a child who struggles with things like writing, shoe-tying or manipulating small objects, school breaks are an excellent time to help your child strengthen their fine motor skills.
The internet abounds with special education resources to help you with this task. Fine motor skills are the skills involving fingers and sometimes eye coordination as well. It’s never too early or too late to being fine-tuning these skills. Take your time. There is no deadline and there is no final exam. If you find your child particularly likes one type of activity, build on it or do an internet search to help you find similar activities. Conversely, if your child truly dislikes an activity you suggest after a fair try, drop it with plans to come back at a later date.
1. Start saving recyclables. So much of what you put into your recycling bin each week can be used for activities designed to build up fine motor skills. Do you have an empty cereal box, pasta box, other small box? Poke holes on the widest side of the box – varying the size of the holes – and challenge your child to fit a variety of dried pasta shapes/dried beans/counting manipulatives into the various holes. Don’t knock it until you see your 2-4 year-old try it.
If you’re an Amazon shopper, odds are you have random bits of Styrofoam somewhere in your house. The Styrofoam and a packet of chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners) provide endless possibilities for creativity and working those fingers! Some kids will stick the stems into the Styrofoam while others wrap the stems around the Styrofoam and other kids will happily finger-carve shapes out of the Styrofoam or create figures and shapes with the chenille stems. It’s all good. Get creative with what you have in the house!
2. Embrace the lowly pool noodle. Pool noodles are awesome for so many reasons that have nothing to do with the swimming pool – cut to size, they can contain a tangle of cords and wires under a desk; slice length-wise to create a race track or marble run; or stuff a noodle into boots to help them maintain their shape. To enhance fine motor skills, cut several noodles into various sizes – round shapes, half-rounds, even strips if you like! Pick up a box of golf tees and put your child to work creating buildings, shapes, animals and whatever else they can think of. The tees pop into the noodles but require a bit of work thus developing hand muscles. Throw in a glue stick, some googly eyes and other accessories and you have an afternoon of noodly fun.
3. Take cup stacking to another level! Cup stacking is a popular activity for helping children with their hand-eye coordination and fine motor control. And, cup stacking is fun in its own right. Since it’s summer why not add a twist? Save up empty soda cans ahead of time (unless you want your children all sugared up before you start this activity). Head outside and fill a small tub or wading pool with water. Get a sturdy plastic plate (disposable Styrofoam plates work well here) and have your child see how many cans he can stack (top to bottom, bottom to top) on the floating plate. You try it too – it’s not as easy as you’d think. For older kids, throw in a time element to make things even more fun.
The number of fine motor skill activities is only limited by your imagination (and ability to use Pinterest or a search engine). Using these ideas (and others) are great times to get crazy, make a mess and maybe even start an annual Family Thumb War Tournament.