Gross Motor Strengthening – Playground Exploration

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To finish out this month’s Tuesday mini-series on Gross Motor Strengthening activities, today I want to share with you some ideas for your kids for when you take them to the playground.  Something about having a second child has made me be not quite the same helicopter mom that I used to be.  And combining that with Becca’s age and growing abilities has been a really good thing for her physically.  Because I’ve started letting go and letting her do more things on her own.  She used to be really scared on the playground.  Everything looked big and overwhelming.  She needed help with everything.  Part of that was her age, and part of it I truly believe was her reflecting my emotions toward the whole event.  Last year around this time, we enrolled her in a six week gymnastics class at a local place.  That made a huge difference for BOTH of us on her confidence level, and she started being more willing to do things!  YAY!

But, with the arrival of little brother, new changes began to occur for Becca – I needed her to be able to get into the car by herself.  (Once I open the door.)  Showing her how to climb into the car and into her car seat was a process, but now that she has mastered it, I’m starting to see her really gaining confidence on the playground.  Because she knows how to crawl, stretch, and climb into places that aren’t right on the ground anymore.  And also because Mommy is often holding baby brother, and she needs to do things herself.

Enter the metal bridge/stairs at our local park.  It had been a while since we had been to the park, and one sunny afternoon recently we went on over, and she really wanted to do the metal stairs.  She asked me if she could try them.  For some reason, I didn’t hesitate.  I said “sure, just be careful!  Watch where you put your feet.”   Here I am, holding Grayson, didn’t think to bring my carrier, didn’t have the stroller… just trusting that she, my super dramatic, fall all the time, run into every wall child would be ok.  And she was.  I just knew she would be.  I watched her carefully, and guided her through verbally the first time.  She was SO proud when she reached the top.  She did it over and over again that day.  One time, her foot slipped off of the bottom rung (thank God it was the bottom!) and she felt what it feels like to step through.  After that, she was cautious, but I encouraged her to keep going, and she did it several more times.  I snapped these pictures from the bench.

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Young children often have irrational fears, and as parents, it’s often hard to know how to combat those fears.  One fabulous source for talking about fears is our Dr. Seuss connection today, in our week long Seussical tribute to the man and his work.  Have you read this book with your kids yet?  Becca loves this book, and it’s a fabulous way to approach fears with humor, and to realize that maybe there’s not really so much out there to be afraid of after all. (Buy your copy here – aff link thank you!)


It’s amazing how once they conquer one of those fears they have, they are empowered.  Once Becca conquered the metal bridge, when we went back a week or two later, she immediately went to the chain ladder and asked “Mommy, do you think I can climb this?  I think so.  Ok?”  I replied, “Sure you can!  Just watch your feet AND your hands.”  I verbally guided her through where to put her hands and feet as she climbed, and stayed back so she had to do it herself.  She did it just great, and did it over and over again all by herself without verbal cues or even me standing close.  It’s just baffling to me why sometimes I think she can’t do something, but when I am forced to step back and let her just do it, she does great.  Maybe I need to take a lesson from Dr. Seuss too… and let go of some of my irrational Mommy fears… how about you?


Shadow Play

This week as we begin this mini-series of Dr. Seuss activities leading up to his 111th birthday on March 2nd, I thought I’d start out with a little activity that you can do regardless of weather – since I know many of my readers are not down here in South Texas!

Becca LOVES to play with our flashlights.  She’s seriously flashlight obsessed.  She’s always asking for it and wanting to spotlight things.  And, she really enjoys Dr. Seuss’s book, The Shape of Me and Other Stuff (aff link – thank you!)… so, this activity idea was born in my head!Snip20150221_30

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I started by showing her my hand on the wall.  She really wanted to hold the flashlight, but didn’t understand the concept of holding something between the flashlight and the wall.  It was a great lesson on listening to directions, as well as discovering – the shadows looked better the closer the item was to the wall, and the closer it was to the center of the flashlight beam!  She tried all kinds of her brother’s toys, and enjoyed looking at her own shape on the wall.  At one point, she finally laid the flashlight down on the floor, and the shape of the toolbox appeared on the wall.  She was fascinated.  So then, she started setting the light on the floor to discover what else would show up on the wall.  It was a really fun activity, and kept her occupied for a good 10 minutes – with zero prep time on my part!  Gotta love that!

EXTENSION IDEA: After you do the initial shadow play, you could easily create a basket of items to look at taking the book and finding some of the items he talks about to put in the basket. This would easily create a shadow sensory station!  Just set it up in a darker area of your home so your child could do shadow play with the items when they need or want an alone-time activity.  If you have a “quiet place” for your child to go when they need to escape, this would be a fabulous activity to have there.

Gross Motor Strengthening: Animal Ball

Ok, so I can totally take ZERO credit for this one.  We absolutely love watching Daniel Tiger, and this is one that Becca learned from Prince Tuesday on episode “Daniel Plays Ball.”  When the kids are struggling, he tells them that they just need to “keep trying, you’ll get better!”  Miss Elaina comes up with a game called “Animal Ball”… and Becca’s modified version is where basically whoever is holding the ball says the name of an animal (aka: monkey) and then everyone makes that sound.  Then, you toss the ball to someone else, and they say the name of a different animal, and everyone makes that sound.  It’s a silly little game, but it’s become a great way for her to practice her throwing and catching skills (which lack a lot…), and every time she drops the ball or doesn’t throw it well, she sings the jingle “keep trying, you’ll get better!”

Some suggestions for playing the game at home: you can easily play indoors or outside.  We typically play inside, with a ball that is basically a giant ball of fluff.  The lack of weight makes it a little harder to throw, but until she can throw it without hitting anyone or anything, it makes a great ball for the game!  If your child is a little better at throwing, you might want to still select a fairly soft ball, since after all… it’s gonna be coming right at ya!  HA!

Essentially, it’s just a game of catch, but naming the animals and making their sounds makes it unique and fun… and perfect for your preschooler!

Gross Motor Strengthening: Bowling/Kickball

All this month on Tuesdays, I’ll be sharing Gross Motor Strengthening games and activities we’re doing to help Becca with her Gross Motor skills.  She really struggles sometimes in this area (I did too as a kid), so I’ve been looking for fun new ways to get her moving.

She loves the Amazon Original show – Creative Galaxy.  Arty and his friends solve problems through art! In one of the real life craft examples between episodes, some kids were making bowling pins out of water bottles.  Well, we don’t have water bottles, but we do have lots of puffs containers from lil Brother’s snacks!  So, we decorated puffs containers and turned them into bowling pins!  (I taped the lids on with Washi tape and then she added stickers.  And… bonus… if you pick 3d stickers to put on them like I did, it takes quite a bit of fine motor control to get them off of the sticker sheet, as well. 😉  I’m a sneaky Mommy like that. )  So to do this activity in your own home, you could easily use water bottles, puffs containers, Pringles containers, or even empty shampoo bottles – get creative!  They just need to be tall, skinny, and lightweight so your child can be successful at knocking them over.

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We set them up, and she tried rolling the ball to knock the pins over.  It worked partially.  And then she decided to kick the ball and see if she could knock them over.  Success!  So, the fabulous thing about this activity is that it includes some art and creativity, and then the pins can either be for kickball or for bowling!  One day use it for one, the next day, try it for another!  Talk about really working out those Gross Motor skills all with one simple activity!  You could easily do this outside on the driveway if it’s a beautiful day, or inside if it’s cold and rainy/snowy!  I love the flexibility behind this activity.

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Colored Sensory Tubs

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Now that I do all kinds of interactive sensory bins for Becca, I had to really dig deep to remember how I started with her.  There’s a picture of 8 month old her floating around Pinterest playing with her very first sensory bin… and sadly, the link is broken because my old blog doesn’t exist anymore.  But, it’s a super cute picture, and hopefully the picture alone has given lots of moms ideas.  It brought me back to my “roots” of how to start for him.

It’s as simple as sorting your Baby Bees’ toys by color.  If you’re like us and have an older child, you probably have a MILLION baby toys that your Baby Bee has “adopted” from their older sibling(s).  And then there are the Christmas presents that just never seem to stop, that equip your Baby Bee with even more toys they probably don’t need.  So, take all those excess of toys and turn them into a learning experience!!!

Don’t have an older child and an over abundance of toys?  Just wait!  HA! No, seriously, what I did for Becca was to sort her toys, and then I added additional things that were ok to go in her mouth – like long strips of colored ribbons and fabric tied together into a large knot.  Think dog chew toy.  Seriously, ya’ll, it works for Baby Bees, too.

So, you’ve got all these toys to sort.  What to put them in?  Well, you probably know that I’m a huge fan of Dollar Tree.  Get some of their little colored buckets to help you organize.  Then the great thing is, the toys are organized, too… plus they are sensory bins!  Double bonus!!


Right now, Grayson’s color sensory tubs are for blue, yellow, and red.

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The rest of his toys are also organized in Dollar Tree bins – I especially love the big basket I found for all of his cloth books, which are never organized and needed something larger to just throw them in so they stay off the floor!

As an extension for play for an older sibling, have him or her help you sort the toys.  Let your Big Butterfly help you sort them by color, deciding which color is most prominent on that toy.  Your Big Butterfly can also select which color your Baby Bee will play with – and encourage Big Butterfly to talk to Baby Bee about the color, and point to that color if the toy has multiple colors on it.  If your Big Butterfly is anything like mine, they’ll love the challenge.  Becca is all about teaching Grayson things.  She’s quick to say, “Look, Brother, this is yellow.  And this is yellow.  But Pooh’s sweater is red.  And so is his hat.”  It’s also a great extension to the activity to have Big Butterfly help clean up – remembering to sort the items into the correct bucket.

After they’ve been sorted by color for a while, get creative – sort into soft and hard, or noisy and quiet… so many ideas for using those toys!!

And again, if you don’t have a million toys, first, praise God!  (Seriously, ya’ll, I think we have toys coming out of our ears!!)  Second, look for things around your house that would be safe that you could add to the toys you do have. Do you have colored washrags?  Do you have colored plastic bowls or plates that perhaps your Baby Bee isn’t ready to eat off of just yet?  Look for items at Dollar Tree that could be considered “toys” now, and could grow with your child – like colored plastic cups that for now can be a toy and later they can drink out of.  Or those little plastic measuring cups that right now they can just chew on, but later they can use in a sensory bin and then later use to learn about measuring.  If you feel your Baby Bee is lacking in soft stuffed animals, Dollar Tree also has a million of those… or we could donate a few to your cause. 😉  Remember, however, that with your Baby Bee, less is more.  You don’t need a box of 30 red items.  5 is plenty.  Ideally, they’ll have different textures, weights, etc, but even if you have five identical items, it’s all good.  The focus is to introduce colors.

As your Baby Bee gets a tad older, you can begin providing two tubs to play with, and see if your Baby Bee gravitates toward one color or the other, and see if Baby Bee can put the items back in the bucket.  (At 7-9 months Baby Bee should be really awesome at pulling everything out of the bucket, and may begin to start setting things back inside closer to the beginning of the 10th month.  Don’t expect color sorting til Baby Bee is much older – for some Baby Bees, color sorting between two colors won’t happen until well after Baby Bee’s first birthday.  Remember always – every Baby Bee is unique and different!)

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Colored sensory tubs are a great way to keep your Baby Bee happy during tummy time, and encourage Baby Bee to keep reaching for toys, trying to crawl, and practicing rolling!