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!)

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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?

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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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