No two children are alike. Every child will develop at his or her own pace, and every child will have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. If your child is a bit behind with their gross motor, fine motor, or speech skills, working with a physical therapist can be helpful. But you can and should also enjoy activities at home that can help promote healthy development.
The best occupational therapy and speech therapy for children is usually play based. Here are a few simple family child development activities that you can do (at little or no cost) with your children to help them grow stronger and more confident in their abilities.
Drawing Rainbows and Racing Cars to Cross the Midline
Some children have a tough time crossing the midline. This means that they have trouble using the two halves of their body together. This is a skill that most children develop by the age of three or four. If your child could use some extra practice crossing the midline, get a big sheet of butcher paper or poster board and have them actually sit on the edge of the paper. Then, give them crayons or markers to make semicircles around their own body. The result will be a beautiful rainbow of color and great practice using their hands on both sides of their body. Be sure to get in on the fun as well with your own rainbow.
You can also practice crossing the midline by making a figure eight race track and running cars around it. You can use electrical tape or masking tape to make a small track on your floor, or use a wooden train set if you have one. By moving cars or trains in a figure eight pattern, your child will move their arms back and forth across the midline.
Playing Hand Games to Develop Fine Motor Skills and Language Skills
Plenty of nursery rhymes and children’s songs use hand gestures. Singing these songs with your children and doing the hand movements with them can help develop fine motor skills and promote better language skills at the same time.
Sing a few rounds of The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and don’t forget to make rain trickle down your child’s face with your fingertips. Pat-a-cake is another favorite that parents and children can play together. You can also count off the ten little monkeys rolling out of bed on your fingers, or you can make up hand gestures for your child’s favorite song or lullaby.
Crawling Through Tunnels and Rolling on Scooter Boards to Build Gross Motor Skills
A nylon pop-up tunnel can be purchased for under $15, and scooter boards can be found for less than $20. These great toys can be used for all sorts of imaginative active play. Not only will your child (and you) develop important muscles and improve flexibility, he or she will have endless hours of fun in the process. Get on your scooter boards and pretend your living room is a raging river that you need to navigate together. Or see just how much fun your toddler has crawling through a colorful tunnel and playing peek-a-boo at either end. You’ll be blown away by the laughs and smiles.