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Spring is Coming! 3 Simple Ways to Encourage Outdoor Play and Build Skills

What's covered:
  1. Plant a Garden

  2. Draw with Chalk

  3. Build an Outdoor Obstacle Course

As the snow starts to melt and it gets warmer outside, you may be looking for ways to get your kids active outside. Our team at KidSHINE is excited to start bringing our classes and clients back outside! In addition to the much needed fresh air and vitamin D, outdoor activities can be energizing and sensory, giving your kiddos a multitude of experiences that are fun and chock full of skill building opportunities too! Here are some activities that we love to do at KidSHINE and that you can do at home to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather.

#1 Plant a Garden

Planting a garden is a great way for your child to continue to develop gross motor, fine motor and sensory skills! Digging in the dirt (by shoveling AND while using fingers and hands) is a great proprioceptive and tactile sensory experience. Dirt is HEAVY and digging provides some amazing feedback to muscles and joints! HINT: Try gardening gloves for the tactile sensitive kiddo! Carrying a full watering can is a great strengthening activity for shoulders, wrist extension, core co-contraction (think farmer's walks) and provides more heavy work too! Planting seeds one by one is fantastic for facilitating a pincer grasp and for encouraging impulse control, timing and pacing. This simple activity is fun, educational, and rewarding!

Here's How to Get Started:

Step 1: Find a small patch of dirt in your back or front yard

Skills practiced: problem-solving, figure ground, spatial awareness and following directions

Step 2: Have your child carry the tools (dirt, seeds, shovels and watering can) to your desired planting location

Skills practiced: strength, core co-contraction, motor planning, bilateral coordination, heavy work

Step 3: Plant seeds together and water daily- TIP: you can use a spray bottle for watering too (extra grip strengthening!)

Skills practiced: fine motor skills, coordination, hand strength and sequencing

At KidSHINE, during the spring, our OTs take the children in their individual therapy sessions to do gardening on the hill outside of our Rowley location. The kids love feeling accomplished as they take the lead on contributing to our garden, and we always find a way to work on kiddos goals too!

#2 Draw with Chalk

Drawing with chalk lets your child express themselves in a creative way. By creating pictures and games with chalk, the world is your child's canvas as they practice fine motor skills while spending time outside. When the driveway or pavement is not too hot, encourage kiddos to lay on their bellies to enhance shoulder stability, neck extension and wrist extension while drawing. Another fun challenge is to have a child sit in a low squat and walk forward and backwards while creating lines and roads- supporting the trunk in a squatting position facilitates core co-contraction, dynamic balance and motor planning. You can also encourage your child to draw shapes and figures on the concrete or brick side of a house or building (with permission of course), which further encourages grasp development and wrist extension.

Here are Some Popular Games you can Play on a Driveway/Sidewalk with Chalk (with a KidSHINE Twist!)

1. Hopscotch (KidSHINE modification- land on a square and do that many burpees!)

Skills practiced: hopping, jumping, core strength, focus, and balance

2. Tic-tac-toe (KidSHINE modification- use colored bean bags as markers instead of X's and O's and have kids run from start to the board to mark their spot- this adds an extra executive functioning element!)

Skills practiced: sequencing, focus, pacing, executive functioning, and spatial awareness

3. Hangman (KidSHINE modification- make Mat-Man as your Hangman for body awareness!)

Skills practiced: letter formation, body awareness/ spatial awareness/ problem solving

At KidSHINE, when it's warm, we open our garage door at our Rowley location and let the kids in our group therapy programs play on the sidewalk with chalk. The kids love being able to create pictures and participate in games together! We write lists, make roads and obstacle courses out of chalk and do whole group step by step drawings (like draw a person or make a rainbow). One of our favorite activities is to have kiddos use a spray bottle to "spray clean" the area and then start again when the ground is dry- great for hand strengthening and practical too!

#3 Build an Outdoor Obstacle Course

Building an outdoor obstacle course is a great way for your child to get creative while exercising. The opportunities are endless for what your child can create with items already found in your backyard! Here are some popular household items that can be used for your child's obstacle course:

  1. Hula hoops

  2. Lawn chairs

  3. Pool noodles

  4. Small ride on toys

  5. Snow shovels (for jumping over or limbo-ing under)

  6. Snow sticks and masking tape (in the grass- to make a laser beam challenge!)

  7. Use chalk to draw an agility ladder, or to make circles or squares to jump and hop in

  8. Use a hill in the grass for ROLLING!

All of these items allow your child to reinforce skills such as balance, running, jumping, core strength, and spatial awareness while also providing tons of sensory (prop, vestibular and tactile) input. At KidSHINE, we have outdoor obstacle courses embedded throughout our bootcamp programs. The kids love challenging themselves to create and conquer obstacle courses! Sometimes we even open the garage door and weave our obstacle courses both indoors and outdoors- throughout the entire clinic!

We hope these activities help your child practice essential skills for their development in a super fun, family oriented way. Click on the logo below to check out KidSHINE's awesome selection of bootcamps and other programs that will get your child active outside this spring!

Stay Strong and SHINE on!

Dr. Amy Wheadon, OTD, OTR/L is a licensed and registered Pediatric Occupational Therapist, the owner of KidSHINE LLC in Rowley, MA and Amesbury, MA and the creator of the evidence-based EXERSHINEkids Bootcamp Program. Follow us on facebook at kidshine.ot and on instagram @kidshine.ot to learn more about our programs.

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