Open spaces in the outdoors is definitely a better space to have physical activities as a great amount of space is needed most of the time. We want that space so children can walk and run around freely. However, these public common outdoor spaces may be limited as it is still a shared space. There are also times that we are unable to go outdoors and will have to make do with the indoor space we have at home. Space is a big limitation in Singapore, but we are still able to work around this limitation to give infants and preschoolers the opportunity to develop their gross motor skills.. There are some indoor games and activities that we can do at home to help with the physical development of infants and preschoolers. In this article, we will be sharing some examples of these games that require 1-2 materials that can be easily found.
Babies start dancing to music as young as 0 to 6 months old, though during this period, only their feet are dancing to it. However, this shows that music has the ability to make all of us move our bodies. Playing music can already be a great form of physical activity on its own. The amount of space needed is also not a lot. While actually learning to dance formally helps in the development of the flexibility of the body, dancing informally also helps with the development of their gross motor skills and sense of balance. Therefore, a simple and helpful physical activity to do at home is moving to music and it can start from an infant age. Another type of movement activity that can be done is by playing the game “Simon Says”. For young toddlers, it can start from simple words like “roll on the bed” or “jump 5 times”. For preschoolers, the variety can be increased by using indirect ways to make them move around. For example, we can say “move like a crab” instead of directly telling them to move sideways. The instructions can still be short, but preschoolers will now have to use both their hands and legs in coordination, another aspect of physical development. We could also increase the difficulties of the movements such as “pretend to sit on a chair”, something that requires more strength from both the core muscles and the leg muscles to complete. These games are great activities to be done as a family too and you can let your toddler or preschooler take charge and give the commands instead.
Use of a ribbon or scarf
Ribbons are quite a common household item as we commonly have it when receiving or gifting presents. If ribbons are not available, a scarf or a thin piece of cloth that is light enough for toddlers to swirl around could be used too. Take note of the length of the ribbon or scarf so that it does not become a danger to them in the form of a strangulation hazard. For young infants that are still lying on the back, the movement of ribbons or scarfs would be done by parents or dangled above them. This encourages them to reach for it and pull it or try to grasp it as it moves around. This helps in their eye tracking movement and their eye-hand coordination. For toddlers and preschoolers, they can be the ones holding the ribbon or scarf. When they are given the material, they may already start to move around with the ribbon or scarf to see how it moves with them. You could encourage them to spin or jump up and down to see how that affects the material. You can then ask them to use it to draw shapes, numbers or letters in the air. Try to encourage them to use both hands instead of only their dominant hand when doing that. Another activity could be to twist the ribbons and scarf and then toss them into the air and try to catch it when it drops. Toddlers may not be able to toss them up well, so adults can help to toss them up while they catch it. For this activity, make sure that there is enough space around so that they do not trip or hit onto any furniture nearby. Similarly, try to encourage them to use both hands for this activity. Another type of activity could be done by taping a folded ribbon or scarf on the floor to form a thin straight line. Toddlers and preschoolers can then try walking along this straight line.
Use of a hula hoop / ball
If you have a hula hoop or a ball at home, there are some activities that you can do at home too. For infants, these items may not be very feasible as the items may be too large for them to hold. For toddlers, plastic balls may be small enough for them to be able to grasp. With these plastic balls, toddlers could do catch-balls, throwing and catching them with another person. On their own, they could also toss them up in the air and try to catch them. It is also possible to use bigger but light rubber balls that allow them to use it differently. Instead of just tossing them, they could bounce them first and then try to catch them. For toddlers, they may have to use both arms to try to catch them by hugging the ball but for preschoolers, they can try to catch them using their hands. Instead of just using their hands and arms, they could try to pick the ball up using their legs while lying on their backs. Though not quite the same, some of the ball games can be done using a hula hoop too. As the hula hoop is a little bigger, the space needed may be a little bigger too. For preschoolers, you can also ask them to roll the hula hoop as they walk or try bouncing the ball as they walk!
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