Hands-On Learning Games

Making a Trip to the Park an “Extra”-ordinary Experience With Hands on Learning

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Tired of the same old therapy exercises?

Are you bored with the same old therapy exercises? Whether your child needs to improve her language skills or gross motor skills, most therapy exercises leave you stuck inside with a fidgety, uninterested child. You know your child needs to practice daily in order to make progress, but sitting at the table with a list of written exercises is no fun for either of you.

Let your child have fun at the park and learn too.

Going to the park is an activity nearly all children enjoy. Since your child loves going there, why not take advantage? Your child can run around to her heart's content, all the while improving her gross motor skills, auditory attention, and increasing her overall body strength. Below are several hands on learning games you can play with your child using standard playground equipment.

1) Improve your child's overall body strength on the slide.

Instead of going down the slide the old-fashioned way, challenge your child to squirm up the slide like a snake, pull herself up using only her hands, or let themselves go down the slide head first – slowly (which forces your child to use his muscles to control his descent), and with your supervision, of course.

These exercises help build your child’s arm and leg muscles, and help improve your child’s overall body strength.

2) Strengthen gross motor skills using a low wall.

Low walls are great practice for working on your child’s balancing skills. Have your child practice walking on the wall, first slowly, and then as fast as he can go without falling. You can time how long it takes for him to get from one point to another, celebrating his best time.

Once this is easy for your child, extend the game by challenging him to carry something while walking. You can use a simple bag, or you can get really fancy and put two small bags at the end of a long stick or pole, tightrope style.  Or, you can bring a tray, and have him practice carrying a cup of water. Expert walkers can practice walking with a book on their head.

TIP: Younger or less experienced children can start off with the same activities, but on a painted line. They can graduate to the low wall when they are ready.

3) Sharpen listening skills on the monkey bars.

Monkey bars are a great choice for building upper body strength, but some children find they require too much effort. You can help your child master the monkey bars by holding them around the knees.

Wrapping your arms around the knees,( or simply holding their legs with both hands at knee level  if you’re strong enough!) instead of the waist or under the arms places most of the burden on your child. That way they can gradually build up their upper body muscles, and get the hang of swinging their body back and forth, without the fear of falling.

Once your child gets the hang of things, have your little monkey practice her listening skills: sing a song with a frequent refrain, and have your child jump down on the word you choose. For example, you could sing “Pop Goes the Weasel” and have your child jump down on “pop.” If she doesn’t jump down, pretend the weasel will eat her up.

4) Boost vocabulary on the swings.

There’s something about swinging that attracts even grown-ups: whether it’s the feel of the wind on your face, being able to see vistas far and wide, or simply enjoying the soothing back and forth movement.

While swinging is great for contemplative moments, you can encourage a little more active cognition by challenging your child to an opposites game. Simply tell your child one word as she swings forward (and is at the height of her swing); she has to answer you by the time she swings backward (and hits her highest point).

And don’t just stick to the usual categories: why not try words like bitter, deep, tasty, or boring?

So next time you go to the park, let playtime double as learning time!


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  • Rachel Jul 25,2011 at 5:34 pm

    My pleasure Qarau! I’ll be posting another post on improving your child’s gross motor skills, so keep on the lookout!

  • Qarau Jul 25,2011 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Rachel!

    I also have a son who is now 4 and is still crawling and whose speech isn’t quite clear yet. He understands everything I tell him though. I just want to say thank you for the tips that you’ve given here. This has motivated me to take my children to the park more often. Keep it up.

  • Jennifer @ Jane Deere Jul 19,2011 at 4:38 am

    Hi Rachel!

    I’m coming to you from Jackie Lee’s, It’s A Wahm Life site. First I want to say way to step out and put yourself out there…scary!

    This is my first time on your blog and I’m actually glad I found you…I have a niece with Downs Syndrome and I think this will be very helpful for our family.

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