Coronavirus: Easy and beneficial ways to keep children active when stuck at home
Being stuck at home in the midst of the evolving Coronavirus situation is a big challenge for all of us, especially parents and caregivers. The days can start to feel really long when we want to keep children occupied, while also limiting screen time. The good news is, your household is filled with common items that can be used to not only keep your child active, but encourage fundamental developmental skills. These activities are also a great outlet to give your child’s brain a break from school work and get the whole family doing a fun activity together.
These activities aren’t complicated, and you don’t have to have Pinterest-level creativity to make them work. Best of all, when your kids engage in these kinds of movement-based games, they’re enhancing their strength, coordination, balance and motor skills without even knowing it.
It’s amazing how much fun children can have with a few inexpensive balloons. Blow up several and challenge your kids to keep them all in the air at the same time. Or, bounce just one into the air and see how many times your child can keep it up before it hits the ground. Count the number of times they bounce the balloon in the air, then challenge them to beat their time.
Add another dimension to the balloon game by creating a set of homemade paddles. Attach paper plates to wooden spoons with tape. Children can use the paddles to hit a balloon back and forth like tennis. Or, they can see who can keep a balloon in the air the longest while using the paddle. These activities are great for promoting dynamic balance, coordination and endurance. It also encourages visual attention to task, which helps with handwriting and copying from the board.
You can also create a DIY balloon popper with a cardboard tube or a plastic cup. Take a balloon and tie off its end (just as you do when you blow it up). Cut off the top of the balloon so that it’s open on one end and tied on the other. Stretch the open end over a cardboard tube or small cup and tape it down securely. Place a small object inside (pom-pom balls, cotton balls or marshmallows work great). Pull back on the balloon part and let it go. Use these instructions for help. Make it even more challenging by trying to catch the object with the cup when it falls to the ground.
Spoon racing never goes out of style – maybe because it’s fun and is one of the easiest household challenges imaginable. Try balancing a plastic Easter egg on a kitchen spoon while racing your family members. You can adapt this game by using a variety of different objects such as larger wooden spoon, a golf ball, or even a balled-up pair of socks. You can even do this activity with your homemade paddles and balloons. Create your own “field day” by having children hold their own spoon race outside in the fresh air. Balance and coordination are essential for doing everyday activities like carrying a lunch tray at school or walking in line in the hallways.
Many of us keep stacks of plastic cups in our pantry, which happen to be the main ingredient of this fun hand-eye coordination activity. Divide cups evenly among children, then have them race to stack them up and build a tower. Play fun music while the race is on and see who can do it the fastest. This activity works on visual motor integration as well as fine motor and bilateral coordination. Another fun cup activity is to line them up like bowling pins and knock them down with a ball. Or you can lay the cup on its side and use it as a target to roll or hit a golf ball into.
Using chalk is a quick and easy way to create different agility challenges. Classic hopscotch is a great bilateral coordination and balance activity. The out-and-in jumping pattern mimics jumping jacks as well. Draw zig-zags, curves, or straight-line pathways that you can use to practice your balance while you try not to “fall off” the line. Kids can even race each other through an entire course of various “balance beams.”
Have a pre-school aged child? Draw different large shapes and have children jump to each one, practicing their gross motor skills and strengthening their legs while learning their colors, shapes or numbers. You can also have children practice balancing on one foot while standing in the shapes.
What kid doesn’t like to pretend to be an animal? Children can pretend to be walk like a duck, crab, bear, or jump like a frog while trying to race each other. All of these exercises involve using the entire body to help children build muscle strength, balance, coordination and flexibility. They target the core area, which is essential for all movement. This is especially good for children with poor posture or who have difficulty sitting still.
Another great balancing activity is to have your kids use their feet to pick up objects and place them in a laundry basket. You can use laundry baskets, cardboard boxes or mixing bowls. Have children stand up and pick up items with their toes (marbles, pom-pom balls, socks, etc.) and try to place it in the basket without dropping it. You can also place a bean bag on top of their foot and see if they can keep it there while doing the activity. This activity targets balance and builds strength in the hips, core and feet. It is great for kids who are flat-footed or pigeon-toed.
Stefanie Ortiz, DPT, is a licensed Physical Therapist at HPRC Pediatric Rehabilitation in Columbus, GA. She joined HPRC in January 2018 after completing her DPT in Physical Therapy in 2017 from Armstrong State University. Stefanie received a B.S. in Rehabilitation Science from Armstrong State University in 2014. Her practice area is Pediatric orthopedics. She lives in Columbus, GA with her fiancé and sweet baby boy. Stefanie’s favorite past times include sports, outdoor activities and crafting.