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Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Summer Activities to Develop Motor Skills
By Martin Borenstein, MD

Motor skills are the building blocks to performing everyday tasks such as running, jumping and walking. Fine motor skills focus on smaller movements, typically involving your child’s fingers, hands and eyes. Gross, or large motor skills, are tasks that require your child to use their entire body to help build strength, endurance, coordination and balance.

In addition to playing a vital role in your child’s physical development, both fine and gross motor skills can boost confidence as your child continues to grow. 

Playing with Blocks and Puzzles
Simple puzzles and building blocks can kick-start your child’s fine motor developmental growth. Blocks help your child learn to grip and stack items, while putting basic puzzles together teaches cognition and promotes problem-solving skills. Taking a break at the park to stack large stones by a shaded tree, or shells if you are near the beach, are fun ways to facilitate growth during the summer.

Coloring with Sidewalk Chalk
Creating sidewalk masterpieces is a great way to support development with your child. Children use their legs and trunks when squatting down to draw and color, a movement which builds strength and balance. Not only does this activity promote creativity, but it is a great opportunity to introduce other games, such as hopscotch, that help develop coordination. According to the Center for Disease Control, children around the age of four should be able to jump on one foot for up to two seconds.

Riding a Bike or Scooter
Riding a bike or scooter is a thrilling summertime activity and can assist in developing motor skills in children of varying ages. As younger children learn to ride, they experience their bodies in a completely new way. Balance is introduced and, once mastered, can instill a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Older children who have more experience continue to build overall strength and endurance.

Water Play
Nothing says summer like cooling off in the water on a hot, sunny day. Swimming pools can be a sensory playground where your child is exposed to many different sights, sounds, smells and textures. Younger children can spend time pouring water into buckets or squirting water, while older kids who know how to swim can build endurance while getting a full-body workout. If you are unable to make it to a pool, have a water balloon toss contest to help develop hand-eye coordination.

Ball Games
Playing ball games is an activity that spans the ages. Once your baby is able to sit on their own, something as simple as rolling the ball to them fosters development; many toddlers are even able to practice an underarm toss in the backyard or park. Showing your toddler how to throw, kick or hit a ball will help promote hand-eye coordination. Team sports can also promote endurance by providing a complete full-body workout.

Playground Time
There are many opportunities at the playground to engage in activities that advance large motor skills and promote development. Climbing, hanging and playing on the monkey bars all strengthen different muscles in your child’s body. Once a child has learned to push themselves, swinging on the swing set requires strength and endurance. Many playgrounds also have games, such as tic-tac-toe, that can promote mental growth and cognition.

From birth to early childhood, the ability to reach various milestones is how your child’s pediatrician evaluates progress and determines if additional developmental support may be needed. Although motor delays are common, knowing when your child achieves various milestones can provide your pediatrician with important information. To schedule an appointment with a pediatrician, please visit www.DuPageMedicalGroup.com.



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