How these Toddler Activities are good for developing motor skills.
Having toddlers is no walk in the park. There is so much energy and time and emotion that goes into raising toddlers, that sometimes it can seem overwhelming. On top of just keeping them alive and happy, we also have to worry about their development and preparing them for their education. This becomes especially hard when there are special needs and learning disabilities.
Understanding the areas of development and activities you can do easily at home to assess their progress and help their development will help you to not seem so overwhelmed.
Gross motor skills refer to how your child is able to move. Being able to walk, run, crawl, skip, roll, and jump are all important milestones. When your child reaches them will depend on their own personalities as well as any physical disabilities they have, but these are things that can mostly be worked on at home in their early years. Some activities for these include:
- Creating an obstacle course around your house. Depending on their level, you can include things for them to walk around, roll under, jump over, or run to.
- Making a large dice from cardboard with different animals on each side. They roll the dice and then practice moving like that animal (hop like a bunny, slither like a snake, run like a cheetah, etc.)
- Get outside! Kids naturally practice gross motor when they spend time outside.
Fine motor skills are smaller movements, especially referring to dexterity in the hands. This is so important for being able to dress themselves, writing, and creating anything with their hands. Here are some ideas to practice fine motor skills.
- Taking a colander and poking pipe cleaners into the holes.
- Any kind of lacing activity (beads on string, penne pasta on spaghetti, lacing cards with yarn, etc.).
- Quiet books with pages focusing on zippers and buttons.
When I worked at a private school for children with special needs, I was in the classroom that focused mainly on communication issues. I saw how important being able to communicate our needs and feelings to other people in order to be happy. Speech is a lot more than just talking. Here are some ideas to help your child communicate. If you want to learn more about the different developmental levels for communication and social interaction, visit my more in depth blog post, “The Beginner’s Guide to Floortime.”
- Practicing different silly noises will help your child be able to mimic different sounds and eventually be able to put them together to make words.
- Making a game out of talking. Say, “Go!” and then swing them on the swing. Then say, “Stop!” and stop the swinging. Do this for a while and then start to pause when before you say, “Go!” Eventually they will start to make noises to indicate they want you to keep going. Praise them for any effort, but then reinforce the correct way to say it. Doing this will motivate them to keep trying even when it is hard.
- Singing songs is a great way to help your child engage with speech. Especially a repetitive song and allows you to pause on a familiar word for them to fill in will be extremely helpful.
Social and Emotional: Not only is it important for them to have academic and physical milestones, being able to interact with their peers and regulate their emotions is so vital to their development. Here are some ideas to help with that.
- Creating social stories (or finding books that talk about issues) that cover things they are struggling with and then using those to talk about situations in their own life will help them connect how they are supposed to act. That sounds complicated, but it is not. Take the book, “Hands Are Not for Hitting” by Martine Agassi Ph.D. and Marieka Heinlen. It is a preschool book that very simply goes over how not to hit friends when you are frustrated and what to do instead.
- Play a game where you make different emotions on your face and then talk about what they are. Eventually have your child identify the emotion you are showing. This will help them to observe how others are feeling based on what they are doing.
- Show proper social interactions between action figures or stuffed animals. Sometimes seeing you act it out takes the pressure off of them, and they can pay attention better.
Kids need to learn about how to process the information that comes in through their senses and what to do with that information. It also helps to teach them a lot about their personal preferences and how different people can like different things. Here are some ideas to help your child explore their senses.
- Sensory bins are a great way to facilitate different types of sensory inputs. Getting a bucket or sand box or water table and then rotating what it is filled with is so much fun for them. You can use rice, easter grass, water, sand, shaving cream, uncooked black beans, or really anything you can think of!
- Create a sensory walk. Have them walk on things barefoot like astro turf, concrete, wood, grass, felt, etc. in order for them to see how it feels on their feet as well. (Bonus: this also helps with balancing and gross motor planning).
- Listen to several different songs in different tempos and genres. Talk about the differences and the similarities and which ones they liked the most.
Being able to problem solve and think critically is so important and it starts developing so young! We need to encourage being able to think outside of the box and come up with solutions on their own. Here are some ideas.
- Play dumb. Pretend you don’t know what they want, or pretend you think they want something different. See how your child reacts and how they solve problems. Then see if you can prompt them to find a different way to explain what they want.
- Puzzles are great for this. Toddlers need extra prompts for puzzles sometimes, but it is so worth it. f”Where is a piece with an eye?” “Where should that go?” “Maybe try turning it.” “Almost there!” “Here let’s see where that should go.” Prompts like that will help your child feel in control and help them learn.
- Ask your child for help. Pretend you don’t know what to do next when you are playing or doing a simple task they already know how to do. Or say things like, “Mr. Hippo doesn’t know where how to drive his car. Can you help him?” Explaining something to you will help them to think about solutions and how to communicate them.
Helping your toddler develop and prepare for education in the future doesn’t have to be stressful or expensive. Use what you already have and incorporate it into activities they already like to do. Then neither one of you will seem like you are working!
Mary Winfield is the media manager and blog editor at SPED Homeschool and blogs about special needs parenting and homeschooling at www.growingastheygrow.com. She is the mom to 2 rambunctious toddlers who are more dirt than boys most of the time. She is an avid reader and loves to write all kinds of genres. She especially loves connecting to other moms so she can learn from them and maybe even offer a little help in return.