Cold Winter Days and Gross Motor Development

Growing YearsWhen snowy and cold winter days invade our world, we are forced to stay indoors way too often. As parents, grandparents and caregivers, these are days we most dread. Children grow new behaviors as a supplement for exercise and outdoor activities. Not only are they bored, their brains are not getting the benefits that exercise offers. This, of course, results in behaviors that tend to drive us out of our minds.

Gross motor development is an early childhood skill involving the large muscles of the body, with a direct connection to other areas of development, such as: cognitive, fine motor, language, social, emotional, and sensory. Understanding how important it is for our children to develop the skill, we give them ample opportunities for practice. It is easy to development the skills outside. Children run, jump, skip, hop, swing and bike their way into adulthood. But, what happens when they cannot go outside? We can still accomplish our goal without giving up the sanity we so want to maintain.

One simple way to incorporate gross motor activities during cold winter days, is to modify quite time activities. While playing a board or card game, designate a colored square, or letter, etc. to be an activity prompt. Upon landing on the square or drawing the specified card, the child must perform some gross motor activity as previously designated by you. This can include, toe touches, jumping jacks, running in place or any of the other fun thing you remember from gym class. With only one child moving at a time, you have the control, they have the exercise, and all have fun.

Another way to get children moving is to bring outdoor games indoors. The old game of Red Rover offers opportunities to crawl (combat or handy/knee) when the child’s name is called. London Bridges allows the child an opportunity to be josled back and forth to provide good sensory movement. Tag can be played on hands and knees instead of running. Tennis can be played by older children using a paper ball and a hand for a racket. Think of all the games you played outside as a child and modify them for inside movement. Children will love these games and want to repeat them even when the sun is shinning in the sky once again.

Reading also offers opportunities to get your children moving. When reading to young children, stop and have the child act out what is happening in the story, or bounce on his/her bottom when you read, and stop when you stop a sentence. Your child is a bouncing ball, following the words in the book. Older children may act out actions seen in the pictures. Remember if a picture shows running, you can ask the child to run in place. If throwing a ball is pictured, have the child pretend to throw the ball for 30 seconds. For a younger child count the seconds out loud. If the child is older, let him/her predict how many times they will throw the ball in the alloted time. Have them count to determine if they were right. Older children can walk in place or march while reading a book. This is a great way to obtain a better reading rhythm which results in more fluent reading, thus better comprehension.

Pretend games are fun and offer opportunities for children to move. Walk and talk like animals. Make a trail the animal must walk. Worm races are quite fun, as are snakes, wiggling across the floor. Children can pretend to be tight rope walkers in a circus by walking heel/toe on a line of tape. Remember getting off the line is falling off the tight rope. Children can play charades using occupations that require movement; baker (rolling, kneading , putting in oven), truck driver (getting in, steering, braking), fence painter (squatting, brushing paint), athletes (basketball, football, soccer, baseball, hockey) race car drivers (scoot bottoms on the floor). They may act out different types of ways to travel, or verbs (running, jumping, hitting, bouncing, washing, kneeling, batting, etc.). Keep repeating the action until guessing stops.

Obstacle courses are great ways to get your child moving. You can use pillows, turned over dining room chairs, rolled up towels, boxes or any objects that will allow the child to go in, over, under or through. The course can include: combat crawl, hand/knee crawl, tiptoe, wiggling (no hands) on bottom or belly, rolling, side walking, etc.. Look around the house and find things that would make fun obstacles for getting around the designated course.

Remember, if you have fun, your child will have fun. And, if you can control that fun on a cold indoor day in winter, you will also be able to maintain your sanity. What more can we ask for? Fun, sanity and great gross motor development.