Turning a little red wagon into a splash table...what fun! This week I suggest activities for children pre-K & older, but as you can see toddlers really enjoy water play as well.
My son LOVES coming to therapy when it is Water Week at the clinic. But is this all just fun and games or is he really working toward his therapy goals? And if all of that fun is really therapeutic, then how can I recreate these opportunities at home?
OK, after a relatively cool summer, it has officially turned HOT! Last week at Children’s Therapy TEAM’s Fayetteville Clinic, we had our annual Water Week. Don’t worry, our Bentonville clinic has one scheduled soon! The kids absolutely love it, and we "big kid therapists" love it too! It is a great, messy, wet, fun way to help kiddos achieve their therapy goals. The kiddos have a blast without even knowing that they are working! And THAT, my friends, is the hallmark of any good therapy session.
Sooo...grab some neighborhood kids or some cousins, put them in their swimsuits and head to your backyard! You can have your own backyard water day with very little cash. You don’t even need a pool to keep cool this summer and the kiddos won’t even know that they are working on their back-to-school skills!
The following are many of my favorite therapy games: both during water week and with my own kiddos at Casa De Foster.
1. Water Balloons: Yes, you can simply toss a balloon back and forth to work on eye-hand coordination. You can also toss it back and forth while taking turns counting, saying ABCs, or listing items in a stated category (e.g., colors, things you wear, fruit/vegetables). This helps improve response speed and attention to task. I also love to quickly pass water balloons to play “Hot Potato” for improved response speed. Another idea: line up a group of kiddos and pass water balloons overhead and between the legs to work on motor planning. Tired of the mess that the water balloons leave in your yard? Have the kids search the yard to pick up the pieces to work on visual scanning skills. They can also use tongs to pick up the pieces for improved fine motor skills. Yea, water balloon therapy!
2. Wet Sponges: Tired of filling water balloons? Grab a bucket and some sponges and any of the above activities could be done with simple drippy sponges. In addition, wringing out sponges is a great way to improve hand strength. You can also have relay races. The teams will race to dunk their sponges in the buckets across the yard and run back to squeeze out their sponge and pass it to the next player. The team who fills up their bucket first wins!
3. Sidewalk Chalk: Chalk is fabulous for finger strengthening and offers the perfect way to work on handwriting without actually writing! Wait, your little one doesn't know how to correctly hold the chalk yet? Try breaking the piece in half (so that it is only 1-2 inches long) and have her write on a vertical surface such as a brick wall or fence. This is magical at promoting proper pencil grasp.
4. Relay Races/Obstacle Courses: Run through the sprinklers, zigzag through cones, jump over sticks, crab walk, skip, gallop...use your imagination! Obstacle courses are a great way to work on motor planning skills and sequencing. Want to add some more pizzazz to your obstacle course? Give the kiddos a “secret message” asking them to retrieve certain plastic alphabet letters by the end of the obstacle course; this helps them to work on attention and letter recognition. Need more adventure? Give the kids an ice cube in their hands and see how many times they can run through the obstacle.
5. Water Squirters: Did you make a mess with all that chalk? Time to wash it off! Squirting traditional water guns strengthens the index finger for handwriting and aiming at a target is great for eye/hand coordination. The small squishy water squirters are also good for strengthening little ones' fingers. In addition, the two-handed water cannons work on sequencing and bilateral hand coordination; the child has to pull out the handle of the cannon to suck up the water and then push the handle back in again to shoot out the stream.
5. Relay Races/Obstacle Courses: Run through the sprinklers, zigzag through cones, jump over sticks, crab walk, skip, gallop...use your imagination! Obstacle courses are a great way to work on motor planning skills and sequencing. Want to add some more pizzazz to your obstacle course? Give the kiddos a “secret message” asking them to retrieve certain plastic alphabet letters by the end of the obstacle course; this helps them to work on attention and letter recognition. Need more adventure? Give the kids an ice cube in their hands and see how many times they can run through the obstacle.
6. Water Table: You can either fill up a kiddie pool with water or simply use a large flat storage tub to make a water table. Fill it with water and throw in some plastic sea creature toys. It is a great way to work on pretend play! Preschoolers can use plastic cups to work on scooping & pouring. Picking-up sea creatures with small nets is also a great way to work on eye/ hand coordination and bilateral hand coordination.
7. Shaving cream: Shaving cream therapy is often a messy task indoors, but who cares if it’s messy outside? The kids can locate small plastic objects hidden in a bucket to improve fine motor skills. They can also use their index finger to draw or write messages in shaving cream. The water play is very motivating for most kiddos! However, many children, especially those with sensory sensitivities, will find the shaving cream, grass on their bare feet, and/or splashing water very uncomfortable...even scary! Feel free to take your time and provide gentle encouragement for participating in these tasks. If it is still too overwhelming for your little guy, encourage him to watch others having fun with these activities; this can be a great first step in lowering sensory defensiveness. And, as always, DON’T FORGET THE SUNBLOCK!
Want even more fun water ideas? Follow the links below.
Kids Activities: Outside Water Play
Parenting: 11 Water Games and Outdoor Activities for Kids
The Stir: 8 Awesome Water Games for Backyard Fun on Hot Days
Share your questions and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org