Warm summer weather provides endless opportunities to encourage your child to play outside and continue to work on gross motor, fine motor, and play skills. This is true for typically developing children as well as children with special needs. Incorporating water is refreshing on hot days, and it can turn any ordinary activity into something more fun and exciting.
Below are some occupational therapist-approved summer fun activities.
Do the Hokey Pokey
Integrate movement-based songs into sprinkler play. For example, sing the Hokey Pokey and “put your right hand in” the sprinkler, then “take your right hand out.”
Let’s Play Ball!
Play a game of catch. Toss a ball or Frisbee across the spray of water.
are a fun way to incorporate gross motor movements into water play. For example, get on all fours and walk like a bear, hop like a bunny, or walk sideways like a crab through the sprinkler.
Tag – You’re It!
You can help your child improve fine motor skills during outside play. To work on grasp strength, encourage your child to play with a spray bottle as an alternative way to cool off. Fill it with water and incorporate it into a game of Tag or Duck, Duck Goose.
The Bucket Brigade
Sponges are also very helpful to work on grasp strength. Give children wet sponges and have them squeeze the water out. Make a relay game out of it. Give everyone a cup and make it a race to see who can fill his or her cup first by wringing out the water.
Join the Fun!
Feel free to get involved in the water fun. There are a number of water games that you can play with your child.
Using sponges, aim and throw them in a bucket. Give each player three sponges to throw. Whoever gets the most sponges in, wins.
Start with the sprinkler on with everyone running and dancing around. When the water is turned off, everyone must freeze until it is turned on again.
Play the classic Simon Says game, but give commands that involve the sprinkler such as “stick your head in the water,” or “run backwards around the sprinkler.”
You can choose different water-safe toys or accessories to use in the treasure hunt such as bath toys, inflatable pool toys, sponges, or balls. Place all the treasure items around the sprinkler area and see how long it takes for children to find them.
You can also incorporate water-based art into outside fun. Take a small container and fill it with water. Give your child a paintbrush and have him or her practice creating different strokes by painting with the water on a dry surface.
Summer is a great time for sensory exploration. Paint with ice cubes or shaving cream. Make slime. Play with kinetic sand. Feel free to get creative. One of the most wonderful things about summer weather is that you can leave the mess outside!
By Kathleen Wilkinson, M.S., OTR/L
About May Institute
May Institute is a nonprofit organization that is a national leader in the field of applied behavior analysis and evidence-based interventions, serving autistic individuals and individuals with other developmental disabilities, brain injury, neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. Founded nearly 70 years ago, we provide a wide range of exceptional educational and rehabilitative services across the lifespan. May Institute operates five schools for children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, including one in Randolph, Mass. For more information, call 800.778.7601 or visit www.mayinstitute.org.