Cool Activities in the Heat

kpt_adminMedia and Events, Occupational Therapy

With summer and the heat upon us, it can be difficult to find ways to stay active and cool. It’s important for little bodies to stay moving and active. Particularly in the summer months when school is out of session. To avoid becoming stagnant and also avoiding the ever-tempting bouncing off the walls and hanging from the chandeliers. Here are some fun ideas to get the wiggles out without risking letting too much heat in.

Here’s a list of fun summer ideas to challenge your child’s gross motor, fine motor, and sensorimotor skills. All of these can be performed indoors out of the heat:

Create an obstacle course out of everyday items!

Try using paper plates on feet to slide on hardwood or tile floors. Paper circles or taped floor X’s can also be used for hopping on two feet “glued together” one foot, or even in a hopscotch pattern to imitate jumping jacks while moving forward. Hurdles can be placed on the floor made of pillows or other low-to-the-ground objects. To encourage jumping, crawling, and other developmentally appropriate motor skills in a healthy way.

Adding small obstacle course’s or “body breaks” throughout the day is really important for your child’s sensory system and gross motor skill development. Old mattresses can also be placed on the floor or even against a wall as a “crash corner”. Add pillows and stuffed animals to increase body awareness and allow safe “crashing.”

Add weight!

Weight can be added to everyday tasks in order to increase joint compression and assist in giving “proprioceptive feedback,” which basically means “where is my body located in space?” Providing weight can a calming effect as well as increase gross motor output, decreasing “wiggles” and extra energy. Weight can be added in many ways using household objects you probably already have at home!

  • Place books in a laundry basket and push the basket back and forth down a hallway.
  • A belt can be attached to the laundry basket to pull the basket down the hallway or in a loop around the house.
  • Soup cans/books can be placed on one side of the room and the child can run back and forth. Transporting one can/book at a time placing the item on the other side of the room. Until all of the cans/books have been relocated.
  • Hold a soup can or small weighted object in each hand, overhead while walking the tile lines in the kitchen. Or even standing in place while holding the object as long as possible. This can give great feedback through the shoulders and arms to increase calming and focus.
  • Backpacks and fanny packs can be weighted with books, rocks, or other heavy objects in order to create mobile “weight”. That can be worn on all of your summer adventures to increase body awareness and provide a calming effect.

Get messy!

Messy play is really important in the development of a child’s sensory system and can decrease sensitivity to everyday tasks such as bathing and mealtime. Some of our favorite mediums to use in the clinic are shaving cream, hair gel, whipped cream, bean or rice bins, and water beads. Children can explore these different mediums with their hands while seated at a table, on the ground in a designated place on hardwood floors or tile floors with feet or both feet and hands, or even in an empty bathtub with their hands, feet, or total body! Try creating a special place for this “messy play” to avoid carryover of playing with food at mealtime.

Get creative!

Often everyday tasks such as coloring can be adapted by taping the coloring page to the wall or even underneath a chair while the child stands facing wall or lies on his or her back in order to increase the muscles required and elicit functional strength in a new way.

Everyday tasks can be completed while standing on a pillow or another item that challenges balance in order to increase input while completing basic daily tasks.

Make moving daily a priority!

An old deck of cards can be modified by writing a gross motor move (jumping jacks, plank, sit ups, skipping, running to mailbox and back, etc.) and the cards can be used intermittently throughout the day to increase movement in a measurable and realistic way. Perhaps kids must do 1 card for each minute of screen time they want to earn or 5 cards each hour of the day that they are home. These small changes can make a big difference in the long run.

See our Sensory Recipes for “sensory play” here.

This article was written by our very own Macaile Hutt a Occupational Therapist here at KPT. The article was featured in the August issue of Idaho Family Magazine.