We take for granted our ability to walk from one point to another or to hold a pencil. But doing these simple things involves interplay between our body’s small and large muscle groups and sophisticated hand-eye coordination.
Here are some tips for physical experiences to playgroup-aged children at all stages of development!
Set up a separate space for babies so they are safe from the rest of the playgroup’s happenings (flying balls, boisterous toddlers).
Put your baby on their stomach. Hold an object or toy in front of their face and gradually lift it up so she needs to raise her head to keep the object in sight.
Lie your baby on their stomach again and hold their bare feet. Put a toy in front of them, just out of reach. Put your hands on their feet giving them something to push against, encouraging a forward movement.
Gently and slowly pull soft scarves over their toes and fingers to help them realise they have extremities such as feet and hands, fingers and toes and that they are connected to their own body.
When babies are older, chase them around the carpet while they are crawling. Allow them to chase you as well. Pretend to be different animals by imitating the sounds they make!
Set up an obstacle course with chairs, tables, tyres, blankets, sheets, a mattress, boxes, broom, buckets, balls and washing baskets for crawling, jumping, sliding, tunneling, stretching, balancing, rolling and lying down in.
Explore playgroup equipment to help develop foot-eye, hand-eye coordination, leg and upper body strength, body control, balance and spatial awareness.
Create a tunnel to move through by joining boxes together or making a cloth tunnel. To make a cloth tunnel: use four metres of circular ribbing. To use, an adult at each end:
- Stretches the tunnel open with their feet and holds it open with their hands for children to crawl through
- Twists either end to roll into a soft rope for children to move over or under – children balance walk while tunnel is held firm either end
- Fold the ribbing in half to form a hammock for swinging
BLOCKS AND CONSTRUCTION SETS
By playing with big blocks children use large muscle groups to move blocks around and small muscle groups to either balance them on top of each other or make them interconnect.
Make blocks from carpentry off cuts sanded smooth, foam off cuts covered with material or milk carton blocks. To make milk carton blocks: cut ends off two milk cartons, stuff one with newspaper and fit one into the other to form a cube.
Duplo, big wooden blocks and construction sets can be borrowed from toy libraries or bought.
HAND SKILL ACTIVITIES
- Put on and pull off dolly pegs around the edges of an ice cream container
- Hang clothes on the line
- Paint with fat brushes and crayons
- Do and undo buttons, zips, clips, shoe laces and bows
- Tossing: Toss small bean bags into a large doggy bowl or through hoops or boxes. To make small bean bags: put some grains on square of material, fold each square over and stitch each edge securely closed.
- Matching: Put six plastic containers in a basket/brightly coloured box and six lids in another box. Match lids to containers.
- Fishing: To make a rod: attach string with a magnet on the end to a ruler. Cut fish shapes from felt, ice cream container lids or leather. To attract the magnet on the end of the ruler, put a metal eyelet on each fish.
- Skittles: Make skittles from cleaned plastic bottles. Make a soft ball by stuffing the toe of an old sock with soft filling and tying a secure knot.
- Ball box: It is great fun to roll balls down tubes inserted on an angle through a hole in one side of a box through a hole in the opposite side of the box. Postage tubes from the post office are perfect for this.
- Packing and unpacking: Children love putting balls in and out of a clothes basket or differently textured items (shells or gumnuts) in and out of small baskets.
- In and out of box: Getting in and out of a box requires mastering a range of skills such as weight transference from two legs to one leg, supporting weight on one knee and eye-hand-leg coordination.
- Hulahoops for older children: Moving through hulahoops, jumping in and out of hulahoops or trying to move your waist to keep the hoop rotating encourages body awareness and gross muscle development.
- Walking on cups/stilts for older children: Colourful sets can be borrowed from a toy library or bought. Walking on cups/stilts requires complex hand-eye coordination