Playground Balance Activities

playground balance activities

Today I have a fun activity for kids…playground themed balance activities! This virtual playground activity has various movement and coordination tasks that challenge kids to work on posture, position changes, coordination, core strength, and much more. While playing at the playground is the way to go to develop gross motor skills, sometimes getting outdoors is just not possible. That’s where this playground therapy slide deck comes in!

For more information on playground therapy, check out our previous post.

Add these playground themed gross motor coordination stretches, movements, and poses to your therapy obstacle courses, brain breaks, and transition activities.

Playground balance activities for sensory play and coordination when going to the playground isn't possible. Use these in a playground theme in therapy activities.

Playground Balance Activities

When you think about playing at the playground, you think climbing, stooping, sliding, and balancing, right? There are so many ways that playing on playground equipment is such a powerful way to develop gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and overall strength.

But, sometimes it’s just not possible to get out to the playground. Things like weather can impact playground use. Other times, limitations in using public spaces impacts use of the playground in the school setting. And, for therapists running therapy sessions, sometimes you want to incorporate all of the fun of a playground setting in the therapy clinic!

When you access this playground balance activity slide deck, you get to pretend you are at the playground no matter what setting you are in. Then, by following the commands on each slide, children can get all of the benefits of stooping, crawling, balancing, and changing postures.

Each slide on this free slide deck asks kids to follow the visual cue. There are visuals for different playground task. Things like:

  • Balancing on one leg by monkey bars
  • Stooping to pick up a ball
  • Kicking a ball
  • Squatting to play in the sandbox
  • Climbing on playground equiptment
  • Throwing a ball
  • Climbing on a merry-go-round
  • Jumping rope
  • Reaching up for monkey bars.

There are many types of playground equipment that can challenge balance and coordination, including:

  1. Balance beams: These narrow beams require children to maintain their balance as they walk across.
  2. Wobble bridges: These bridges are designed to wobble and move as children walk across, challenging their balance and coordination.
  3. Swinging steps: These are sets of steps that swing and move as children step on them, requiring them to maintain their balance and adjust their movements.
  4. Climbing nets: Climbing nets require children to use their balance and coordination to navigate the ropes and reach the top.
  5. Rope bridges: These bridges are made of ropes that sway and move as children cross, challenging their balance and coordination.
  6. Stepping stones: These are sets of raised platforms that require children to step from one to the other, using their balance to keep from falling off.
  7. Monkey bars: These require children to swing from bar to bar using their arms and legs, while also maintaining their balance.
  8. Rocking platforms: Similar in nature to the sensory benefits of a platform swing, these playground surfaces are large, flat platforms that rock back and forth, challenging children to maintain their balance while standing or walking. If you can find a playground with an actual platform swing, that’s even better!

We used various images to challenge all of these movements!

Playground theme therapy

By going through the playground exercises, kids work on a variety of areas:

  • Bilateral coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Core strength
  • Stabiliyt
  • Position changes
  • Sequencing
  • Motor control
  • Visual figure ground
  • Graded positioning
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Direction-following

These skills impact daily functioning in kids! Why not use a playground theme to work on these skill areas?

When kids follow the directions on each slide, they are also gaining whole-body movements and heavy work input that can be calming as a regulation tool.

If creating a weekly therapy theme works for your plans, then this playground theme is one you’ll want to add to your line up of occupational therapy activities and PT activities. You can use these playground balance exercises in therapy sessions to incorporate a therapy theme.

  1. Try using these visual playground strategies in between other tasks in a therapy session. Work on handwriting, scissor skills, and other functional tasks. And then come back to the balance activity. Then do another task and come back to the balance activity.
  2. Kids can work through the slides and try to remember all of the movements.
  3. Call out a piece of playground equipment and the child can recall the specific balance exercise. This is a great way to work on working memory and attention to detail.
  4. Incorporate handwriting: Ask students to list out all of the playground equipment. Work on letter formation, legibility, spacing, and line use. Then they can go through the slides and do the balance exercises.
  5. Add these activities to a sensory diet that helps kids regulate sensory input. Our outdoor sensory diet cards are the perfect combination to a playground theme!

Free Playground Balance Activities Slide Deck

Want to access this free therapy resource? It’s just one of the many free slides here on the website. All you need to do is enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a PDF containing a link to a Google slide deck. Copy it onto your drive and you are good to go! Start playing on the playground no matter where you are!

Playground Balance Activities

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    Why use this playground pretend activity?

    We know the value that play has for children. When children play, they are developing skills. Occupational therapy and play go hand in hand because of the value and importance of play as a primary role for children.

    Through pretend play, or copying the poses in this playground slide deck, kids can pretend to move through playground equipment, while challenging the motor skills, coordination, and balance needed to perform playground activities. The pretend play is a valuable tool to support preschoolers, school aged children, and all ages because it offers a no-risk opportunity to build motor plans. The ability to practice skills in a stress-free environment such as a home, classroom, or therapy clinic can support the young child to prepare them for maneuvering over, under, and around that playground equipment.

    Have fun!

    Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to

    Paper Plate Activities

    Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts for occupational therapy

    In occupational therapy, paper plate activities are one of those OT intervention tools that are low-cost and can be used in a multitude of ways to support many different developmental skills. From paper plate interactive activities, to scissor activities, to fine motor development, paper plate crafts and sensory activities can be used to promote many skill areas in occupational therapy interventions or at home and in the classroom.

    Paper plate activities and paper plate crafts to develop skills like fine motor skills, social emotional skills, and gross motor skills.

    Paper Plate Activities

    I get really excited when I talk about the next subject – paper plate activities! Paper plate crafts and activities are so fun and often require very little materials with the end result being so wonderful for kids! 

    Paper plates can easily be used for arts and crafts, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, subject or topic learning, visual motor and perceptual skills, emotions and self-regulation as well as a myriad of games.

    Paper plates can be a go-to when you need a quick activity in any setting or on those cold, rainy days when you need something to keep the kids busy. They are a great motivator for kids and can help build important skills that a child needs to continue to learn and to grow. 

    Paper plates are a thrifty tool for therapy to build those motor and perceptual skills while providing a fun activity that any child will want to engage in during sessions. The use of paper plates in the classroom can be for exploring emotions and self-regulation, creating after reading a book and lots of subject and topic learning fun. Their use in the home can include arts and crafts, instrument making, and games that result in some fantastic family entertainment.

    Paper plates will give you the variety you need to help many kiddos on your caseload, in your classroom, or in your household. So, the next time you’re at the store, grab some plain or even festive paper plates and see what fun you can create with kids and you may find that you enjoy the fun too! 

    Use these paper plate crafts to work on scissor skills, hand strength, dexterity, eye-hand coordination, and more.

    Paper Plate Crafts

    In occupational therapy interventions, we often use crafts as a medium for developing skills (taking us back to our roots of our profession!) These paper plate crafts are great for developing fine motor skills, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, motor planning, executive functioning skills, and more.

    • Mini Beach– Work on hand strength, utensil use, and more to make a paper plate beach craft.
    • Paper Bowl Scarecrow Craft– Use this paper plate craft to work on fine motor skills like precision, dexterity, and mixed medium use. Add in emotional learning to make the scarecrow personalized. Kids can take this craft and add their own unique twists for a multi-sensory craft with open-ended results.
    • Paper Plate Snail Craft– Work on precision, in-hand manipulation, arch development, and other fine motor skills with this paper plate snail craft.
    • Paper Plate Cars This craft is great for addressing scissor skills.
    • Paper Plate Baseball Craft– Improve scissor skills with this paper plate baseball craft.
    • Paper Plate Bubble Gum Machine Craft– Work on eye-hand coordination skills.
    • Thanksgiving Feast Plate – Use this craft to work on functional tasks such as meal skills and utensil use, as well as hand strength.
    • Tin Foil Moon– This is a great craft for working on graded hand strength and bilateral coordination skills.

    Paper Plate Activities for Emotions and Self- Regulation

    The best thing about occupational therapy professionals is that they can use ANY material to work on a variety of skill areas. Use paper plates to address social emotional learning and self-regulation skills!

    Paper Plate Fine Motor Activities

    Paper plates are a great fine motor activity to support hand strengthening, scissor skills, bilateral coordination, and more.

    Paper Plate Gross Motor Activities

    Paper plates can be used in therapy to support gross motor skills, too.

    Paper Plate Learning Activities

    Use these activities to work on functional tasks and executive functioning skills needed in daily occupations such as learning, math, using a phone, telling time, name writing, and more.

    Paper Plate Auditory Processing with Paper Plate Instruments

    You can use paper plates to work on auditory processing, too.

    Paper Plate Visual Motor Activities

    Paper plates are a great tool to use in therapy to address visual motor skills.

    Now, what are you waiting for? Go grab some paper plates and pick an activity!!

    Regina Allen

    Regina Parsons-Allen is a school-based certified occupational therapy assistant. She has a pediatrics practice area of emphasis from the NBCOT. She graduated from the OTA program at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina with an A.A.S degree in occupational therapy assistant. She has been practicing occupational therapy in the same school district for 20 years. She loves her children, husband, OT, working with children and teaching Sunday school. She is passionate about engaging, empowering, and enabling children to reach their maximum potential in ALL of their occupations as well assuring them that God loves them!