Body Awareness Activities Using Proprioception

Body awareness activities

Let’s talk body awareness activities using proprioception, or heavy work to bring awareness to where the body is, how the body moves, and awareness of self. Proprioception is one of the senses that is involved with everything we do. This sensory system plays a major role in body awareness. Below you’ll find body awareness occupational therapy activities to support this motor concept.

Take a quick moment to stop and consider the position you are in right now.  Are you lounging back on a couch?  Sitting at a desk?  Bouncing on a city bus as you glance at your mobile device?  Are you perched in an office chair with your legs folded under you? Are you hanging out at the playground and glancing at your phone while your kids run in circles?

What is Body Awareness?


Body awareness refers to being aware of the body’s position in space at rest and during movement. This concept can be broken down into having an awareness of body parts by name, movement, discrimination of sides of the body, and movement throughout space.

Related, are the concepts of dominance and mixed dominance vs. ambidexterity.

How does body awareness work?

Let’s break it down:

Being aware of our body position is something that happens automatically and naturally.  That body awareness occurs naturally.  The proprioceptive sense allows us to position our bodies just so in order to enable our hands, eyes, ears, and other parts to perform actions or jobs at any given moment. Proprioception activities help with body awareness.

The proprioceptive sense sends information about our body’s position to the brain so that we inherently know that our foot is tapping the ground as we wait on the bus or that our leg is curled under the other on the couch even while we do other actions or tasks.


This awareness allows us to walk around objects in our path, to move a spoon to our mouth without looking at it, and to stand far enough away from others while waiting in a line at the grocery store.  It enables a student to write without pressing too hard or too lightly on their pencil when writing, and it helps us to brush our hair with just the right amount of pressure.


Proprioception is essential for everything we do!


Sometimes, the proprioceptive system does not do it’s job.


When the proprioceptive system isn’t functioning properly, body awareness and motor planning can be a problem.

Kids need heavy work and propriocpetion to help with body awareness needed for skills like standing in line, motor control, and spatial awareness in school and in the community.

When a child needs to pay attention to where their body is in space at all times, they can not attend to other important information like what is happening in their world around them.  He or she can not automatically adjust to environmental changes.  The child then needs to visually compensate in order to adjust his or her body.  This can result in a child being clumsy, fearful, are even scared in certain situations.

Examples of Body awareness



Below are two situations that describe a child with proprioception challenges.  In both, imagine a child who struggles to know where their body is in space.


Body awareness navigating bleachers- Imagine you are sitting on a set of bleachers in a crowd of wiggly, moving, and LOUD students.  There is a lot going on around you, whether you are at a sporting event or in a gymnasium.  

But, you also notice the bleachers don’t have a bottom to the steps; that is, you can see directly down to the ground below you.  Kids are standing up, sitting down, jumping, roughhousing, and you are SCARED.  

Your body doesn’t know how to position itself in a safe manner. You don’t know what action will come next and you don’t know where to look. You don’t know where your feet are or if your hands are supporting you.

Climbing up and down the bleachers is downright terrifying! For the child with proprioceptive struggles, just sitting on a set of bleachers can be challenging and overwhelming.


Body awareness sitting at a classroom desk- Now think about the child who is sitting at their desk and is required to write a journal entry.  For the child with proprioceptive challenges, this can be a task with many “self-checks”.

They need to look at their feet to make sure they are under their desk so they don’t get in trouble for almost tripping someone between the desk aisles.  They need to make sure they are sitting upright in their chair and that their back is touching the chair’s backrest.  

They need to hold the paper and the pencil like they were taught.  They need to align the paper and the words and then think about how hard to press on the paper, how to make the lines for individual letters, and how to string together letters to make words.  

What a workout it is just to get settled in and started on a writing task!  By now they might have lost several minutes of the writing time and they still don’t know what they are even writing about!


Both of these situations happen on an every day basis.  

For the child with proprioception difficulties, the ability to be aware of their body in space and plan out motor actions is very much a struggle.  These kids might appear fidgety, unsure, overwhelmed, clumsy, awkward, uncoordinated, or lazy.



Body awareness is related to visual spatial relations.

How to use proprioception activities to help with body awareness

Body Awareness Goals in Occupational Therapy

When children or adults struggle with awareness of body positioning or movement patterns during activities, functional tasks can be a struggle. Every day tasks are difficult or impaired.

Occupational therapists work with individuals of all ages on functional tasks that occur in all aspects of daily living. Movement is part of the daily task completion, so it is likely that if body awareness is an issue, there are functional impairments at play.

Occupational therapy professionals will focus body awareness goals on the functional task that is impaired.

OT goals for body awareness can be specifically focused on improving body awareness during those functional tasks. Activities that address those goals can include heavy work, attention to task, motor planning, fine or gross motor skills, sensory input in the way of organizing proprioceptive input or vestibular input, visual cues and prompts. There are many ways this skill area can be addressed and these goals will be individualized for the child or adult.

Additionally, OT goals for body awareness may focus on motor planning. Proprioception is very closely aligned with body awareness and motor planning.

Need more information on proprioception and the other sensory systems and how they impact independence? Grab this free sensory processing disorder information booklet and free email series on sensory processing. 

CLICK HERE to get the free sensory processing information booklet.

Body Awareness Activities

In this blog post, we are specifically discussing how to use proprioception activities to help with body awareness.

The proprioceptive system is alerted through heavy work activities that involve heavy pressure, firm sensations, large, forceful motor movements, and pushing or pulling activities. These actions can be calming and organizing.

Try these proprioception activities to help with body awareness at home, in the classroom, or in play.

Proprioception activities at home

  • Carry full laundry baskets to the laundry area
  • Empty wet clothes into the dryer
  • Change sheets
  • Pull weeds
  • Pull garbage cans to and from the curve
  • Carry in grocery bags
  • Carry donations to the car
  • Wash windows
  • Scrub carpets
  • Shovel snow
  • Rake leaves
  • Mop floors
  • Vacuum
  • Rearrange furniture

Proprioception activities in the classroom

  • Carry piles of books
  • Rearrange furniture
  • Help gym teacher move mats
  • Carry bin of lunchboxes to/from the lunch room
  • Wall push-ups
  • Chair push-ups
  • Clap erasers
  • Stack books in the library
  • Place chairs on desks at the end of the day, pull them down again in the morning

Proprioception games and actions

  • Hopscotch
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • Climbing trees
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Jumping in piles of leaves
  • Make a snowman
  • Try dinosaur themed proprioception activities 
  • Pull a wagon
  • Running
  • Clapping games
  • Twister
  • Play dough
  • Bounce a ball against a wall (Vary the size and weight: Use heavier/bigger and lighter/smaller balls to experience differing amounts of feedback.)
  • Try these llama-themed proprioception activities based on a popular children’s book, Llama Llama Red Pajama.
  • Use the Heavy Work Activity Cards in games like Simon Says.

Looking for more ways to add proprioception activities into play and therapy? Try the ideas below. Just click on the images to read more. 

 

proprioception sensory dough marshmallow   Snowball Shot Put Sensory Play for Kids
 
 
DIY Ice Wobble Balance Disk for Proprioceptive and Vestibular Sensory Play  After school brain breaks and activities for kids 
 
 
Travel Sensory Diet Proprioception and Handwriting 
 
Fine Motor Proprioception Play Dough Rocks Frozen Play Dough

In the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook, we cover motor planning and body awareness concepts as they are deeply related to sensory processing. Much like the body awareness activities listed in this blog post, the book discusses how to integrate functional tasks within the day that offer organizing and regulating input through functional activities.

Not only are these activities regulation tools, they are also activities that support development of body position in space and awareness of the body’s movements.

Click here to get your copy of the Sensory Lifestyle Handbook.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook walks you through sensory processing information, each step of creating a meaningful and motivating sensory diet, that is guided by the individual’s personal interests and preferences.

The Sensory Lifestyle Handbook is not just about creating a sensory diet to meet sensory processing needs. This handbook is your key to creating an active and thriving lifestyle based on a deep understanding of sensory processing.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Spring Gross Motor Activities

Spring gross motor activities

This blog post on Spring gross motor activities is part of our collection of Spring activities for occupational therapy. Here, we’ve got gross motor ideas that have a Spring-theme, including balance, coordination, stability, and gross motor coordination tasks like skipping, hopping, jumping, and throwing. You’ll find throwing activities, ways to work on the eye-hand coordination needed for catching a ball, bilateral coordination ideas, core strengthening activities, and more.

These are the gross motor skill ideas that you can use in so many ways to address the skills kids need to succeed at home, at school, and in the community! Get the ideas below!

These spring gross motor activities are great ways to build strength in kids, including posture, stability, core strength, shoulder stability, and coordination, balance, and posture.


Spring Gross Motor Activities

 

Before we cover the gross motor ideas for Spring, be sure to check out  our Spring Fine Motor Activities collection. You can add ideas from each of our Spring Occupational Therapy Activities… because we’re loading you up on different ways to address developmental skill areas with a Spring-theme!

Remember, if you are looking for fun ideas to incorporate into therapy sessions, at home, or in the classroom, our Spring Fine Motor Kit is on sale right now. It’s 100 pages of spring ideas for addressing sensory processing, gross and fine motor skills, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills, handwriting, and more. The packet will last you all season long and can be used over and over again. 


Grab the Spring Fine Motor Kit here. AND get the bonus Spring Break Kit, filled with handouts for Spring break activities, handwriting prompts, brain breaks, and a Spring homework sheet.

Spring Gross Motor Activities


Let’s get right to those Spring-themed Gross Motor Skills.

Shoulder and wrist stability are such a necessary part of fine motor control and precision. You’ve probably seen it before; a kiddo that writes or colors with their arm “floating” up off the table surface.

You probably know a child that writes with their whole arm as opposed to moving those fingers. You might recall a child manipulating small items like beads with their elbows smashed into their sides in order for them to have support and control…It’s all shoulder stability that is lacking!

We’re also talking about core stability, postural control, and balance. You might know a student that slouches at their desk.

What suffers? Handwriting legibility, reading comprehension, and the ability to copy materials without missing items.

 You may have seen a kiddo that is fearful on uneven surfaces like when maneuvering on bleachers, or struggles with active games in gym class. What may be the culprit to these coordination skills?
It just might be postural control, core strength, and stability.

The gross motor activities below provide opportunities to improve bilateral coordination, core strength as part of improving  postural stability, balance, coordination, shoulder stability, and shoulder girdle strengthening.
The activities follow a Spring-theme to use this time of year. 


These general activities combine movement combinations and motor planning that can be used as a fun brain break in the classroom, or a party game idea:


Create a Bunny Hop Gross Motor Game much like our Dinosaur Gross Motor Game! Just make the activities actions like Hop like a bunny, jump like a bunny, stomp your bunny feet, etc. You can add other spring animals too, like a lamb, baby chicks, or robins.


Make a DIY Dance Stick using ribbons, crepe paper, and string. Then, practice forming letters or writing spelling words with the dance stick. It can be decorated like a May Pole, too. Incorporate bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination to wrap the stick with ribbon all the way up and around a dowel rod. 


Bean Bag Activity- We made ice cream cones, but carrots would be super easy, too…or just pretend the bean bags are carrots 🙂  Here are some bean bag games to use when working on midline crossing, core strength, motor planning, and other gross motor areas.

 

Build shoulder and wrist stability 

Shoulder stability is an area that so many kids can struggle with! Writing with their arm “floating” up off the table surface, using the whole arm to manipulate and move a pencil, and other small motor actions. Sometimes, kids that do activities and tasks quickly are compensating for weakness in the shoulder girdle. 


Use Wikki Stix to build Easter Eggs by sticking them to a wall. Position the child at a seated position facing the wall so shoulder flexion occurs at eye height. This is a great way to work on shoulder and wrist stability and mobility. 


Use Spring cookie cutters and small pieces of chalk on a chalkboard or easel. This activity is great for drawing and writing at shoulder height and uses both hands at midline. Working at the vertical surface promote core strength as well as shoulder stability and wrist extension. Bunnies, Easter eggs. hearts, and colorful circles or rainbows are fun this time of year.


Try Spring Yoga- There are some Yoga positions with a Spring theme described and listed in the Spring Occupational Therapy Activities Packet. Add fun animal names and positions to basic yoga positions.


Use a scooter board in prone. Push and pull the scooter board across the floor to transport Spring items into a basket. The dollar store is a good place to find small items. Better yet, use bunny tongs or other tools to transport the items.


Roll a small ball or a therapy ball up and down a wall. Use painters tape to make a ball maze or a strait line like the stem of a Spring flower. “Walk” the ball up the wall to shoulder height and then back down again. Get the ball to the top of the step to create the flower!


Spring Animal Walks- Do the bunny hop, frog jump, and lamb crawl from one side of the room to the other. Think: wheelbarrow walks, crab walks, donkey kicks, and bear walks with a Spring theme!


Color or play on the ground- Use Easter grass to create a sensory space on the floor. Use a large, low tray such as a jelly roll pan to create a sensory bin. Kids can use tongs to find hidden items such as mini-erasers.

Spring Posture and Balance Activities

Posture and trunk stability is essential for positioning in the classroom and in functional tasks in general. Postural control is needed to enable the student to sit upright at their desk, allowing for better handwriting, reading, and copying skills.

Kids who struggle with postural control and balance will be uncoordinated in fine motor tasks, activities requiring sustained positioning, have trouble with motor planning, and may be fearful of tasks that require mobility or uneven positioning such as maneuvering on bleachers or during active play.


Try some of the Spring themed gross motor activities below to improve postural control and balance:

Spring Obstacle Course- Use the printables in our Spring Sensory Stations (free download) to create motor planning tasks that build balance and coordination. Add in jump ropes to hop over, sand buckets to navigate around, and brain breaks (from our Spring Break Kit bonus) to make gross motor planning tasks.

Spring Heavy Work Activities- Add heavy work that challenges motor planning, balance, endurance, positioning changes, and motor skills. These can be used in Simon Says games, obstacle courses, and gross motor play. Print off a copy of these free Spring heavy work cards and get started.

Spring Caterpillar Pose- Assume the “superman pose” on the floor, but call it a caterpillar pose! You can be a caterpillar in the Springtime, gaining strength to start crawling and munching on leaves. Relax rest but then return to the extended arms, legs, and head positioning as you wake up again! 


Balloon Pass- Lie on your back and pull the hips and knees into flexion, toward the belly. Try to hold a ball or balloon between your feet. Then, pass the ball to a friend lying opposite on the floor. Pass the ball into a hoop or large basket. 


Egg Pass- Sit on a partially inflated beach ball and try to balance a plastic egg on a spoon. Try to pass the egg to a friend and then drop it into a basket. 

These spring gross motor activities are great ways to build strength in kids, including posture, stability, core strength, shoulder stability, and coordination, balance, and posture.

Spring Fine Motor Kit

Score Fine Motor Tools and resources and help kids build the skills they need to thrive!

Developing hand strength, dexterity, dexterity, precision skills, and eye-hand coordination skills that kids need for holding and writing with a pencil, coloring, and manipulating small objects in every day task doesn’t need to be difficult. The Spring Fine Motor Kit includes 100 pages of fine motor activities, worksheets, crafts, and more:

Spring fine motor kit set of printable fine motor skills worksheets for kids.
  • Lacing cards
  • Sensory bin cards
  • Hole punch activities
  • Pencil control worksheets
  • Play dough mats
  • Write the Room cards
  • Modified paper
  • Sticker activities
  • MUCH MORE

Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Spring Fine Motor Kit
Spring Fine Motor Kit: TONS of resources and tools to build stronger hands.

Grab your copy of the Spring Fine Motor Kit and build coordination, strength, and endurance in fun and creative activities. Click here to add this resource set to your therapy toolbox.

Colleen Beck, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2000. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. As the creator, author, and owner of the website and its social media channels, Colleen strives to empower those serving kids of all levels and needs. Want to collaborate? Send an email to contact@theottoolbox.com.

Gross Motor Coordination Activities

Gross motor coordination activities

Hop, skip, jump, push and pull are all skills needed, to build foundational gross motor coordination.  Gross motor coordination activities are an engaging way to build these skills. Delays in gross motor coordination can impact the academic learning process of a child. These are skills that are needed to sit and engage in the classroom, participate in P.E./on the playground, navigate the school setting/bus, transition between classrooms/within the classroom, doff/don coats and backpacks, and transport of a lunch tray within the cafeteria. We’ve previously covered gross motor toy recommendations, so you’ll want to check out that resource, too.

Gross motor coordination activities for occupational therapy or physical therapy using play to develop balance and coordination.

gross motor coordination

What exactly is gross motor coordination?  Simply stated, it is the use of large muscle groups in controlled movement patterns that includes all extremities. Gross motor coordination is needed for a child to engage in coordinated and free play, navigation in their environments, and overall self-care. 

 If a child struggles with any of the following:

  • core strength
  • balance
  • body awareness
  • coordination
  • crossing midline

they could struggle with attention, focus, and overall engagement in school.

They need to be able to manage themselves in their academic environment so as to be able to learn and grow in their development. Some gross motor movement is all about mindfulness or developing self control.

Gross Motor Coordination involves both conscious use of motor actions and automatic use of motor actions.

Conscious Use of Motor Coordination

Conscious use of motor coordination involves learning a new skill, while focusing on performing the task or exercise, with that being their sole intent.

An example of conscious use of motor coordination is solely focusing on skipping, without adding music, following directions or any variables.

Automatic Use of Motor Coordination

Automatic use of motor coordination involves being able to move through the actions without thinking of the actual movements, resulting in higher levels of skill.

Running while listening to an iPod, moving around obstacles, and drinking from a water bottle is a good example of automatic motor coordination.

Moving from conscious to automatic motor coordination is the end goal. Children must be able to balance and coordinate their bodies automatically, not think about the movements or actions.

This frees up their attention to focus and process necessary academic information, such as listening to the teacher and learning higher level concepts and skills within the classroom. 

gross motor coordination activities

Check out this Gross Motor Activities Book about Core Strengthening with Music and Movement.

Development occurs proximal to distal, which is essentially from the core to the extremities. First, a child must have adequate core strength and stability in order to fully engage in gross and fine motor skill development.

You can find core strength activities on the OT Toolbox website.

basic core strengthening activities: 

  • sit-ups
  • planks
  • push-ups
  • wall-kicks
  • pulling self on a scooter board
  • donkey kicks
  • crab walks
  • yoga poses
  • wheelbarrow walking
  • therapy band exercises
Use these gross motor coordination activities to develop coordinated movement patterns in kids.

gross motor coordination Home Exercise program

At-home exercise programs are important to engage the family in their child’s therapy program. At-home gross motor coordination activities provide the family with some easy and fun ways to work as a family while developing important skills.

A daily routine is most effective, however, the family can work on a weekly routine if that is all the time they have (every little bit counts).

Hopefully, when the family sees the difficulties their child has in doing some of these gross motor coordination activities, and understand the impact it has on their academic learning and overall school success, they will invest more time into their program.

  1. Follow the Leader: Think about sprinkling in some old movements with new ones to help the child feel successful, but also encourage them to participate in the harder or more difficult movements. Ideas include: clapping, marching, arm circles, twirling, side to side jumping, crawling, sidekicks, hopping, stair climbing with hands and feet, and body swaying.
  2. Obstacle course – Think about keeping it simple at first with just 2-3 obstacles and then add additional obstacles as they improve their skills. Ideas include: jumping over pillows, walking around multiple chairs or bar stools, crepe paper laser maze in the hallway or between chairs, tunnels created with tables and chairs, or even pool noodles in the hallway
  3. Dance moves – Find YouTube dance move videos for the child to engage in ,or just try silly dances such as animal dancing, freeze dancing, and animal sound dancing.
  4. Jump rope or hoola hoop moves – Try jump roping by either continuously moving the rope overhead and jumping, or if this is not possible, try flipping rope overhead, pause behind feet, and step over in a continuous manner. If the child is not ready for jumping rope, try wiggling the rope on the ground like a snake while the child jumps over it. If jump roping is not an option, try the same idea with use of a hoola hoop!
  5. Ball dribbling – Use a playground or basketball to do some ball dribbling using one hand at a time and then advance to bilateral hand dribbling from left to right and right to left. You can even have them dribble with the ball by bouncing off the wall to the floor or ground. The OT Toolbox has a few more ideas to work on bilateral coordination.
  6. Target toss – You can use a variety of objects for this activity such a stuffed animals, bean bags, pillows, or balls. Toss them into a basket, try cornhole, toss into tape shapes on the floor, or even at a target on the wall. 
  7. Rolling – Have the child roll themselves down a hill or an incline created with a wedge or other surface. Don’t have an incline? That’s okay, roll up in a blanket or a flat sheet!
  8. Twister or Twister Moves (Amazon affiliate links)– These two games are two of the best games for older kiddos to play in order to work on gross motor coordination! Kids really love them and so do the families! 
  9. Climbing – Have the child climb up a rope ladder, stairs, or the ladder on a bunk bed. Create a coordination exercise with obstacles on the floor to crawl over such as pillows or cushions off of the sofa. Go to the neighborhood playground and use the climbing wall!
  10. Simon Says – This simple game can be a fun way to work on coordination skills. You can incorporate the use of left and right directionality to make it more of challenge.
  11. Tightrope balance beam – Place a jump rope or a strip of masking/painter’s tape on the floor to have the child walk on the line in order to remain on the tightrope – be careful and don’t fall off!  Incorporate heel to toe, side stepping, squatting to pick up items, and walking backwards. A slack line across a canyon will be the ultimate goal! These indoor balance beam ideas will keep you covered for indoor activities and these outdoor balance beam ideas are great for outdoor play.
  12. Hopscotch – Draw a hopscotch board on the driveway or the sidewalk and play this classic game. You can even do it even on a rainy day by using tape on the floor in the home.
  13. Hippity Hop Balls and Pogo Jumpers (Amazon affiliate links)– Many families have one of these at home, and they are great to work on overall gross motor coordination. Hop around the house or create a path to have the child hop on.
  14. Pillow jumping – Create a path around the room with pillows or stuffed animals on the floor and have the child jump over them with two feet or if they are ready for an advanced move, on one foot! If you are in someone else’s home, make sure the parents are ok with their child jumping on pillows or furniture first.
  15. Big shoe walking – Allow the child to walk around the house in shoes that are too large for them. Have them try slippers, boots, sneakers, and sandals. It’s super fun and highly motivating! While not the safest option, children love walking around in high heels!
  16. Crawling – Simply crawl on all fours to maneuver around the room by crawling around, over, or under furniture. It can be the fun way to work on coordination exercise.
  17. Ball rolling on a tape maze – Create a maze on the floor and have the child work on rolling a ball on top of maze lines, either by using their hands and crawling or standing and using their feet
  18. Ball rolling on a wall – Have the child work on rolling a ball up and down the wall with their feet, while lying supine, or roll the ball on a tape maze using their hands. Create the maze in either a horizontal or vertical fashion.
  19. Skateboard – No, this isn’t standing and riding, as this is most likely a dangerous coordination exercise for the child who is challenged with gross motor coordination. However, have you thought about having them sit or lie on the board to use it like a scooter board? It can potentially be a good tool for coordination. 

Need a free printable handout for fun gross motor activity ideas?  Grab it here! This printable set contains an equipment list and activity ideas specifically for the home. 

Gros Motor Intervention Ideas

Intervention ideas for a therapy session can include many of the gross motor coordination activities above that are easy to do without much equipment.

Other ideas can include the use of therapy balls, scooter boards, swings, a trampoline, bucket stilts, and other various equipment. If you don’t have the room for these items, or access to them where you are providing services, there are other ways to work on gross motor coordination too.

Take a look at some of these fun ideas to build motor coordination:

  • Hand games – Any type of hand game is the perfect tool to work on motor coordination for kids. Classic ‘Give me 5’, hand stacking, and slap hands are great for bilateral coordination of the upper extremities. Here are some easy hand games, or finger play songs that you might want to try. 
  • Clapping activities – Use of symmetrical and asymmetrical hand movements can easily be upgraded and downgraded based on the child’s skill level. Try some of the ideas found in Why You Should Teach Your Kids Clapping Games
  • Balloon volley – Have child do balloon volley with a partner in sitting, standing, or even kneeling. This is a super fun way to engage in coordination and you can do partner games easily during therapy. Don’t have a partner? That’s okay, have them try to do it with use of frisbee or their own hands. Add in a baton held horizontally and you’ve got another game! 
  • Rapper Snappers or Pop Tubes (Amazon affiliate link)– Have the child pull these apart and push them back together. This is not as easy at it looks. It makes a great motivator as the sound can be quite rewarding. Don’t do it in a library or a quiet hallway, as it can be quite loud. Don’t ask how I know this.
  • Crab walk soccer – Have the child learn crab walking first. When they are ready for a little extra challenge, have them work on kicking a ball while in the crab walk position. They can play with a partner or simply kick the ball to a target. 
  • Suspended ball hit – Suspend a ball or balloon from the ceiling or a swing suspension system and have them either stand while holding a baton horizontally to strike a ball/balloon back and forth to themselves. If your student can not stand for this activity, they can sit and do the same. Need an extra challenge? Tall kneeling is a good position!
  • Mirror image – Play mirror imaging by having the child copy the moves that you do like looking in a mirror. 
  • Zoom Ball – Have the child work on building coordinated arm movements to pull the handles of the ball on a string and send the ball to their partner. Do it while standing, sitting, and kneeling. You can even try it with your arms behind your back!
  • Laundry basket pulley – Have child sit or stand to pull a rope attached to a weighted laundry basket or box and have them pull the rope hand-over-hand towards themselves to bring the basket/box to themselves. 
  • Resistive Band or Handee Band exercises – The use of resistive bands is a simple way to work on coordination. Using fun exercise cards can keep them focused and engaged by design.  The Handee Band program is designed for younger kiddos, as the cards are designed with fun active characters. 
  • Heavy Work Movements– Actions that incorporate the proprioceptive sense and vestibular sense offer movement with sensory benefits. These Heavy Work Activity cards are perfect for all learners.
  • Hokey Pokey – An easy, classic game that children enjoy and can be played as a small group or individually during therapy.  You can easily incorporate directionality with this game too!
  • Playground equipment – Head out to the playground at a school and voila! Tt’s gross motor coordination opportunities galore! Explore swinging, sliding, rocking, and climbing.
  • Animal walks and other types of movement patterns – Have the child work on some of these fun animal walks as they are one of the best ways to have children work on coordination skills during therapy sessions.
  • Themed Exercises- Other thematic exercises are a super fun way to have children work on the coordination of upper and lower body movements. If you want a print and go resource that utilizes the alphabet, then grab this free printable resource from The OT Toolbox, Alphabet Exercises for Kids.  
  • Rhythm games – Use songs and poems to help a child perform hand or body rhythmic patterns that work on coordination while utilizing an auditory assist. YouTube videos can be a good tool for this activity.
  • Gross motor coordination exercises – These are basic exercises that address overall body coordination while using upper and lower extremities in a coordinated manner:  windmills, jumping jacks, standing cross crawls, supine cross crunches, and toe touches. The OT Toolbox has you covered with Jungle Animal Heavy Work Coordination Exercises.

gross motor coordination Therapy Equipment Ideas

If you need activity ideas to use equipment during therapy sessions, here is a list of ideas that utilize the some of the most common tools used during clinic practice or school settings.  If you want an overall big picture of gross motor toys in therapy, read this Gross Motor Toys article.

  1. Trampoline – Use of the trampoline for jumping is a great form of coordination.  Want to engage the upper body more? Try tossing and catching a ball while jumping to further work on coordination skills with use of a trampoline.

2. Scooter board – The scooter board can be used in a variety of ways to address coordination skills. 

  • Lying supine and pushing off of the wall with the feet
  • Lying prone and pulling self across the floor
  • Pulling self while seated using a hand-over-hand pattern with use of a rope anchored by therapist or a secure hook
  • Driving the scooter board by kneeling and pushing the board to targets on the floor
  • Try this fun deck set (Amazon affiliate link) for scooter boards which provides many activity ideas that focus on coordination.

3. Therapy ball – A therapy ball is another equipment tool that can be utilized in a variety of ways to address coordination skills.

  • Lying supine and having child pull themselves to sitting with support from an adult
  • Lying prone while walking back and forth on their arms and hands – maybe even doing an activity too 
  • Performing therapy ball slaloms with use of cones and a baton 
  • Try this fun deck set (Amazon affiliate link) for therapy balls which provides multiple ideas that focus on strength and coordination.

4. Therapy platform swing – A therapy swing provides ample use of coordination while engaging in fun activities to build coordination.

  • While seated crisscross in the middle, have the child work on batting a balloon or catching a ball.
  • While seated crisscross in the middle, have the child use a baton to reach and ‘catch’ loops or bead necklaces. 
  • While lying prone, have child work on creating ice cream sundaes.
  • While lying prone, have the child pick up and toss bean bags at a target.

5. Bucket Stilts (Amazon affiliate link)– These are fun way to work on coordination skills and kids are always interested in how they work and often ask if they can try them.  Yes, you can!  Just the design and purpose of this toy is what builds coordination. So, really no explanation is needed.

6. Safety cones – These are really inexpensive and can be found at the dollar store. All you need are a few of them to either place on the floor or elevate them on inner tubes like safety cone toe taps to address coordination. 

7. Wobble Balance Board – An effective equipment tool to address coordination skills simply by the use of it. Use it inverted or not! 

8. Shark Run – An easy way to work on coordination skills either in the therapy session or at home. Have the child start by putting two mats or pillows in front of each other and then while standing on the farthest one, bend and reach back to pick up the other pillow or mat, move it to the front and step on it next, then repeat. This creates a path to walk across the room and try to stay out of the water and avoid the sharks!

A Final Note on Gross Motor Coordination

While all of these gross motor coordination activity ideas are great, don’t forget there are other ways to have the child build their skills. They can engage in community activities such as karate, gymnastics, swimming, dance, yoga, ballet or organized sports. While your child says they would rather sit in front of their electronics, these gross motor coordination activities can be just as fun.

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!