Exercise and Mood: Why Does my Child Need to Exercise?

Exercise and mood in kids

Years of research and personal experience can tell us that adults tend to function better with regular exercise. Exercise helps us sleep better, reduce our stress, and manage our weight2. But what about our kids – how do they benefit from exercise? Today we are going to dive deep into the research and see why and how our kids should exercise to better their mood. Let’s look at the link between exercise and mood, and establishing healthy habits that lead to function and independence in kids.

Related: Emotional Regulation and Executive Functioning Skills.

Exercise and mood in children. Kids benefit from exercise to help with tantrums, behaviors, and confidence.

Exercise and Mood: Managing TEMPER TANTRUMS

If your child is having issues with emotional regulation, it may come out as a temper tantrum. You know the feeling of having no control over your emotions; being taken on a ride of sadness, aggression, and pounds of heavy frustration. Most adults have had enough practice honing their emotional regulation skills to keep them from screaming in the middle of the grocery store after a long day. Children, however, are still working on developing emotional regulation skills, and because of that, their overall mood can suffer.

Also related is the mood of those around us, or co-regulation. This is another aspect of mood that we don’t always first think of as it relates to our behavior and actions.

According to research new and old, exercise can help a child better regulate their mood9. Next time your child is screaming in the middle of Target, think to yourself – have they gotten enough physical activity recently? I have found that 30 mins of exercise in the morning can help even out moods for the whole day. Plus, you are bound to get a good nap time out of them if they have gotten enough physical activity – double whammy for everyone’s mood!

Tips for Exercise and Mood

Try these tips for encouraging exercise to reduce tantrums in toddlers:

  • Instead of pushing your toddler in a scroller on neighborhood walks, encourage them to walk next to you for a while.
  • Use classic movement songs to incorporate movement into their day – our favorites are “Animal Action” By Greg and Steve, “Jim Along Josie” By Pete Seeger, and “Pet Parade” by Hoyt Axton.
  • If screen time is a part of your routine, use videos like Cosmic Kids Yoga  to make the screen time more valuable.

Exercise to REDUCe ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION

Research shows that regular exercise in youth can treat anxiety and depression in the short term and long-term 3,4. Some studies suggest that high-intensity exercises, that will increase cardiorespiratory activity, improve mood more than low-impact exercises, like yoga5.

While there is lots of evidence to support that exercise can improve mood in both adults and children, some of the research points to other affects that exercise programs can have on children. For example, when children are enrolled in sports or other physical activity programs, they are also socially active and get attention from adults, which may also positively impact their mood7.

Whatever way you look at it, exercise is likely to improve their mood and guard against anxiety and depression.

Exercise for self-CONFIDENCE

One way that exercise improves mood is through raising self-esteem – physical activity gives you a confidence boost! Research shows that all kinds of physical activity contribute to a rise in self-esteem5.

Self-esteem is so important in all the occupations that children have, particularly in school. Academic and social success are partially dependent on self-esteem and self-worth, and both contribute to a positive mood.

“Psychological and behavioural problems in children and adolescents are common, and improving self‐esteem may help to prevent the development of such problems” (Ekeland et al., 2004).

Exercise and positive BEHAVIORS

In one study, researchers found that teachers reported an increase in wanted behaviors for children enrolled in both high and low-intensity exercise programs5. The theory here is that when a child’s physical activity needs are met, they are better able to regulate their emotions, attention, and behaviors9.

This comes with the awesome effects that exercise has for executive functioning, which controls many cognitive abilities6. With this increase in desirable behaviors, they will be more likely to develop positive relationships with their peers, teachers, and family members8.

“Exercise…is highly relevant in preadolescent children… given the importance of well-developed executive functions for daily life functioning” (Verburgh et al., 2014). 

Exercise has been shown to increase self-esteem, cognition and academic success, and decrease depression and anxiety in children3. Not to mention the obvious health factors associated with physical activity like heart and respiratory function. All said, exercise is integral to the overall health and wellness of our children.

EXERCISES FOR KIDS

After all that exercise talk, we have to offer some great ideas to add to your list! Most important to any exercise routine – you have to do what you love! Find what your kids like and encourage them to try new activities.

Another key strategy to encourage exercise in kids is to model healthy habits as the child’s parent. When parents model healthy choices, fitness, and regular exercise, kids see that and are more likely to follow suit with their own healthy choices.

One way that adults can model healthy choices is through exercising in the home. When kids see adults exercising, they have that positive interaction with physical activity.

Having a treadmill in the home is one sure-fire way to encourage movement, exercise, and healthy habits that are integrated into the day-to-day. With  Horizon Fitness treadmills and fitness equipment, you get the availablity of cardio equiptment right in the home. It’s there as a visable option for adding movement and regular cardio exercise on a daily or weekly basis.

Plus, parents of children can benefit from the fitness programs for quick and effective workouts that fit into the busy family’s schedule. Horizon offers a number of entertainment apps and streaming options, including Bluetooth speakers,  live or on-demand fitness apps, and other streaming fitness opportunities. All of these extras are designed to promote improved physical exercise and meaningful motivation.

Click here to join me in using Horizon Fitness equipment as a tool to ensure healthy families.

References

1. Ekeland, E., Heian, F., Hagen, K. B., Abbott, J. M. & Nordheim, L. (2004). Exercise to improve self‐esteem in children and young people. Cochrane Libary of Systematic Reviews. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD003683.pub

2. Oaten, M. & Cheng, K. (2010). Longitudinal gains in self‐regulation from regular physical exercise. The British Journal of Health Psychology,11(4). https://doi.org/10.1348/135910706X96481

3. Ortega, F. B., Ruiz, J. R., Castillo, M. J. & Sjöström, M. (2008). Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International Journal of Obesity, 32, 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.ijo.0803774

4. Pascoe, M. C. & Parker, A. G. (2018). Physical activity and exercise as a universal depression prevention in young people: A narrative review. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 13(4). https://doi.org/10.1111/eip.12737

5. Telles, S., Singh, N., Bhardwaj, A. D., Kumar, A. & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Effect of yoga or physical exercise on physical, cognitive and emotional measures in children: a randomized controlled trial. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health,7(37). https://doi.org/10.1186/1753-2000-7-37

6. Verburgh, L., Königs, M., Scherder, E. J. A., & Oosterlaan, J. (2014). Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,48, 973-979. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/12/973

7. Williams, C. F., Bustamante, E. E., Waller, J. L. & Davis, C. L. (2019). Exercise effects on quality of life, mood, and self-worth in overweight children: the SMART randomized controlled trial. Translational Behavioral Medicine,9(3), 451–459. https://doi.org/10.1093/tbm/ibz015

8. Xue, Y., Yang, Y. & Huang, T. (2019). Effects of chronic exercise interventions on executive function among children and adolescents: A systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine,53, 1397-1404. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097600

9. Zhang, Y., Fu, R., Sun, L., Gong, Y., & Tang, D. (2019). How does exercise improve implicit emotion regulation ability: Preliminary evidence of mind-body exercise intervention combined with aerobic jogging and mindfulness-based yoga. Frontiers in Psychology,10. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01888

Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.

Exercise and Mood Resources for Kids

You’ll love these resources designed to help kids get moving, exercising, and building skills, and kids won’t even realize they are “exercising”!

Designed to use fun themes, these heavy work activity cards add proprioceptive input to help kids become more aware of their body’s position in space.

Heavy work input allows kids to gain more awareness of motor planning skills, coordination, AND strengthening in fun and creative ways.

Incorporate the themed exercise cards into learning themes or play.

Grab your set of heavy work exercise cards, now.

Includes themes:

  1. Trucks Heavy Work Activities
  2. Insects Heavy Work Activities
  3. Sea Animals Heavy Work Activities
  4. Farm Animals Heavy Work Activities
  5. Jungle Animals Heavy Work Activities
  6. Woodland Animals Heavy Work Activities
  7. Superheroes Heavy Work Activities
  8. Sports Heavy Work Activities
  9. Monsters Heavy Work Activities
  10. Summer Heavy Work Activities
  11. Butterfly Life Cycle Heavy Work Activities
heavy work activity card example

Color Exercises

Color exercises for teletherapy

Looking to get kids moving and building skills in therapy sessions or at home? These color exercises use all the colors of the rainbow to help kids move and strengthen gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and even visual motor skills! Add these whole body exercises use colors as a therapy theme, but I love that the colorful exercise activities get kids strengthening muscle groups in big and small ways.

This therapy activity slide deck is one of the many free slides available here on the site, as a resource for teletherapy, home programs, and therapy planning!

Be sure to grab the free I Spy Colors therapy slide deck, too. For a hands-on activity, be sure to use our color by letter worksheet.

Color exercises for teletherapy

Related resource- Working with kids in teletherapy? Need streamlined info on how to structure your sessions? Need activities for week-to-week therapy planning? need answers for all of your teletherapy questions? Join the free teletherapy course, a 5 day email series on telehealth for occupational therapists.

Color exercises

This is a color learning activity, that can be used in teletherapy sessions to develop many skill areas:

Color exercises for kids

Gross Motor Color Exercises

All of these gross motor skill areas can be addressed using the color activities in this slide deck:

  • Gross motor skills
  • Core strength
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Crossing midline
  • Core strength
  • Stability
  • Balance and equilibrium skills
  • Coordination
  • Range of motion
  • Flexibility
  • Motor planning
  • Crossing midline
  • Movement patterns
  • Posture and postural control
  • Muscle tone
  • Proprioceptive input
  • Vestibular input

As kids go through the slides, they need to complete various stretches, challenging the skills listed above. There are movement patterns, crossing midline activities, yoga positions, and more. Kids can go through these slides several times if you like, to work on motor planning, sequencing, and memory skills.

Color and letter exercises

Then, the slides ask the child to air write letters. This is an eye-hand coordination activity that incorporates shoulder positioning and strengthening, finger isolation, and crossing midline, motor planning, range of motion.

These slides also work on visual perceptual skills including visual closure as kids identify the hidden letter.

Grade and extend this activity:

  • Challenge kids by calling out a color and they can complete that gross motor activity.
  • Having the child air write the letter associated with the color and writing the letter larger or smaller, using whole arm motions, or just the finger.
  • Challenge kids by calling out a color and asking them to air write the letter.
  • Or ask kids to complete the air writing task while in the gross motor stretch activity.
Color hand strength exercises

Fine Motor Color Exercises

This slide deck challenges fine motor skills as well. Kids can use their finger and work on finger isolation as they write the letters on each of the color slides.

There is another movement section of the slide deck that incorporates colored letters with a fine motor activity. All students will need is a piece of paper (scratch paper works, so tell them to grab an old homework page or even a piece of junk mail) and their hands.

Following the directions on the fine motor activity slides, they will tear the paper into small pieces using their hands to tear and crumble. Tearing paper with the hands and using the finger tips to crumble small bits of paper strengthens the intrinsic muscles of the hands. Here is more information on tearing paper as a fine motor activity.

This activity works on fine motor skills:

  • Arch development
  • Intrinsic hand strength
  • Open thumb web space
  • Hand strength
  • Dexterity
  • Precision
  • Graded tearing- eye hand coordination
  • Separation of the sides of the hand

Then, you can extend this activity to use it in different ways or to challenge kids of all levels and ages:

  • Use different colored paper to match with different letter activities and gross motor exercises in the first part of the slide deck.
  • Use different grades of paper to make the exercise more difficult. Heavy weight paper like construction paper, cardstock, or paper plates is more of a challenge and lighter weight paper like thing paper, wrapping paper, wax paper, or tissue paper is easier.
  • Encourage children to use only the very tips of one hand.
  • Ask kids to write a letter on the small piece of paper and then crumble it up so the letter is hidden.
Letter exercises using colors

Visual Motor Exercise with Colors

Finally, the last part of this slide deck is a visual motor exercise. Children can use those small pieces of paper to copy the lines and letters on the slides.

This activity includes strait lines for younger children to incorporate pre-writing lines. There are also letters included for kids working on forming letters.

Extend this activity

  • Matching letters to the exercises at the beginning of the deck.
  • Kids could also form letters using the paper balls by memory rather than copying the letter forms.
Color exercise for self regulation

The slide deck ends with a color self regulation exercise. Kids can choose the color that matches their feelings, alert state, and regulation needs, all with a rainbow color theme!

Virtual Color Exercise Activities

Want this free therapy slide deck? Enter your email into the form below. Grab the free Google slide deck by entering your email into the form below. You will receive a PDF containing a link to open the slide deck. Be sure you are logged into your Google account before clicking the button on that PDF. Save the PDF in your therapy files so you can access this resource any time and share with those on your caseload.

Color Exercises!

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    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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

    Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Activity

    Valentines day gross motor slide deck for helping kids with movement, motor planning, coordination, and other gross motor skills.

    Today, I’m excited to bring you another free Google slide deck, this one is a way to get kids moving and working on motor planning skills. It’s a Valentine’s Day gross motor activity that challenges bilateral coordination, crossing midline, movement challenges, and motor planning skills. Kids can follow along with this therapy slide deck and use the heart theme therapy activity to work on so many movement skills. Let’s get those kiddos moving in occupational therapy, physical therapy, in the classroom, or at home!

    Valentines day gross motor slide deck for helping kids with movement, motor planning, coordination, and other gross motor skills.

    Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Activity

    If hands-on activities that are used by many different children are possible, sensory-based tactile activities like this bilateral coordination activity with heart drawing is the way to go for building motor planning and coordinated use of both hands.

    However, if you’re working with many children or in virtual therapy situations, a guided slide deck can be helpful in encouraging kids to build specific skills like motor planning, coordination, and strengthening.

    That’s where this Valentine’s Day gross motor activity comes in.

    This slide deck is a tool for helping kids develop skills in a variety of areas:

    • Balance
    • Coordination
    • Motor planning
    • Crossing midline
    • Movement changes
    • Sequencing

    The heart theme is a fun way to encourage movement of these gross motor skills.

    Copy the heart motor planning exercise

    Kids can copy each slide in the deck and work on motor planning skills.

    There are different upper body movement activities that can be used based on the needs of each individual child.

    Working on balance? Go through the slides while standing on one foot and then the other.

    Working on motor planning? Go through several slides and ask the child to recall the sequence of the movements as they complete the arm positioning with their eyes closed or without the visual prompt of the slides. Or, challenge the child to go through the movements as fast as they can.

    Need a brain break activity? Combine heavy work like animal walks, wall push-ups, burpees, push-ups, or chair push-ups between each arm positioning.

    Working on listening skills or direction-following? Use the slide deck in a “Simon Says” activity.

    Valentines Day motor planning activities

    Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Slide Deck

    Want to add this slide deck to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below.

    Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Next, save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

    Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

    FREE Valentine’s Day Gross Motor Therapy Activities!

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      Want to add more Valentine’s Day activities and movement tools to your skill-building?

      The Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit is here! This printable kit is 25 pages of hands-on activity sheets designed to build skills in pinch and grasp strength, endurance, eye-hand coordination, precision, dexterity, pencil control, handwriting, scissor skills, coloring, and more.

      When you grab the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit now, you’ll get a free BONUS activity: 1-10 clip cards so you can challenge hand strength and endurance with a counting eye-hand coordination activity.

      Valentines Day fine motor kit
      Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit to develop fine motor strength, endurance, dexterity, and coordination of hand skills.

      Click here to grab your copy of the Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit.

      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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

      Penguin Yoga

      Penguin Yoga slide deck for teletherapy

      Did you ever wonder if a penguin can do yoga? Well, today we’re not talking about penguins doing yoga…we are talking about penguin-themed yoga exercises! These are brain breaks for kids that are a great addition to a penguin theme in the classroom or home. Last week, we had a polar bear therapy slide deck full of yoga and gross motor activities for you. It goes well with this penguin yoga slide deck. Use it in virtual therapy, in home programs, or as a brain break in distance learning or therapy at home!

      Penguin Yoga gross motor slide deck for teletherapy or brain breaks.

      Penguin Yoga Exercises

      This slide deck is a fun way to get the kiddos moving along with the penguins. Like many of our other slide decks, you’ll find the movements include heavy work exercises for proprioceptive input that can be calming and centering.

      Other slides are vestibular activities that encourage movement in various planes.

      These slides can be part of a sensory diet for scheduled sensory activities throughout the day. Read more on how to start a sensory diet.

      Add these slides to brain breaks or other movement activities throughout the virtual classroom or teletherapy day.

      Yoga and Balance

      This slide deck has two options for each yoga movement. The nice thing about yoga exercises is that each movement can be modified to meet the needs of the individual while challenging abilities and strength at a “just right” level.

      You’ll notice that each slide has one penguin on it. As you progress through the slide deck, the penguin does a move, and then it does that same move on an iceberg or piece of ice. This can be a way to challenge kids and work on core strength, coordination, motor planning, and upper or lower body strength depending on the yoga position.

      Kids can use an object they have in the home and pretend they are a penguin posing on the slab of ice. Some ideas to use include:

      • Couch cushion
      • Folded towel
      • Washcloth or flat fabric
      • Paper plate
      • Hoola hoop
      • Any object in the home!

      Ask the child to complete the yoga move and then complete the yoga exercise concentrating on balance.

      This slide deck is not interactive. There are no moveable pieces on this particular slide deck.

      Penguin yoga exercises for brain breaks for kids

      Winter Activities for Kids

      Use the penguin yoga along with these winter activities for whole-body movement and development activities that are effective in building skills in kids:

      Winter Fine Motor Kit– Use this printable kit to help kids develop and strengthen fine motor skills. The 100 page kit includes penguin theme activities, polar bears, and other arctic activities, as well as all-things winter.

      Indoor winter activities for kids– Try these fun and effective ways to to incorporate movement during the winter months.

      Winter Brain Breaks– Just like our penguin brain breaks, these winter theme movement activities will get brains and bodies developing!

      Penguin themed snacks– These cute snacks are easy to make and get the kids developing skills in the kitchen.

      Get the Penguin Slide Deck for Teletherapy

      You can grab a copy of this Google slide deck and use it to work on specific skills.

      Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Next, save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

      Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

      FREE Penguin Yoga Gross Motor Therapy Activities!

        We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

        MORE VIRTUAL LEARNING SLIDE DECKS?

        Would you like more therapy slide decks? Grab the others to add to your therapy toolbox!

        Try this Polar Bear Gross Motor Slide Deck.

        Use this Holiday Cookies Activities to address working memory, visual perception, and direction following.

        Here is a Community Helpers Theme Slide Deck.

        Here is a Football Theme Slide Deck.

        Here is a slide deck for a Social Story for Wearing a Mask.

        Here is a Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck.

        Here is a Therapy Planning Interactive Slide Deck.

        Here is a Back to School Writing Activity Slide Deck.

        Here is an Alphabet Exercises Slide Deck.

        Here is a Self-Awareness Activities Slide Deck.

        Bear Brain Breaks

        bear brain breaks

        These bear brain breaks are perfect for winter time movement, or using in a bear theme in school or in therapy. Sometimes, brain breaks are the perfect tool to can help with movement or sensory needs in the classroom.  We used a favorite childhood book to come up with bear themed brain breaks that can be used alongside the book in a movement and learning activity or in a bear-themed classroom activities.  Not long ago, we shared more brain break ideas that you might like to add to your classroom.

        Use these bear brain breaks along with ideas from our hibernation activities for more winter fun!

         

        bear brain breaks

        Bear Brain Breaks

        Looking for brain break videos for the classroom or home? Here are the best brain break videos on YouTube.
         
        Bear brain breaks for movement and learning in the classroom setting with a bear theme

        This post contains affiliate links.

        Have you read the book, “Time for Sleep” by Denise Fleming? My kids loved to hear about all of the animals as they prepared for sleep over the winter.  We decided to try a few bear gross motor moves based on the book.

        Bear Theme Brain Breaks

        Stretches and whole-body movements that happen in a calm manner are a great way to prepare for sleep, so these activities went along nicely with the bear in the book as well as the getting ready for sleep theme.

        If fidgeting, wiggling, or just a break from screens is needed, try these movement breaks to help. 

        We created these themed brain breaks to go along with the book, Time to Sleep, but they are perfect for any day (or when paired with other bear books)!

        If you are looking for resources for sleep or bedtime relaxation stretches, we shared some based on another children’s book.

        Time for Sleep by Denise Fleming and bear themed brain breaks for a bear activity.
         
        This is such a fun book to read with kids.  It would go along perfectly with a bear theme in your classroom.  Try adding some gross motor movement activities based on the book.
         
        Kids can then use the bear themed brain breaks throughout their day when it seems the classroom or individual students need a movement break. 
         
                                                
         
        Below, you can enter your email to access the free brain break printable that would go along perfectly for teaching the classroom about these bear brain breaks.  They can be cut up and laminated for the children to pull out of a cup.  Or, add them to a key ring for bear themed movement activities.
          
         
        Using these bear brain breaks, kids can stretch, roll, reach, climb, and crawl like a bear.  There are eight bear themed movement activities included that allow kids to move with a bear theme.  
         
        Read the book Time for Sleep and try the movement activities!
         
        Bear brain break ideas for kids
         

        Bear Activities

        Looking for more bear themed activities?  Try these hands-on ways to play with a bear theme based on bear books like “Time for Sleep”.

        Polar Bear Gross Motor Ideas

        Bear Craft

        Fun and Therapeutic Polar bear Activities

        Polar Bear Therapy Slide Deck– Free! Perfect for virtual therapy sessions

        Polar Bear Self-Regulation Deep Breathing Activity

        Bear Says Thanks Fine Motor Activity

        Bear Oral Motor Exercise

        LiTERACY BEAR THEMED ACTIVITIES

        NUMERACY BEAR THEMED ACTIVITIES

        BEAR THEMED RECIPES

        BEAR CRAFTS AND IDEAS FOR PLAY

        Get these free bear brain break activities

          We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

          These brain breaks would be a great addition to our Winter Fine Motor Kit, loaded with winter theme and bear activities! It’s got all things fine motor in print-and-go activities. You’ll find lacing cards, modified handwriting sheets, pencil control strips, cutting activities, crafts, coloring exercises, and MUCH MORE!

          Get the Winter Fine Motor Kit HERE.

          winter fine motor kit

          Polar Bear Gross Motor Activities

          polar bear gross motor activities

           We are continuing with our Polar Bear Theme with all kinds of play ideas.  Check out the polar bear gross motor activities listed here and challenge kids to move, and develop coordination, balance, direction changes, movement patterns, core strength, stability, and more. These polar bear activities go well with our polar bear gross motor virtual therapy slide deck, too, so you’ll want to check that out as well. Add gross motor play to your winter line-up!

          polar bear gross motor activities

          Polar Bear Gross Motor Activity

          For this gross motor activity, you’ll need masking tape, some couch cushions, and other small items (cotton batting, polar bear figures, or other materials can be used).

          Start by creating a path with the masking tape. We made a zig zag path across the room, but the options are limitless here.

          The masking tape path is perfect for polar bear crawls, toe walking, walking backwards, and knee walking. 

          indoor obstacle course ideas with masking tape obstacle course

          Masking Tape Balance Beam Ideas

          Once the masking tape is positioned on the floor, there are so many ways to use this in therapy in a classroom, hallway, clinic, or therapy at home activity.

          I put a couple of pillows at the end to make a “snow pile” for the polar bears.  Your kids can jump or hop into the pillows, or use them as balance challenges.

          We put some cotton batting along the path that the kids had to bend and stoop to grasp using one hand or the other. Then, they had to transport the “snow” to the other end of the path.

          Polar bear gross motor obstacle course

          A balance beam is so great for gross motor skills including coordination and balance.  You can start with normal toe to heel steps, and then increase the balance and coordination needed by asking your child to take bigger steps, side steps, backward steps, tip toe, go fast/slow.

          Polar bear gross motor activity for therapy at home or in a clinic.

          Kids can hold an object and transport it from one end of the path to the other. Ask them to hold the item in their hands, on their head, on their toes, or on their back as they bear walk. Objects can be large or small, heavy or light.

          Use couch pillows as pretend ice blocks for the polar bears.

          Use tongs and a small plastic ice cube to incorporate fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination skills. You can place buckets or bins along the path for obstacles to place the small objects in while challenging core strength, motor planning, and movement changes.

          Add buckets or cones along the path for children to step over or hop over. If cones aren’t available, just use couch throw cushions as an obstacle.

          Add a big duvet blanket or other large blanket at one end or both ends as a DIY crash pad for heavy work and proprioceptive input. Crawling into and under the heavy blanket offers heavy work, and that blanket makes a great “igloo” for your little polar bear.

          Advance the motor planning and core development by asking kids to stand along the path as they try to catch/toss a ball, navigate turns, curves, hop…There is so much you can do with the masking tape balance beam!  Add more fine motor skill work by using paper snowflakes along the balance beam.

          Challenge kids in a masking tape obstacle course with a polar bear theme.

          Use a polar bear sensory bin along the path to challenge kids to transport items from one end of the path and to place them into the sensory bin. This is a fantastic occupational therapy or physical therapy intervention that challenges so many skills.

          Use masking tape to make an obstacle course in the living room, with a polar bear theme or other animal walks.
           

           

          For more polar bear gross motor activities, (and fine motor work), grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit, with 100 pages of done-for-you therapy activities, including polar bear themes. There are sensory bin materials, crafts, and activities designed to boost fine motor skills. These would be great additions to a polar bear gross motor theme in therapy sessions.

          Grab it now before January 9th and you get a bonus of 3 fine motor slide deck activities.

          CLICK HERE TO GET THE WINTER FINE MOTOR KIT.

          winter fine motor kit

          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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Indoor Recess Ideas

          indoor recess ideas

          Looking for indoor recess ideas? Below, you’ll find winter indoor games and activities to add to the recess line up when it’s too cold to go outdoors for recess. We’ve tried to come up with indoor recess games for older kids AND indoor recess ideas for kindergarten and the younger grades. Some of these ideas work well with traditional indoor recess group activities, and others are better suited for socially distancing during indoor recess, while still allowing kids to move! All of the inside recess ideas can be used to add activity and movement when it’s raining or too cold for outdoor recess!

          During the winter months, kids can have trouble staying active! These indoor recess ideas will help with adding movement, bilateral coordination, motor planning, and development through indoor games.



          Indoor Recess Winter Activities for Kids

          Here are more ways to get the kids moving this time of year:

          MONDAY- INDOOR RECESS IDEAS

          TUESDAY- 
          WINTER BRAIN BREAK IDEAS

          WEDNESDAY- 
          WINTER BILATERAL COORDINATION ACTIVITIES

          THURSDAY-
          WINTER MINDFULNESS ACTIVITIES

          FRIDAY- 
          WINTER FINE MOTOR ACTIVITIES


          Indoor Recess Ideas

          This time of year can be a real struggle for kids. They’ve got a long school day, where it’s too cold to go outside for recess. Many are on screens during much of that day, especially if schooling is done virtually or at home with distance learning.

          After school brings continued cold temps and an  followed by coming home to an early sunset. Not to mention, many kids have after-school activities scheduled. It’s no wonder that kids are less active than ever before.

          Because of this, I wanted to share these indoor recess ideas that can be used to add activity, motor planning, visual motor skills, midline crossing, and general movement!

          1. Turn on the music and have a Crossing Gross Motor March. Crossing Midline is a developmental ability that is important for so many gross motor tasks.  When a child has difficulty with crossing midline, they may demonstrate inefficiency with other areas like fine motor skills, bilateral coordination, hand dominance, self-care, reading, handwriting, and so many other areas. This can be done in a socially distanced format in a well-spaced out area such as a gym or hallway. And, for our virtual learners, this activity is fun for the whole family.


          2. Add proprioceptive and vestibular input with an Indoor Skating activity! All you need for this activity is a pile of paper plates or old tissue boxes. If you have a carpeted area in the classroom, this can be a great way to identify a space for indoor ice skating during indoor recess. Add specific moves and have kids copy the ice skating moves to really incorporate motor planning and direction following.


          3. Do the Hokey Pokey. Need some fresh ideas when it comes to the classic hokey pokey? Try playing “Snow-key Pokey” with a snowman theme. Just label the various body parts a snowman would have. For example: Snow cap, stick arms, boots, snow bottom, etc.


          4. Animal Races- Gather a group of kids and have relay races in the hallway or gymnasium area. Kids can split into two teams and race against one another. Each child will need to come up with an animal walk as they race back to tag another person on their team. Some animal walk ideas include: donkey kicks, penguin waddles, bear walks, crab walks, frog jumps, elephant walks, snake slithers, etc.


          5. Arctic Animal Yoga- Add animal walks with an artic theme. These would go perfectly with an animal theme and add the bonus of calming stretches. They are a great movement break during the day, use at circle time, morning meeting, free time or for use during stations. These cards are fun for use during physical education or in group/individual physical and occupational therapy. They are a great way to add simple movement into the day which we know is essential for learning and concentration. Use them with an arctic unit! These polar bear gross motor therapy activities can be used as a winter brain break or recess activity.


          6. Freeze Dance- Turn on YouTube and dance to the music. When the music stops, everyone needs to FREEZE!


          7. Charades- Ask each student to write on a slip of paper a character, animal, or object. Combine themes from the curriculum, favorite books, or movies. Students can act out the people or objects on the cards while the rest of the class guesses what the student is describing with movement.


          8. Indoor Balance Beam- Try some of these indoor balance beams using everyday items or a roll of painters tape. There are so many benefits to using balance beams. It’s a fun way to break up indoor recess into centers, too.


          9. Ribbon Wand Dance- Make a handful of DIY ribbon wands and sneak in some gross motor skills and movement by dancing to music.


          10. Indoor Gross Motor Game- Get the whole class involved in gross motor play with jumping, hopping, and more with this Dinosaur Gross Motor Game uses mini dinosaur figures. Grab the free printable game spinner and activity here


          11. Bean Bag Games- This group gross motor core strengthening activity is a fun way to get the whole class involved in a group game! Make it a winter theme with these snowflake bean bags.


          12. Play the Four Corners Classroom Game Add movement and sneak in some auditory processing work with this fun game shared over on The Game Gal.


          13. Who Am I Game- The kids can write down book and movie characters on a sticky note and stick it to their forehead. They can ask other students questions as they move around the room, trying to figure out who they “are”!

          11. Winter Toothpick Art– Use the Winter Fine Motor Kit materials to get kids moving with the toothpick art activities. These can be used on cardboard or a carpeted area to help kids build fine motor strength and tripod grasp.

          12. Winter Crumble Art- This is another fun fine motor activity for indoor recess. Use bits of tissue paper or crumbled up construction paper to create a winter picture. These sheets are in the Winter Fine Motor Kit, too.

          I hope these ideas are helpful in creating opportunities for movement and activity during these indoor recess months at school! 

          winter fine motor kit

          The Winter Fine Motor Kit has materials to print-and-go, including arctic animal finger puppets to develop finger isolation, toothpick art activities with winter themes, crumble art pages, coloring and pencil control activities for building strength and endurance in the hands. All of these materials are included in a 100 page packet with winter themes: snowmen, mittens, snowflakes, penguins, polar bears, arctic animals, and more.

           

          Add gross motor play and activities to the classroom with indoor recess ideas that get the kids moving.
           

          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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

          Polar Bear Therapy Slide Deck

          Polar bear therapy activities

          This week, we’re all about the polar bears. You’re going to love this polar bear therapy slide deck, and actually, my kids are loving it, too! The polar bear gross motor activities go well with an arctic animal theme. We’ve been using the gross motor activities as a warm-up for the Winter Fine Motor Kit and all of the winter activities in that resource. You’ll want to grab this therapy slide deck to get your new year off to a great start and get the kids moving with whole-body movements.

          Free gross motor therapy slide deck with a polar bear theme. Use in virtual therapy sessions or as a polar bear brain break.

          Be sure to grab the free polar bear deep self-regulation activity. It’s a wintery breathing exercise that went up earlier today. You’ll find a bunch of other polar bear activities listed in that blog post, so that your therapy theme for the week is full of movement-based activities that help kids develop skills.

          Included are some slides to incorporate propriocepetion and vestibular input as well.

          Because incorporating gross motor skills in teletherapy is sometimes a challenge, this gross motor slide deck was designed for teletherapy in a way that instructs kids to copy various positions as they balance and strengthen their core. All of these skills can be addressed with this gross motor slide deck in teletherapy sessions:

          • Core strength
          • Stability
          • Balance and equilibrium skills
          • Coordination
          • Range of motion
          • Flexibility
          • Motor planning
          • Crossing midline
          • Movement patterns
          • Posture and postural control
          • Muscle tone
          • Proprioceptive input
          • Vestibular input

          Polar Bear Resource: DON’T MISS IT:

          Grab the Winter Fine Motor Kit, with 100 pages of done-for-you therapy activities, including polar bear themes. Grab it now before January 9th and you get a bonus of 3 fine motor slide deck activities.

          CLICK HERE TO GET THE WINTER FINE MOTOR KIT.

          winter fine motor kit

          More therapy slide decks


          Be sure to check out these other slide decks to use in OT teletherapy sessions, distance learning, or homeschooling:

          Try this Alphabet Gross Motor Slide Deck.

          Here is a Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck.

          Here is a Strait Line Letters Slide Deck.

          Try this self-awareness slide deck with an animal theme.

          Kids love this football theme slide deck.

          There are gross motor activities in this outer space slide deck, too.

          Polar Bear Therapy Slide Deck

          Use this polar bear theme therapy slide deck in virtual therapy sessions or as a brain break.

          Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.

          You can grab a copy of this Google slide deck and use it to work on specific skills.

          Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

          Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

          FREE Polar Bear Gross Motor Therapy Activities!

            We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

            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 contact@theottoolbox.com.

            Reindeer Games Gross Motor Slide Deck

            Christmas gross motor activities

            I am so excited to share this gross motor slide deck for teletherapy. It’s a reindeer games theme that allows kids to support gross motor skills in teletherapy, which is sometimes difficult to facilitate via a virtual therapy setting. These reindeer games activities are FUN for kids and they will be excited to see and do the gross motor activity on each slide of the therapy slide deck. Let’s explore reindeer games!

            Pair these with our reindeer activities to address other goal areas, and these free fine motor reindeer printables.

            Reindeer games activities for kids in a gross motor teletherapy slide deck.

            Reindeer Games Activities

            These reindeer games are fun for kids, and I am excited to use the therapy slide deck with my own kids at home. With colder temperatures and less kids’ sports activities this year, getting the kids active and moving can be tricky.

            So, that’s where these reindeer games for kids come in…we’ll use the reindeer games for a Christmas party at home as a way to get the whole family moving with a reindeer theme.

            Kids can use these reindeer games in teletherapy gross motor activities.

            Christmas Gross Motor Activities

            I wanted to use reindeer in the gross motor activities and challenge kids to move in different positioning, much like yoga positions. The gross motor challenges require kids to copy an image and hold that image.

            The slides can be graded to each child’s needs. Can they hold the position while reading the reindeer joke on the slide? Can they read just the response to the reindeer joke? Adjust the slide in a way that meets the needs of each child.

            The Christmas jokes are a fun way to encourage various positions and movement with themed Christmas gross motor activities.

            This Christmas slide deck goes great with our Gingerbread Man Teletherapy Slide Deck, our Decorate a Gingerbread House Teletherapy Slide Deck, and our Holiday Cookies Slide Deck.

            Use this gross motor teletherapy slide deck with a reindeer theme for Christmas gross motor activities.

            Gross Motor Slide Deck for Teletherapy

            Because incorporating gross motor skills in teletherapy is sometimes a challenge (especially to find interesting and new ideas!) this gross motor slide deck was desined for teletherapy in a way that instructs kids to copy various postions as they balance and strengthen their core.

            Included are some slides to incorporate propriocepetion and vestibular input as well.

            All of these skills can be addressed with this gross motor slide deck in teletherapy sessions:

            • Core strength
            • Stability
            • Balance and equilibrium skills
            • Coordination
            • Range of motion
            • Flexibility
            • Motor planning
            • Crossing midline
            • Movement patterns
            • Posture and postural control
            • Muscle tone
            • Proprioceptive input
            • Vestibular input
            Use these Christmas gross motor activities with a reindeer theme in teletherapy movement activities.

            Want this Free Gross Motor Slide Deck?

            This slide deck is not interactive. It has no movable parts on the slide deck. Because it is static slides in the activity, you can use the slide deck on any devices, including tablets and phones.

            Be sure to make a copy of this slide deck and not change the url to indicate “edit” at the end. When you make a copy of the slide deck onto your Google drive, you will end up with your own version that you are free to adjust in order to meet your student’s needs. By changing the url to “edit”, you can potentially mess up the original version that many other therapists and The OT Toolbox users are given.

            ou can grab a copy of this Google slide deck and use it to work on specific skills.

            Enter your email address below and you will receive a PDF containing a link to copy the slide deck onto your Google drive. Save that PDF file, because you can come back to it again and again and send it to the kids on your caseload (or classroom) so they can make their own copy on their Google drive.

            Please use the copy of the slide deck and do not change the url.

            FREE Reindeer Games Gross Motor Therapy Activities!

              We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

              MORE VIRTUAL LEARNING SLIDE DECKS?

              Would you like more therapy slide decks? Grab the others to add to your therapy toolbox!

              Kids are loving this Decorate a Gingerbread House slide deck.

              Try this Gingerbread Man Slide Deck.

              Use this Holiday Cookies Activities to address working memory, visual perception, and direction following.

              Here is a Community Helpers Theme Slide Deck.

              Here is a Football Theme Slide Deck.

              Here is a slide deck for a Social Story for Wearing a Mask.

              Here is a Space Theme Therapy Slide Deck.

              Here is a Therapy Planning Interactive Slide Deck.

              Here is a Back to School Writing Activity Slide Deck.

              Here is an Alphabet Exercises Slide Deck.

              Here is a Self-Awareness Activities Slide Deck.

              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 contact@theottoolbox.com.