Recently, I’ve been sharing some occupational therapy slide decks with you. These slide decks are OT activities that can be used in teletherapy sessions as part of distance OT or distance learning. Today, I’ve got movement activities with a monster theme to share. These are monster themed occupational therapy activities that cover a variety of areas. When you access the OT slide deck, use in to work on OT activities like a therapy warm-up, gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, visual motor skills, and finally, a self-regulation check-in. Each activity in the collection involves movement activities that build specific skills. Scroll to the bottom of this post to enter your email to access the latest free occupational therapy slide deck.
As always, my mission here at The OT Toolbox is to help you help kids thrive through the use of easily accessible tools and resources.
The slides included in this set are acceptable movement activities for preschoolers because they use letters, helping preschoolers to recognize and identify letters. The slides would also work as a movement activity for kids in older grades as well, using the handwriting and visual motor activities to build specific skills like visual motor skills needed for handwriting tasks, copying lists of words, and visual perceptual skills needed for reading.
Monster Movement Activities for Kids
The slide deck promotes movement activities for kids in several ways. These are the slides and an agenda of activities to use in therapy sessions:
Warm-Up– Use the gross motor movement activities as a warm up to help with body awareness and a sensory tool to add proprioceptive and vestibular input. Kids can copy the body positioning to challenge balance and coordination, as well as motor planning. I’ve added a visual perceptual component to the warm-up movement slides by asking children to identify a partially hidden letter as they do the whole-body movements. This challenges visual perceptual skills including visual discrimination, visual figure-ground, visual closure, form constancy, and visual memory. Read more about these skills that are needed to complete hidden pictures activities, for example.
Writing- The writing slides in this slide deck ask kids to identify the month they are born and the first letter of their name to create a wacky monster name. They can write this word phrase to practice handwriting. The visual scanning and tracking involved in this activity really challenges the visual processing skills and visual efficiency of the eyes. The movement activity of writing their name incorporates a functional task that they may be working on in their OT goals.
Fine Motor- The fine motor portion of this movement activity slide deck involves tearing paper into small pieces. By ripping paper, kids are building hand strength, bilateral coordination, eye-hand coordination, and efficiency of grasp. I’ve added a visual motor component to this activity by asking the child to use those paper scraps in shaping and copying specific shapes. The whole fine motor activity adds much-needed fine motor movement and eye-hand coordination to a shape building activity.
Visual- The visual portion of this occupational therapy slide deck is a favorite for some kids (My own kids included!) Use the slides to work on visual perceptual skills as they find matching shadows for the monster figures in a series of three slides. After the child completes each slide, ask them to jump and and cheer!
Calm Down/Check-In- Lastly, you’ll find a calm down slide that incorporates the colors of the Zones of Regulation program. Children can complete the calm down movement activities shown on the slides and then choose a color to check in for their state of feelings.
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HERE ARE MORE Movement ACTIVITIES TO USE IN VIRTUAL OT SESSIONS
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grab the Pumpkin Fine Motor Kit for more coloring, cutting, and eye-hand coordination activities with a Pumpkin theme! It includes:
7 digital products that can be used any time of year- has a “pumpkins” theme
5 pumpkin scissor skills cutting strips
Pumpkin scissor skills shapes- use in sensory bins, math, sorting, pattern activities
2 pumpkin visual perception mazes with writing activity
Pumpkin “I Spy” sheet – color in the outline shapes to build pencil control and fine motor strength
Pumpkin Lacing cards – print, color, and hole punch to build bilateral coordination skills
2 Pumpkin theme handwriting pages – single and double rule bold lined paper for handwriting practice
Work on underlying fine motor and visual motor integration skills so you can help students excel in handwriting, learning, and motor skill development.
It’s that time again when we are heading back into the school year. Teachers are getting into the classrooms and setting up room arrangements. School-based OTs are gearing up for the back-to-school chaos. When the thoughts of classroom organization and caseloads come into mind, flexible seating in the classroom ideas may not be the first thing you think of. Seating options may even be a part of a classroom sensory diet. But here’s the thing: Flexible seating ideas are always good to keep in mind! There are so many benefits to flexible seating arrangements. From DIY flexible seating ideas to types of seating ideas that can be used in classrooms…there is a lot to think about!
Flexible Seating Ideas for the CLassroom
There is so much to think about when it comes to accommodating to various seating needs. Positioning and specific student needs are just part of the puzzle. Facilitating learning while encouraging collaborations among students is important and the primary concern when it comes to out-of-the-box seating arrangements. Below, you will find various flexible seating for the classroom and information on the benefits of flexible seating ideas…as well as how to adapt to this classroom sensory strategy.
Things to consider about Flexible Seating
When considering flexible seating ideas for the classroom, there is a lot to think about. These considerations include a variety of needs including behavior, cognitive needs, physical abilities, posture, and more.
Many times therapists are consulted regarding specialized seating as a result of postural needs. In these cases, an individualized assessment may be warranted and aspects of seating should be analyzed before addressing specific seating needs:
Posture and seating needs may be a result of sensory issues such as physical limitations, weakness, range of motion as a result of tone issues or spasticity, sensory impairments,or other needs.
Physical limitation or deformities may impact seating posture and positioning. These may include posterior pelvic tilt, pelvic rotation, scoliosis, joint contractures, leg length discrepancies, head and neck positioning, extremity limitations, or other concerns. Each of these may impact learning and attention in the classroom.
When providing a new or novel seating option in the classroom, there are considerations to keep in mind as well. A flexible seating option may not be the primary classroom seating situation. In other words, it may be the best situation for the classroom learning to occur in traditional desks. Flexible seating in the classroom can be provided for supplemental learning, small groups, independent reading, or other similar activities.
In some cases, it’s important to consider optimal support in seating options including for those students with physical needs. As a result, some situations may not warrant a full classroom of flexible seating. Chairs and surfaces may not provide optimal postural alignment in order to provide adequate trunk support. Upper extremity mobility and positioning is important to consider if students will be using the seating arrangements for writing tasks. Additionally, considerations such as correct height/depth of the seat and the placement of both feet on the floor is needed for writing tasks.
Benefits of Flexible Seating in the Classroom
A primary benefit of alternative seating options is the improvement to learning and attention that can occur. There may be several reasons that various seating options offer in the classroom.
Opportunities for Choices- Students may find that the ability to make a choice in their seating situations makes all the difference in learning and attention. Some students may really like the option to pick where they sit!
Something for Everyone- When there are several options for seating in the classroom, it can be one way to meet the needs of a whole classroom. Some teachers may find that kids change in their activity or attention levels throughout the day. When additional movement or proprioceptive input is needed, an alternative seating method may be just the ticket to learning.
Heavy Work Opportunities- Use of various flexible seating techniques in the classroom can offer occasional or scheduled use of flexible seating options can provide opportunities for heavy work input by moving desks, bean bag seats, or other seating set-ups as students or a specific team of students move furniture from determined positions. Don’t forget the sensory benefits of moving desks and chairs!
No Singling Out- When there are various flexible seating options in the classroom, no child is singled out. This is important for the child with sensory issues or self-regulation needs. Some students may need extra movement or heavy input to facilitate learning, and when the whole classroom has the option to choose a beanbag for reading time, the flexible seating methods are there for everyone…and no student feels singled out based on needs.
Flexible Seating Ideas for the Classroom
Now that we’ve covered considerations and a few benefits of flexible seating ideas, let’s cover some specifics! Below are alternative seating methods that may work in the classroom.
You’ll find a list of options for adding proprioceptive input to the seating system, as well as a large list of alternative seating ideas. Some of these are able to be purchased (Amazon affiliate links are included below). Other options are quite frugal or are DIY ideas. Have fun exploring and considering the flexible seating ideas!
Flexible seating and proprioception input
Sensory benefits play a big part of choosing the best flexible seating option. While some alternative seating options provide sensory input or feedback via the positioning, others provide heavy input by hugging the student. There are many ways to add weight that provides a calming benefit into seating ideas. Consider some of the options below in adding to a seating system:
Tips for adding proprioceptive input or weight to a alternative seating system:
Add a weighted lap pad
Try a therapy band or bungee cord to the chair legs
Use a body sock or fabric tube to the legs of the chair. Done in a non-restricting way, this tube can be a place to slide legs into while sitting in a regular chair
Bean bag for under/over the child
Computer lap desk over the child’s legs (Can be used as a writing station)
Homemade bean bags over legs or feet. Slide these into tube socks or knee-high socks and knot two socks together to create a weighted tube to drape over legs or the shoulders.
Therapy swing in the classroom or outdoor space
Add velcro wrist weights to the inside of a 4 inch binder. Use the binder as a lap writing surface.
Encourage tummy time writing. (Write, draw, or read while lounging on bellies on the floor. Make this a fun reading experience by asking students to bring in a flashlight from home.)
Try some of the additions listed and described below.
Remember that finding an ideal seating system can require a lot of investigation and trial and error. Some students may benefit from one of the ideas listed here and others may require a mix of several options. Keep it individualized and remember to consult your child’s occupational therapists regarding seating ideas.
Flexible Seating Ideas
Bean Bag Chairs- Use these on the floor or at a low table. Consider lowering a table to 2-3 feet off the ground for a low writing and reading surface. Other times, bean bags can be used in small group work or for quiet reading. Consider using a bean bag as a cover for legs to provide heavy input through the legs. There are some inexpensive bean bag seat options available. There are also a few varieties of stuffed animal bean bag covers that create seats using old stuffed animals.
Stuffed Animal Bean Bag Seat- Ask around for stuffed animal donations from family and friends! This bean bag cover creates a bean bag seat using old stuffed animals as a seating option and can be adjusted as needed. Add more stuffed animals to fill the seat or take some out depending on the child’s sensory needs. This stuffed animal cover comes in a larger size that can be used as a lounger chair.
Duvet Lounger- Using the same concept of filling a bean bag with upcycled stuffed animals is the DIY version of using a duvet cover as a method to create a lounger seat. Fill a duvet cover with cushions, pillows, or stuffed animals and create a crash pad that can be used as a lounger seat for the classroom or home.
T-Stools- A T-stool is a common seat seen in classrooms. The stool allows students to wobble, move, and wiggle just as their bodies need, while reading, writing, learning, and listening! You’ll find a variety of T-Stools available: The Kore Wobble Chair is great for grades K-3 and provides a larger base of support. The Stabili-T Tool Tube provides less support but requires more core contraction and work, allowing for more movement. A T-Stool Single Leg stool offers more vestibular input given a much smaller base of support and an adjustable height option.
Milk Crate with a Ball Inside– Going for a multi-option flexible seating arrangement in the classroom? Adding a large kickball or small therapy ball inside a milk crate is a great option for the frugal. This is one way to create several seats for a lower cost. Line the milk create up under a low table for a centers activity or small group.
Therapy Ball– Another frugal means of offering opportunities for movement and sensory input in the classroom is using therapy balls. There are many options available on the market and in stores. Search for yoga balls or exercise balls to find the best prices, in many cases. Worried about them rolling away or becoming massive projectiles in the classroom? Make a “station” using a hula hoop as a base.
Peanut Seat- A different version of the therapy ball is the peanut ball seat. Kids can use these seats in a variety of ways, sitting or lying prone on the ball. The peanut ball allows for only unidirectional rolling so they can be easier to contain in the classroom setting when compared to a round therapy ball.
Sensory Swing- A sensory swing is a versatile seating option for reading, small group work, individual work, or a much-needed sensory break. We’ve tried and loved the Harkla Sensory Pod Swing for it’s cozy support and use as a calm-down space. The great thing about Harkla sensory swings is the easy-to install ability to place them in a classroom. We tried ours outdoors too, for an outdoor sensory swing option. Kids love the outdoor sensory swing in a shaded area such as under a patio deck or even hanging from a tree limb.
Portable Laptop Stand- This portable laptop stand doesn’t need to be used for just laptops! Use it as a writing station or for a small reading center. I would love to see a DIY version of this…wonder if an awesome school janitor could whip one together using scrap materials? P.S. If you have one of these stands made…or you make one yourself…let me know! I would LOVE to see it!
Futon- An easy way to incorporate flexible seating options in the classroom is to add a futon. You can grab one at a big box store or on Amazon and have it shipped directly to where you need it to go. The benefits of using a futon in the classroom are endless- A “job” can be to open the futon and replace pillows after quiet reading time, adding opportunities for heavy work. Add a few weighted throw pillows and a weighted lap blanket if it’s appropriate. Sometimes lounging during instruction may be just what is needed.
Scoop Rocker Chairs- Kids love these scoop rocker chairs! They are versatile in that they can be used at a lowered table or during circle time. The light-weight and handle make them easy to carry from class to class or to special classes, if needed. There is a special deal on Amazon offering a set of 6 scoop rocker chairs for $48 right now. Who knows how long that price will last!
Scooter Board- Have a scooter board in your car trunk (If you are a mobile therapist, this totally applies to you…) or in the physical education gym/supply closet at school? Scooter boards make awesome foot fidgets for when sitting at a desk. Kids can also use them during circle time. (Provide a hoola hoop boundary!) Or to sit on at a low table or when working in a small group. You can find them at great prices on Amazon!
Cushions or Pillows- Super easy to get, and at a very inexpensive cost, pillows and cushions are a fantastic way to create a cozy corner or crash area. Kids will love quiet reading time or group work when sitting on a pillow or cushion. Stalk your local resale shops for great prices. You can also ask parents to send in a small pillow or chair pad cushion (the kind you use on kitchen chairs) that can be used at desks for seated work. A reading pillow (the kind you typically use on a bed) works really well in a calm-down space, too.
Body Pillow- A body pillow can be an inexpensive way to add movement and positioning to the classroom or home. Add it to a futon or couch in the classroom or include it in a calm-down space.
Rocking Chair- An old-fashioned porch rocker is a wonderful addition to the classroom. There’s just something about rocking back and forth that brings back memories of quieting fussy babies during the night for this mama…but perhaps the calming effects of slow linear rocking can be just the thing to turn classroom fidgeting into focused learning. If the price tag of a traditional wooden rocking chair is a problem, consider adding a camp rocking chair or an upcycled nursery glider. You can find these baby nursing chairs on Facebook marketplace or in consignment shops for a great price.
Balance Cushion-Balance cushions can be used on a traditional desk seat or for floor seating. Adding this to your flexible seating line-up promotes an opportunity for attention and balance by adding movement to learning. Add more air or remove some from the cushion to provide more or less movement and stability required.
Beach Chair- A beach chair is a super inexpensive way to add flexible seating options to a classroom. Set up an area with a few beach chairs for group activities or use them in circle time or morning meetings.
Camp Chair– A camp chair is another inexpensive option for alternative seating. The curved base provides a cozy and calming space for reading or listening to read alouds in the classroom or home. There are a lot of options on the market in the ways of camping chairs. From the basic camp chair to those with rockers, recliners, or loungers, the choice is yours based on needs in the classroom or home.
Stools- There are a lot of stool options out there. Using a stool in a flexible seating arrangement provides a variety of use for addressing various needs while making arranged seating easier to change out without much effort. Some ideas for stool use in the classroom include high-stools. These can be used at a high top table which also offers an opportunity for standing. They can be arranged into circle time or small groups while offering vestibular input. Other stool ideas include a small foot stools. These can be used at low tables, in circle time, in a small group circle, or at a low table. Try using them while writing on a paper hanging on a wall or at an easel for vertical writing, which offers more proprioceptive input and movement challenges. Stackable stools are still another option. These are great in place of traditional desk chairs in some cases. The great thing about using stools as part of an alternative seating system is that students can move and set up seating options, offering built-in heavy work.
Papasan Chair– A papasan chair or a lounger seat is great for the classroom. Quiet reading or group learning can be calm and focused with a supportive and cozy seat. You can find a great price on these chairs in big box stores or on Amazon.
Cube Seat- This cube seat is an option that provides support for the back and trunk while containing and providing a boundary for seated activities. This cube seat option is nice because it can be used in one direction as a low seat and flipped over to allow for a higher height or for use as a table writing surface with visual blocks when visual attention is an issue.
Partially Inflated Beach Ball- Yes, it’s true. Grab a dollar store beach ball and blow it up just a little, so that the air in the beach ball provides a movable cushion. This seating system is appropriate for younger children, but it’s an option for testing out movement in the seat. You’ll find more about using a beach ball cushion in a previous The OT Toolbox blog post.
More Flexible seating ideas
What are your best tricks and tips for adding movement to the classroom while meeting the needs of various students? Flexible seating in the classroom doesn’t need to be complicated. It doesn’t need to be expensive either! Stop back soon, because we’ll have a line-up of DIY flexible seating ideas coming your way very soon.
Some of the ideas listed above are very budget-friendly, especially if you are able to find items second-hand or by upcycling items. Other budget-friendly seating options include using a cardboard box, cushions, or stadium seats, for example. We’ll have more budget-friendly seating ideas for you coming up soon!
Adding movement breaks to the classroom can be a tool for helping kids focus and learn. Read below about some research related to classroom breaks and behavior, learning, and focus in the classroom. These are brain breaks that can be used as classroom breaks to take a short break from learning…OR used as a strategy to incorporate movement into learning activities!
I was thinking about the cold weather we’ve been having recently. My kids have been cooped up in school and when they get home from school, it’s been FREEZING. Sure, we can bundle up and run around the yard for a bit (and I try to get all the kiddos to do this)…but it is downright cold out there. We can’t last too long when the wind chill is -4 degrees F!
Not only that, but many schools aren’t having outdoor recess when it’s this cold. Some are getting their kids bundled up and outside, but for the most part, it’s been indoor recess for many kids.
So when the school day is an indoor affair all day long, kids can become antsy!
We know as therapists, that behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg. They are the sign that something bigger is causing the behavior we see. It might be anxiety, worries, sensory needs, communication issues, emotional concerns, social situations, or a myriad other underlying areas that lead to the behavior we see.
So, to know that science tells us that a brain break can help get out of that rut of behaviors is huge! It’s a strategy to help reduce the behavior and move toward focused learning and attention. In fact, there’s been some findings indicating physical activity during the school day improves attention-to-task in elementary school students.
The evidence suggests that increasing physical activity may improve academic performance, in the forms of recess, physical education class, and physical activity in the classroom. But if indoor recess is the only option this time of year, and gym class occurs every one day out of 6 in a classroom rotation schedule, or even one day/week, where does this leave us? Movement and learning and classroom breaks seem to be the option left!
In my research of the available evidence-based practice scenarios out there, I found some interesting points related to learning and specifically executive functioning skills and overall cognitive functions related to learning.
It seems that executive functioning skills play more into learning that just having a neat and tidy desk space or remembering homework.
In fact, executive function plays very much into the use of those mental skills in learning and classroom tasks. These skills can play a big role in attention levels and impulse control of kids in the classroom. They play a part in learning in many ways. Here are just a few examples: -Arriving to class on time -Staying on task in an assignment -Staying focused when completing minor tasks such as retrieving a pencil. Here’s a scenarios you may have seen before: A student drops their pencil. They bend to retrieve that pencil and then get distracted and lose focus on the assignment they are working on. Sound familiar? -Visual attention in order to scan a math worksheet and going through the assignment part by part without skipping sections or getting distracted or overwhelmed
Activity and Learning
Evidence suggests that mathematics and reading are the classroom subjects topics that are most influenced by physical activity. These academic areas depend on “efficient and effective executive function, which has been linked to physical activity and physical fitness”.
Executive function and brain health are the basis of academic performance. The cognitive functions of attention and memory are essential for learning. These executive function skills are enhanced by physical activity and higher aerobic fitness.
How to add more physical activity to the school day
Some ideas for adding physical activity into the classroom in order to improve behaviors include:
1. Offering physical activity breaks within the curriculum or learning activity
2. Allow students to stand at the student’s discretion. This strategy should be used with a training period and even a contract signed by the student that says they will not move away from their desk and that they will perform the work that’s asked of them while standing at their desk.
3. YouTube Videos- Here are our recommendations for YouTube brain breaks that can be added into classroom breaks. Some of these would be great for an indoor recess dance party, too.
References: Grieco LA, Jowers EM, Bartholomew JB. Physically active academic lessons and time on task: The moderating effect of body mass index. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2009;41(10):1921–1926.
Mahar MT, Murphy SK, Rowe DA, Golden J, Shields AT, Raedeke TD. Effects of a classroom-based program on physical activity and on-task behavior. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2006;38(12):2086.
Donnelly JE, Lambourne K. Classroom-based physical activity, cognition, and academic achievement. Preventive Medicine. 2011;52(Suppl 1):S36–S42.
These following direction activities are directionality activities that can help kids learn directions or spatial concepts such as left, right, up, down, and compass directions (north, south, east, and west) with a motor component. This hands-on learning activity really gets the kiddos moving and learning!
Teaching kids to follow the directions they need to physically move right, left, up, down requires development of spatial concepts such as spatial reasoning. This can be a real challenge for some kids!
Following directions and understanding of spatial concepts is a foundation for understanding and utilizing compass directions or the cardinal directions of north, south, east, and west, and the use of maps.
Left Right Confusion Direction Challenges
It can be a real challenge for some kids who struggle with the spatial understanding of following directions, or understanding their left from right in a subconscious manner.
Have you come across the child who is told to raise their right and and they take a five second count to stop, think, and then raise their hand? They might hesitate when raising one hand or the other and still be uncertain whether or not they have held up the correct hand. Then, when the teacher, parent, or anyone else really, says the inevitable, “Your other right hand…”, the child feels a sense of discouragement and self-consciousness that doesn’t drive in the underlying need to really know the right from left!
That’s where a directionality activity or following direction activity can come into play. Adding a physical component to learning directions and the difference between right, left, up, and down and what that looks like in relation to the child’s body can be such a helpful force in driving home this concept.
Why work on directions with kids?
Working on the ability for kids to follow directions and spatial concepts is so important for kids. The direction/spatial relationship/preposition words that tell you where something is related to something else (beside, in front of, behind, over, under, around, through, last, etc.) are very important when teaching math and handwriting concepts. Directionality and the ability for kids to follow physical directions is important for discovering where their bodies are in relationship to objects. This translates to following directions when getting from place to place by following a map or the cardinal directions.
When kids picture a scene in their mind’s eye and use that image to draw a map on paper, they are using higher thinking skills and spatial reasoning.
Amazon affiliate links are included below.
The fun idea below comes from a new kids’ activity book that we’re devouring. It’s the new Playful Learning Lab for Kids, by the occupational therapist and physical therapist team at The Inspired Treehouse. It’s a book full of whole-body and sensory activities that enhance focus, engagement, and learning through movement and interaction.
We used just a few materials to create this following directions activity:
This is a simple activity (perfect for the classroom or homeschool when teaching directions!). First, draw and cut out large arrows from the cardstock.
Next, place them along the floor in a path and start playing!
There are so many ways to use these arrows to work on following directions and directionality:
1. Place the arrows on the floor for a fun brain break or sensory walk that uses directions as the kids work on following directions to stand in the direction the arrows are pointing.
2. Name a cardinal direction or spatial direction and ask the child to point to the corresponding arrow.
3. Place the arrows in a compass rose on the floor and ask kids to “step into a map” on the floor as they move north, south, east, and west.
4. Stick the arrows to a wall using tape. Ask the students to write out a list of words that describe the directions the arrows are pointing (left, right, up, and down).
5. Hold up a sequence of arrows pointing in different directions. As the child to remember the pattern or order as they complete a series of side steps, front steps, or backward steps to follow the directions they see.
6. Work on left/right directionality by holding up an arrow pointing in either the left or right directions. Kids should call out “Left!” or “Right!” when they see the direction the arrow is pointing.
All of these following direction activities are ones that can be completed as on an individual basis or with a whole group. It’s a great mini brain break for the classroom and can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum by working on cardinal directions.
Want to grab more movement-based learning ideas that you can start on today? You will love the bright pictures, sensory-based activities, and whole-body activities in Playful Learning Lab for Kids!
It’s available now and is the perfect way to add movement to learning to improve attention, focus, brain function, remembering and learning!
This book will shift your entire mindset so you can begin to replace sedentary, one-dimensional lessons and worksheets with whole-body, multi-sensory activities that can instantly create a classroom or house full of active, engaged learners.
Taking the learning outside can make a big difference. As the weather warms up, it can be hard to keep the attention in the classroom. The birds are chirping, trees are blossoming, and the muddy lawns are calling! So, when kids want to be nothing more than outside playing, how do you keep them focused and learning? Try taking the learning outside! These kinesthetic learning activities are perfect for the outside play this time of year and all year long. Add some movement and outdoor play and facts are sure to stick when kids are out of the classroom and outdoors!
Kinesthetic Learning Activities for Outside
I recently shared a post on tactile learning with a sight word sensory tray. I talked a little bit about kinesthetic learning and how some kids just seek tactile input in their learning. Tactile learners and kinesthetic learners are a lot alike. Kinesthetic learners need to move their bodies, manipulate materials, and really interact with learning materials. These children tend to fidget, wiggle, slouch, or get up out of their seats when in the classroom setting. This site has a lot of great information on kinesthetic learning.
Try taking the learning outside to really get some space and movement into the learning experiences. You could try these activities when practicing math facts, spelling words, vocabulary, memorization, or many other areas.
Outdoor Learning Activities that Use Kinesthetic Movement
Balance Beam Adventure- Use a jump rope or a board to create a balance beam maze on a driveway or sidewalk. With sidewalk chalk, draw fish in a pond. Kids can walk on the balance beam without falling into the “water”. When they are on the balance beam, ask kids to hop while stating facts or other learning tasks. Try a bean bag toss game when on the balance beam. Kids can toss a bean bag into a target while spelling words.
No Peeking Simon Says- Play Simon Says outside in the backyard. This version requires kids to keep their eyes closed when they perform the actions. As they play, ask them questions. You might ask them to touch their nose for “true” facts or to touch their shoulders for “false” facts. Get creative with movement and learning with this one!
Backyard maze- Create a maze in the backyard by placing obstacles around the lawn. Kids can look at the simple maze and then walk with their eyes closed as another person “guides” them with verbal directions around the obstacles. Set up stations around the obstacle course where they need to answer questions. This can be as simple as a printed out sheet of questions. They just may recall the answers later by thinking about where they were in the obstacle course when they learned about those facts!
Backyard Yoga- Try yoga in the outdoors with kid-friendly yoga games like found in this book. Try having your child close their eyes during yoga moves to incorporate position of body in space. Add deep breath spelling or math facts while breathing in and out for several counts.
Hopscotch Math- Practice math facts like addition or multiplication with a hopscotch game on the driveway.
Sidewalk Chalk Learning- Kids can use sidewalk chalk in so many ways! Write out spelling words. Do math homework on the driveway. Write out vocabulary words. Use patio pads or bricks to work on perimeter, area, or geometry. What would you add?
Take a Walk- Go on a stroll while reviewing information. What a great way to learn in nature!
How can you add learning and movement to the backyard to better serve your kinesthetic learners?
How to incorporate sensory and motor play into playing outside
Sensory diet activities can be specific to sensory system like these vestibular sensory diet activities. Sensory activities can be prescribed according to need along with environment in order to maximize sensory input within a child’s day such as within the school day. Using authentic sensory input within the child’s environment plays into the whole child that we must understand when focusing on any goal toward improved functional independence.
Many sensory diet activities can naturally be found outdoors. In fact, outdoor sensory diet activities are a fun way to encourage sensory input in a child’s environment and without fancy therapy equipment or tools.
It’s a fact that kids are spending less time playing outdoors. From after-school schedules to two working parents, to unsafe conditions, to increased digital screen time, to less outdoor recess time…kids just get less natural play in the outdoors. Some therapists have connected the dots between less outdoor play and increased sensory struggles and attention difficulties in learning.
Knowing this, it can be powerful to have a list of outdoor sensory diet activities that can be recommended as therapy home programing and family activities that meet underlying needs.
That’s where the Outdoor Sensory Diet Cards and Sensory Challenge Cards come into play.
They are a FREE printable resource that encourages sensory diet strategies in the outdoors. In the printable packet, there are 90 outdoor sensory diet activities, 60 outdoor recess sensory diet activities, 30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards. They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.
30 blank sensory diet cards, and 6 sensory challenge cards
They can be used based on preference and interest of the child, encouraging motivation and carryover, all while providing much-needed sensory input.
Research tells us that outdoor play improves attention and provides an ideal environment for a calm and alert state, perfect for integration of sensory input.
Outdoor play provides input from all the senses, allows for movement in all planes, and provides a variety of strengthening components including eccentric, concentric, and isometric muscle contractions.
I’ve got four kids. The weather is starting to get really cold and the illnesses are being passed from kid to kid. We’ve got runny noses, ear infections, and antibiotic prescriptions for half of the crew. This mama needs creative indoor play.
When the indoor play requires a sensory spin, this move and play activity is designed to provide vestibular input for sensory movement seekers and is sure to bring on the smiles. Even through the sniffles!
We’ve been sharing a few creative ways to play with vestibular input recently. These have been wintry activities based on our Christmas OT calendar (and I’ve got a few more fun ideas up my OT sleeves for you!).
Vestibular Ball Throwing Activity
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While this sensory shot put activity is definitely a great vestibular input activity, it can be done any time through out the year. I went with light blue (Frozen-esque?) balls that reminded us of winter snowballs. The small balls were from our Bounce-Off Game
game. You can use whatever lightweight ball you’ve got in the house. A ping pong ball or small plastic ball like these ball pit balls
would work great. You don’t want to use a bouncy, rubbery ball, because for this activity, we want the concentration to be on the target and not a ball that is bouncing all over your living room and crashing into lamps.
Indoor Shot Put Game
Use a light foam ball or ping pong ball to play shot put. Create a target using an empty laundry basket. Your child should turn in circles like a shot put champ, extend their arm out, and toss that snowball into the target. Encourage them to spin in one area to get rotational vestibular input.
Rotational vestibular input can be done by simply spinning on the feet, but adding a wheeled office seat or Scooter Board
can be beneficial too. Adding the scooter board allows this activity to be done in different positions.
Rotational Vestibular Input Activity for Kids
It is important to note that rotational vestibular input (spinning) is a powerful physical action on the body. Activities should last no more than 15 minutes. Spinning needs to be monitored, particularly in children with sensory needs. Some children may react quickly to a spinning activity and others may take longer for their body to register the effects of rotational input. For kids that just do not get dizzy, provide only limited periods of spinning input and only in one direction for 10-15 spins, then in the other direction. The effects of spinning can last for a full 8 hours, so it’s important to not overdo this activity. Please contact your child’s Occupational Therapist for recommendations to meet your child’s particular needs.
Have snow outside? Great! Take this activity outdoors and play snowball shot put with real snowballs!
More ways to extend this activity: Practice counting spins and balls that are tossed. Use target areas in various sizes. Try the activity in various positions: seated, prone, and standing. Add soft wrist weights for proprioceptive input. Work on hand-eye control by removing the movement component. Add learning by spelling out words with each throw.
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Are you looking for more information on Vestibular or Proprioception (and ALL of the sensory systems) and how they affect functional skills, behavior, and the body’s sensory systems? This book, Sensory Processing 101, will explain it all. Activities and Resources are included. Get it today and never struggle to understand or explain Sensory Integration again. Shop HERE.
Looking for more vestibular activities? Check out our January calendar that has 31 days of vestibular and proprioception activities based on winter play.
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When the weatherman calls for rain or the kids need a little something special to do, you’ve got the perfect learning surface right in your house for creative learning. Today, we’re sharing learning activities that can be done on windows! Using a vertical surface in writing is a beneficial way to incorporate muscles of the hand and arm. It is a strengthening task to hold the arm up and manipulate a writing utensil like window markers or a pencil. Learning and movement go hand in hand, so these standing and moving learning ideas are sure to be a great way to creatively practice some skills that you might need to cover. Use the windows in your house for math, literacy, handwriting, and more with these creative learning ideas.
What better way to hold your paints, pencils, and window markers, than a homemade window easel like the one Picklebums made. Practicing spelling words? Make it mess-free sensory window spelling like we did.