Water Games For Upper Body Strength And Coordination

Monday, June 29th, 2009


Water play is both fun and beneficial for your child. Water is naturally resistive, which makes it so great for strengthening. Additionally, water provides uniform pressure to the whole body, which facilitates body awareness and sense of body position in space.

These activities and toys are best for younger children or those children who are tentative about entering a big pool since they can be done outside the pool or in a small, child-sized pool. They also strengthen the upper body and challenge fine motor control.

Water Toys:

Sponges: Fill up a container by squeezing water from a sponge. Start with smaller sponges and progress to larger ones. Holding the sponge at shoulder level or higher increases shoulder strength.

  • Spray Bottles: Use the spray bottle for target practice by aiming for a particular spot on a wall or plastic easel drawn from chalk or shaving cream. Using a bigger, fuller spray bottle and holding it at or above shoulder level increases the challenge. Use the thumb, index, and middle fingers to squeeze the trigger and the ring and pinky fingers to hold the bottle steady.
  • Use a squeeze bottle (like a restaurant-style ketchup squeeze bottle, www.zesco.com) to fill water balloons. Toss the balloon at the target.
  • Squirt Toys: To increase hand strength, fill the toys up, and squirt the water while aiming for a target.
  • Wind-up Toys: These toys are generally available as bath toys, but are just as much fun in the pool. Use the thumb, index, and middle fingers while keeping the ring and pinky fingers tucked into the palm to prepare the hand for using scissors and controlling pencils and crayons.
  • To build shoulder strength, pour water from pitchers to cups, starting with a smaller, lighter pitcher.

These games are best for children who feel comfortable in the water. For those children who love the water, playing water sports is a fun way to incorporate eye-hand coordination, upper body coordination, and overall strengthening and endurance into summer play. Simply walking through water can enhance the sense of body position in space and balance!

Pool Sports & Games:

Water Volleyball:

  • For younger children, try the Giraffe Volleyball Pool Game (www.toysrus.com)
  • For older children, try Swimways Poolside Volleyball Game (www.toysrus.com)
  • Water Basketball:
  • For younger children, try Kool Dunk Basketball Pool Game or Water Basketball with Ring Toss Game (www.toysrus.com)
  • For older children, try Pro Water Basketball Pool Game (www.toysrus.com)
  • Water Bull’s Eye: Floating Target Pool Game (www.toysrus.com)
  • Water Tag
  • Belly Board: Lie on a kickboard belly down and use your arms to propel through the water to build upper body strength.
  • Pool Races: Run across the pool as fast as you can. Or, try straddling a pool noodle and race across the pool by using your arms to paddle.

Play safe: Remember to always apply sun block regularly, especially after playing in the water.

For additional water play ideas, tips on easing your child into the water, and an explanation of the sensory benefits of swimming, read our blog “Water Fun for Everyone!” (posted on July 15, 2008).

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR & Chaye Lamm-Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS

This entry was posted on Monday, June 29th, 2009 and is filed under Boost Gross Motor Coordination & Rhythmicity, Seasonal Tips.

Start your Camp Day the Right Way

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Now that the school year is coming to an end, camp is on the horizon. For your child that means a long, tiring day of camp and often a longer bus ride. Although much of the day is play and fun, it is also very demanding. We have included several ideas to help get your child’s day start in a way that will help him remain calm, alert, and organized.

Waking up the right way will set the tone for the rest of the day. Slow, even, total body contact for calming and self-organization and is a great way to get the ball rolling.

  • Perform slow, rhythmic total body pillow squishes lasting 10 seconds each.
  • Tightly roll child up in blankets like a “hotdog,” give a few total body pillow squishes, and roll out of blanket.
  • Make a “sandwich” using pillows and blankets. Every time you add an “ingredient,” squish it on the sandwich with your whole body to make sure it sticks!
  • Play “Hide and Seek” using pillows and blankets. Crawl under, over, and in between them.
  • Ask for big hugs
  • Give slow, even bear hugs.
  • Give slow, even back rubs or massages.
  • Use an electric toothbrush.

Eating a smart breakfast with healthy foods is important to get the day started. Choosing foods that “feed” your sensory system will keep you feeling good at the beginning of the day.

  • Eat chewy foods such as granola bars, bagels, peanut butter, etc. to facilitate calming.
  • Eat crunchy foods such as cereal, apples, nuts, graham crackers, etc. to facilitate alerting.
  • Drink liquids through a straw (curvy ones or a few straws taped together are even better) or sports bottle top to facilitate calming.
  • If your child likes yogurt, have him drink it through a straw to facilitate calming.
  • After breakfast make a “bubble mountain” by pouring water with dishwashing liquid in a dish basin and blowing through multiple, or long and curvy straws.

Resistive activities (proprioceptive activities) that also provide some movement through space (vestibular input) are “grounding” and organizing because they incorporate “heavy work”. Engaging in these types of activities can ease the transition to a long camp day.

  • “Push out the wall”: Have your child stand facing the wall with two open palms on the wall. Take two small steps backward and challenge your child to imagine making the room bigger by pushing out the wall.
  • Jumping on a trampoline or mattress. Count to 20 or sing while jumping.
  • Soft, gentle bouncing on an inflatable therapy ball.
  • Jump on a “Hippity Hop” ball.
  • Play Tug-of-War with a jump rope. Try it in sitting, on the knees, and in standing.
  • Wall handstands: Place hands on the floor, support body weight on open palms, and lift up feet as high as possible so toes are touching the wall. Make sure the back is not arched.
  • Do laps around the house jumping with both feet together. Make a starting point and a finishing line.
  • Wheelbarrow walking: Elbows should be slightly bent. Practice walking forwards, backwards, and sideways.
  • Play with riding toys such as wagons, pedal cars, and tricycles.
  • Play catch with a weighted ball (”medicine ball”).

Blog written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR  &

Chaye Lamm Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS

This entry was posted on Friday, June 19th, 2009 and is filed under Seasonal Tips, Sensory Processing.

Outdoor Games

Friday, June 19th, 2009


These days the warm weather keeps us outside longer. Whether you’re at a playground or playing in your own backyard, there are lots of fun games that you can play that can help improve gross motor coordination, balance, bilateral integration, eye-hand coordination, and core strength.

Hopscotch: Use the hopscotch in the playground or draw your own with chalk. It is a challenge to hop and balance on one foot and it requires smooth coordination. For beginners, draw a hopscotch board with smaller squares so that it is easier to hop into all the boxes and skip the square with the chalk in it. Start with a small piece of chalk and then use a full piece of chalk to make the activity more challenging. Smooth, continuous hopping and jumping throughout the game is the highest level of performance.

Frisbee: Tossing a Frisbee is good practice for eye-hand coordination. When catching a Frisbee, begin with a larger Frisbee that is easier to catch and move toward playing with smaller ones.

Hula hoop: It looks easier than it is and is a great way to improve the stability and strength of the core muscles in the trunk. For an added challenge, try catching a ball or racing down the block while hula hooping. Alternatively, play “leap frog” by arranging a series of hula hoops on the ground and hopping like a frog from one hoop to the next.

Jumping Rope: Jumping rope is a wonderful form of exercise. It requires the upper body and lower body to work together in addition to challenging balance and rhythmicity. Other games with a jump rope include: (1) When playing in a group, arrange the jump rope in a straight line and label one side “dry” and the other side “wet”. Have one person call out “dry” and “wet” in random order and all players need to jump from one side to the next without touching the rope. (2) Have one person hold the jump rope low to the ground and shake the rope quickly from side to side so that it looks like a rattlesnake. All players need to hop over the rope without it touching their feet. (3) Play Limbo with the jump rope and see how low you can go before losing your balance.

Bean Bag Toss: Choose “targets” around the backyard and toss bean bags at them to improve eye-hand coordination. Keep it challenging by starting further away from the target. Start with larger targets that are easier to hit and progressively move toward smaller targets.

Balloon Bop: This game is good for a younger child or children who are afraid of having a ball flying at them because the balloon travels much slower than a ball. Play alone or with a friend and see how long you can keep the balloon in the air before it touches the ground. Try using round and long balloons (www.orientaltrading.com).

Chalk Bull’s Eye: Draw a bull’s eye on the back or side of the house with chalk. Use a ball or bean bag to aim for the center. Score 10 points for hitting the center, 5 points for the middle circle, and 3 points for the outer circle. See who can earn the most points. Alternatively, make the bull’s eye using shaving cream or funny foam and use a water gun, spray bottle, or super soaker to “melt” the foam. Using a heavier, fuller water gun or spray bottle will help increase upper body strength. Standing farther away from the target increases the challenge of hitting the bull’s eye.

Blog written by:

Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR

Chaye Lamm-Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS

This entry was posted on Friday, June 19th, 2009 and is filed under Boost Gross Motor Coordination & Rhythmicity, Seasonal Tips.