COORDINATION GAMES FOR EVERY AGE
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.
Written by: Aviva Goldwasser, MS, OTR and Chaye Lamm-Warburg, MA, OTR, Director POTS