6 Toys & Play Products To Help Develop Gross Motor Skills
This is part one of a series of posts that will concentrate on the inherent benefits of play for children with special needs. In this post we focus on how toys and the experience of play help with physical development and the growth of gross motor skills.
Play: An Important Role in Physical Development
For the average person the concept of play is considered helpful in assisting a child to grow, learn, develop and thrive.What many don't know is that play extremely helpful when it comes to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.
Why is physical development important?
With every age and stage children learn and master new motor skills. Gross motor skills involve large muscle planning and coordination like walking, running and skipping. These skills are used every day to live, play and they provide children with the abilities they need to explore and interact with the world around them.
Gross Motor Skill Development
Exploration of environment such as playing on a playground is a way for children to advance their gross motor skills and improve their overall physical development. When a child is navigating a playground they are actually working on many gross motor skills without even knowing it. They are using coordination and large muscles to climb up the ladder and then slide down the slide. Agility and balance are used to walk across the balance beam.
Toys and play products also facilitate physical development by triggering and repeating the play response. Here are 6 toys and play products that can help with gross motor skill development:
An indoor trampoline that includes colors and numbers on the jumping surface to incorporate cognitive skills into physical play. Trampolining promotes balance and coordination, spatial awareness and helps increase proprioception (body input and awareness).
Tunnels and tents encourage four-point crawling, bilateral coordination, and enables children to practice weight shifting and balance. These are great products for active gross motor play indoors!
The Little Tikes Truck is a rugged plastic ride-on truck that requires motor planning, reciprocal leg movements and balance and weight shifting to get in and out of the truck. A plus to this truck is that it includes a removable floorboard and a handle for parents to push kids if they need assistance or a break from using their legs!
This bike has no pedals! This bike can be used as a segue into riding a traditional bike and aids in the child’s balance reaction through weight shifting, bilateral coordination both reciprocally and in unison, and their coordination skills.
Tactile Discs are a set of 5 small and 5 large discs with different textures for sensory exploration for both hands and feet. Children can use the tactile discs to work on their posture, encourage balance and coordination. These discs also promote core strength, weight shifting and bearing while the child adjusts to stand on one disc or on two discs, with one or both feet.
is a great tool for toddlers. Young children can work on their colors and matching skills while promoting two handed grasp, balance and bilateral coordination. The game includes 6 card categories that require movement such as “Wave bye-bye!” among others.
The Importance Of Play
“Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength” as stated in the American Academy of Pediatricians report, The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds.
Children have opportunities for play in their backyard, local playground, park or right inside their kitchen cabinets. Each child develops his gross motor at different ages and stages, but promoting play can assist the child to grow, learn, develop and thrive while mastering the milestones of physical development.
Ahren Hoffman IS the manager of Industry Relations and Partnerships for the National Lekotek Center. Lekotek, is a not-for-profit and leading authority on toys and play for children with disabilities. Lekotek is dedicated to providing children of all abilities access to the benefits of play experiences. Visit www.ableplay.org for a complete listing of toys. You can also find them onFacebook