10 Fun Outdoor Toys That Strengthen Motor Planning, Executive Function, Social Skills, and More
Spring is here, and as the weather gets nicer, kids who've been cooped up inside can finally get out of the house. Make the most of that playtime with outdoor toys that are not only fun but also reinforce skills your child may be working on in occupational or physical therapy.
For kids who are constantly seeking movement, the Swurfer swing is a perfect choice. It's not only great for providing much-needed sensory input, but it also works on improving motor planning, coordination, and organizational skills. As a bonus, it helps in increasing trunk strength and control. While not one of your standard outdoor toys it will be gret for children that love swings.
Using a scooter is a wonderful way to improve overall body strength, coordination, and balance skills. For kids who have difficulty with focus and attention, riding a scooter to school (when possible) is a good way to provide sensory input before heading into a classroom.
Stomp rockets are one of the most popular toys in my gym, and I love that they can be used both indoors and outdoors. The stomp rocket is great for working on hand-eye coordination and motor planning skills; it also helps to improve balance and can work on building running endurance when kids have to go fetch the rocket. The double stomp rocket can encourage social skills when done with a sibling or a friend.
Many of the kids I work with have shown interest in learning how to ride a skateboard but have a fear of falling or getting hurt. The Spooner Board is a good way to introduce kids to the concept of skateboarding and at the same time encourages coordination, balance, motor planning, and organizational skills. It also helps to increase core and leg strength and endurance.
I love that these hop balls are still around and providing entertainment to kids the same way they did when I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s. Great for working on improving overall body strength, especially in the core and legs. They also provide a tremendous amount of sensory input for kids who require extra in order to focus and attend to tasks. Make it a social experience by having kids race each other while on the hop balls.
This game can be played indoors or outdoors. One set of cards has objects that can be found inside, and the other has cards that can be found outside. Kids can work together in teams or play against each other to find all of the required objects. Great for working on executive functioning skills like focus, attention, and organization skills while also getting kids up and moving around their environment.
Fun indoors or outdoors, the Jabbit set is a catch and toss game that will work towards improving hand-eye coordination, motor planning, focus, attention, and organizational skills. It’s a great game that will also facilitate social skills and good sportsmanship in kids of all ages.
Kids of all ages love bubbles, and the bigger the bubbles, the more fascinated they are. This simple bubble device can make giant bubbles that everyone will love to make and watch being made. Great for working on bilateral coordination, motor planning, and organizational skills. Making giant bubbles is also a wonderful way to work on improving modulation and regulation, because kids have to be slow and focused while making the bubbles.
Easily one of my favorite outdoor activities is the simple act of drawing with chalk. This timeless activity can keep kids entertained for hours and encourages creativity, drawing, and handwriting. Additionally, this big body activity can help improve upper body strength. Draw a hopscotch board, and kids can work on improving motor planning, balance, and coordination skills.
This three-in-one toy can be used indoors or outdoors and is designed for children two and older. The Jungle Jumparoo is a climbing, bouncing, and swinging toy that will help improve overall body strength and endurance. It was designed for kids to be able to do it with friends or siblings, so it can encourage language and social skills while providing lots of sensory input.
Meghan Corridan has been a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City since 2001. She spent over ten years working at the SAGE Center and is now at Heads Up Therapy. In addition to her private work, she is a founding member of The Meeting House, a recreational after-school program for children with social special needs, and now runs The Meeting House Juniors program. She blogs about OT-tested and approved toys, games, books, and apps at MAC&Toys.