The first few years of your child's life transforms him from helpless infant to crawling baby to busy toddler and represent the most formative time of your child's life in both cognitive and motor skills. Take advantage of a youngster's natural curiosity and energy to strengthen his muscular coordination through everyday games and activities. The regular exercise will carry him closer to developmental milestones while training his muscles and entertaining his mind.
Play Dough Games
Engage your child in a series of play dough games that will strengthen her hand muscles. Challenge your child to create people, animals or food in an imaginary game similar to charades. Set a timer while she races to create an object for you to guess. If you have multiple children, divide them into teams to compete against each other. The range of hand motions will increase their motor skills while they flatten and lengthen the play dough into a snake or roll it into a ball. When your child creates shapes, she is exercising both her creativity and her fine motor skills.
Prepare your youngster to meet the hopping milestone included in kindergarten readiness tests with practice hopping on one foot. Hide the exercise in a relay race to increase your child's motivation. Mark the race territory with cones or jump ropes, and set your preschooler on a race to hop all the way to the finish line on one foot and then back again on the other foot. If this exercise is still challenging for him, start with a distance of 6 to 10 feet, and allow him to hop with both feet if he loses his balance. Time your child as he races the clock, or have multiple children hop through the race as a competition.
Simple practice in throwing, catching and kicking provides exercise for the larger motor groups while training your child to follow the ball with her eye. Pediatricians at First 5 California's website recommend that parents help their 4- or 5-year-old child reach the milestone of throwing overhand. The exercise doesn’t have to be an organized sport like baseball or basketball; even learning how to manipulate various sizes of balls will strengthen the muscles in your child’s arms and legs. To transform the exercise into a game, challenge a group of children to throw a large bouncy ball as far as they can. Mark the distance to determine which children can move on to the next round. Increase the difficulty by giving them smaller balls in each round. If you only have one child, encourage her to beat her previous record.
Create an opportunity for increasing flexibility and strengthening the larger muscle groups with an obstacle course. For a younger child, create a tunnel out of a series of dining room chairs placed together so that she can maneuver through the row of legs. Make a more advanced course for an older child out of mountains of pillows and laundry baskets, or place hula hoops on the floor for him to jump through. Challenge your child to beat the timer as she ducks and climbs through the course, or set multiple children to race against each other as the clock ticks down.