Gross motor activities that focus on postural control, trunk rotation, bilateral coordination, eye hand coordination, motor planning and balance skills are beneficial when it comes to developing independence with dressing. Here are 5 suggested activities:
- Play games where the child has to reach outside of his/her base of support without falling over. Practice in sitting or standing depending upon the child’s skill level. For example, try batting a balloon in the air with your hands but do not move your feet. The child will be practicing trunk rotation, eye hand coordination skills and balance skills.
- Squatting activities while the child is holding an object. Put a hula hoop on the floor. Can the child squat down, pick up the hula hoop and reach it overhead? Put it back on the floor in front of the child and repeat. Can you get across the whole room only stepping in the hula hoop? Roll a large ball to the child. The child can squat down, pick it up with two hands and push it back.
- Body awareness game such as Simon Says adding in directions such as “Simon says touch your both hands to your left foot” or “Simon says squat down and touch the floor”. If Simon Says is difficult for the child play a game of Match Me. Move your body a certain way ie reach your right arm behind your back and the child tries to match your actions exactly.
- Play catch or kick a ball to each other. Simple games of catching, throwing and kicking include many of the underlying skills necessary for learning how to get dressed. When catching a ball a child brings his/her hands to midline (skill needed for unzipping, buttoning, etc). When throwing a ball, a child rotates the trunk and brings the arm across midline during the follow through phase (skill needed to reach for socks and shoes). When kicking a ball, a child has to momentarily stand on one foot while the other side of the body is moving (skill needed for getting pants on and off in standing).
- Set up obstacles courses that require the child to motor plan different activities. Include activities related to dressing ie. put on bigger shoes and walk several feet forward without losing your balance, pick up a small hula hoop or ring with your left hand and slide it up your right arm (mimics putting on a shirt), hide an object in a zippered bag for the child to rescue at the end of the obstacle course. Try relay races including getting dressed in bigger clothes. Set up two teams, run to the pile of clothes, put on large shorts, front open shirt and big shoes. Take them all off and run back to the starting line. Not enough kids to make teams? Just time one child and see if they can beat his/her record and get it done as fast as possible.
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