Improving your child’s motor skills in a winter wonderland

smiling girl making snow angel

Photo credit: Loadmaster (David R. Tribble) at Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan winters are cold and snowy. When the family has cabin fever, an outside snowy day is the perfect place to play. Not only is it a fun change, did you know it’s also a perfect way to improve fine and gross motor skills?

Getting ready for snow fun can be both challenging and rewarding. Putting on snow pants then adjusting the straps, pulling on the boots, zipping up a coat, placing on a hat, and finding just the right spot for your thumb in the mittens are all fine motor and body awareness skills children can achieve when given the time and the incentive. The youngest ones will still need a little help.

Once out the door all bundled up, a whole snow-filled playground awaits in the yard! Running with boots on is hard work! Check out the snow; is it soft, crunchy, wet, flaky, good for packing, or powdery? Make a footprint path in the snow for your friends and parents to follow. Take big steps, small steps, and jump with two feet. Making a snow angel is exercise; now try to get up without squashing the angel! Does it look like you?

Ready to build a snowman? Pack a snowball tight, now roll and roll. Keep pushing it, using all of your arm, core and leg strength. Make two more each smaller than the last. Kids can ask mom or dad to help stack the snowballs on top of each other to make the snowman.

Time to go sledding! Younger children enjoy being pulled on a sled while the older kids seek the hills. Sledding down and climbing back up over and over builds great strength and endurance. No hills in your yard? Children can pull each other on sleds or pack some snow and make their own hill – let their imaginations take over. Building a fort, shoveling a path and looking for animal tracks are all ways to enjoy being outside.

Are you ready for one more adventure? Go ice skating! Many rinks have open skate with rental skates available; some rinks offer plastic PVC walkers for children to help with balance. Bring your own helmet (bike or hockey) with you. Ice skating is fun and challenging. It incorporates balance, coordination, and strength. Children about 3 years old can really start to enjoy skating; they don’t have far to fall and they enjoy the quick progress they make.

Well that was fun! The kids will climb out of the layers of clothing, pile up the boots, and are ready for a snack. Soup or hot chocolate are just perfect to warm up all over. This was an exhausting day, so expect the kids to go to bed early tonight.

– Amanda Froling, PT, C/NDT, CKTP, is a physical therapist within the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in West Bloomfield.
– Carol Julien-Buell, PT, MPT, C/NDT, PCS is a board-certified Pediatric Clinical Specialist. She is physical therapist at the Beaumont Center for Children’s Rehabilitation in Beaumont Health & Wellness Center, Royal Oak.

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