Outdoor Activities to Promote Fine Motor Development

Children learn through play and as summer approaches, you may be looking for more outdoor activities to do with your child to continue their development and learning.

Many outdoor activities are focused on gross motor activities like running, jumping, and climbing but there are some fun ways to incorporate fine motor play when you are outdoors. Here are a few ideas for parents who are looking for new and fun play activities to improve their child’s fine motor skills:

  1. Sidewalk Chalk: Using sidewalk chalk is an excellent way to strengthen your child’s grasp and encourage them to practice fine motor precision. You can draw a path with your chalk and encourage your child to follow or trace the line as closely as they can.

  2. Nature Pictures: Take a bucket and go on a nature walk with your child and ask them to collect items they would like to use to make a picture (i.e. pinecones, blades of grass, seeds, nuts, leaves, etc). You can encourage your child to pick up items in a wide variety of sizes to give your child the opportunity to utilize various grasp patterns. When you return home they can glue the items on a page to create a picture.

  3. Popping Bubbles: Go outdoors and blow bubbles for your child. You can use several different methods of popping the bubbles depending on their age and skill level. Children who need to work on pointing with their index finger can play a game to see how many bubbles they can pop with their index finger. You can encourage other children to try to pinch the bubbles with their thumb and index finger. Or for an even higher level, you could provide your child with a pair of child-size (and child-safe) tweezers to use when trying to pop the bubbles.

  4. Mud Soup: Use a large tupperware bin or a parent-approved corner of your backyard to create a muddy play area. Provide your child with containers of various shapes and sizes as well as utensils or sticks. Encourage your child to scoop and dump out the mud, stir the “soup”, scoop the “soup” with a spoon, tear up leaves and grass to make a seasoning, and pinch in your homemade seasoning for the “soup.” All of these muddy activities help your child learn and experiment with different grasp patterns and fine motor skills.

  5. Sandy Treasure Hunt: In a large outdoor sandbox or in a tupperware bin filled with sand, bury some small toys of different shapes and sizes (marbles, little plastic animals, beads, etc) and send your child on a treasure hunt. Depending on their age and skill level, you can make the activity more challenging by telling them they can only use one, two, or three fingers to look through the sand and find the toys. You can make this a fun game or competition by having mom or dad join in on the fun.

While we often think about therapy as a task when children must sit down and do their work, so much learning and development come when we encourage our children to play and explore their environment. Hopefully, you can use some of these activities to promote your child’s development through play this summer.

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Speech and Language Therapy

Individual therapy is provided in our home-based office setting and is one-on-one with a certified speech-language pathologist. We always invite families and caregivers to be active members of the team and therapy sessions. We specialize in working with children and their families (siblings included!) to address communication challenges in the following areas:

  • Articulation Disorders

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About the Author

Serena Dewey is an occupational therapist, was born and raised in western Washington but has lived throughout the northwest. She completed her bachelor's degree at Walla Walla University in Speech Communication and then completed her master's degree in Occupational Therapy at Eastern Washington University. While at Eastern Washington University, Serena participated in community-based volunteer opportunities including the organization of a Halloween costume design and trick-or-treating event for children with mobility limitations. Serena also enjoyed partnering with children and their families during a constraint-induced movement therapy camp offered at Eastern Washington University. She has experience working in a variety of settings including inpatient rehabilitation, mental health, pediatrics, early intervention pediatrics, and telehealth.

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