From the time they are born until they reach adulthood, children go through a very long process of learning coordination skills. It is important for children to attain small motor and gross motor skills during this time. According to Healthy Children in "Movement and Coordination," many children are naturally coordinated and will find activities on their own to learn these skills. Other children can use some encouragement and additional practice along the way, and parents and teachers can plan games and activities that will help build coordination skills.
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Balance beams take a lot of coordination and use many muscle groups, so providing one for a child is very beneficial. For outdoors, a simple beam can be made by resting a long piece of wood on two blocks or tires on either end. Start it low to the ground, and raise it up as skill increases. An indoor balance beam can be made with a piece of tape on the floor.
Puzzles are useful educational tools that are available in all ability ranges. Puzzles can be found with two or three pieces for the infant or toddler, all the way up to the thousands for those who love a challenge. The game is beneficial for small motor skills, and can played alone or made into a contest. Players can compete to see who can finish a puzzle first, or make a game where the child has to walk across the balance beam (mentioned above) without falling off before he can get another piece to the puzzle.
Stringing beads is an excellent way to develop hand-eye coordination and this can be adapted to several age groups. For toddlers, large beads and shoelaces work well, while older children may be ready for very small beads on a thin string. Children can take turns rolling dice and putting that amount of beads on their string. For additional challenge, make cards that say "Add" or "Subtract" to be chosen on each turn and then the player will need to take away or put on beads according to the card chosen. The first child to reach 20 beads wins the game.
Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader is a game that can be modified to any age range and ability level. A leader can model activities such as hopping on one foot, galloping, skipping, and even yoga and Pilates positions that will develop core strength which will encourage gross motor skills and coordination. For older children, the same movements can be done while playing "Simon Says." In this game, the leader says "Simon Says" before each activity, and if the leader does not say the phrase but the children still do the action, then they are out.
Coordination Games Using Balls
Having a few small balls available opens up more possibilities for coordination games. For a toddler, simply rolling a ball back and forth will increase coordination. As children get older, playing catch develops many skills.
When outdoors, challenge children to throw the ball in a basketball hoop, or through a hanging hula-hoop. Use soft foam balls indoors and see if kids can throw them in laundry baskets. Set up several and designate points for each basket.
Pass the Beanbag
Beanbags are versatile and can be used in many ways to build coordination, both indoors and out. According to "Bean Bag Activities and Coordination Skills" by Georgiana Stewart, one game for all ages is a game similar to hot-potato where you pass the beanbag around the circle. A leader can play music and when the music stops the person holding the beanbag is out. For older children add additional listening challenges, such as change direction, skip every other person, or only pass it to someone wearing blue.
Obstacle courses are a way to integrate many coordination activities into a challenging, competitive game. Family Education in "Indoor Obstacle Course" suggests coming up with 10 elements for an obstacle course. Combine some of the above activities such as a balance beam, placing a puzzle piece, throwing a ball in a basket, along with crawling under, over, and through obstacles for a challenge.
Obstacle courses can be set up using whatever materials are available and can be done indoors or outside. Children will enjoy competing against each other, or against their own time using a stopwatch.
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