Time to Get Outside!

By Laura Stubecki

I’ve said it before but it is worth repeating: “Outdoor play is great for development”! Why? Your children will move more, explore with their hands, improve body awareness, and develop eye-hand coordination that video games and television never can.

Even experimenting with the “messy activities” that you may not want indoors is a great way to be outside. Here are few ideas:
Finger paint, hand paint, foot paint. That’s right, if it fits on the paper, paint it and place it! Paint fingers all the colors of the rainbow and place on paper.

If your child is painting his own hand, place the brush in his/her dominant hand and paint the non-dominant hand. Foot painting is novel and will probably ignite giggles and glee. However, if it does not and your child is sensitive to this feeling, never force it.

Squirt bottles:

Easily bought at the dollar store or the travel section of a bigger store. Squirting water helps develop the muscles of the hand. If you are trying to teach your child colors, letters or numbers, there is nothing more motivating than squirting them! Show them a picture of what you want them to learn, have the same picture taped to a tree or fence post, and let them find that picture and squirt it! I used to tape the whole alphabet up around my clinic and let the children squirt their way through the ABC’s.

Oh the power of putty! It is strengthening, motivating, and versatile. Cut it with scissors, mold it around objects, flatten it in a pan and write in it, find hidden objects in it….the list goes on and on. Here is a recipe that will keep for weeks, just spritz with water when it starts to dry:
• 2 cups flour
• 1 cup salt
• 1 cup hot tap water
• Food coloring (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients. Add food coloring to water and mix with dry ingredients. You can also skip the food coloring, put the play-doh in a plastic bag, then add a few drops of food coloring and let your child mush it in the bag. Another option is to add a few drops of vanilla or cinnamon to add a scent.

Rice play:
Fill up a bin with uncooked rice, beans, birdseed, or sand. Scooping and pouring with cups puts the forearms through the full range of motion that is necessary for writing and cutting skills. Hide puzzle pieces under the rice and have your child dig through to find the pieces and complete the puzzle. Hide common shapes under the rice and see if your child can close their eyes, find the shape, and guess what it is before looking.

Winter is over and spring is on the way! So get outside and play, play, play! More outdoor ideas to come.

Laura Stubecki is an occupational therapist and is the Director of Pediatric OT Solutions and Preschool Solutions in Orange and Dutchess Counties.