Occupational therapists who work with young children understand that these kids need to interact frequently with their environment in order to enhance their cognitive, emotional, physical and social development. An indoor gym is the perfect place for kids to work on these attributes. Indoor gym equipment such as monkey bars, swings and ladders are great for allowing young children to improve their problem solving skills, sensory processing skills, motor planning, balancing skills and hand strength. As you can see, there are many benefits of playing at an indoor gym.
Many parents believe that playing at an indoor gym will only hone their children’s gross motor skills, such as balance, strength and coordination. However, playing at an indoor gym can actually improve your child’s fine motor skills too! Most people picture tabletop activity like stringing beads or coloring when they picture a child using fine motor skills. While those are valid, they are not the only activities that make use of dexterity and fine motor coordination. An indoor gym presents many great opportunities for kids to practice grasping and to build hand strength.
Helping a Child with Poor Fine Motor Skills at an Indoor Gym
It is not uncommon for children to be able to hang on to monkey bars on their own for a few minutes at a time. However, being able to do so does not necessarily mean that they have strong intrinsic hand strength. Hanging onto the bars without moving does make use of hand strength and is good for developing the arches of your child’s hands. However, it does not make use of the tiny intrinsic muscles of the hand. Many kids who have not developed upper body stability rely on the strength of their arms instead of using the tiny underdeveloped muscles in their hands.
To help your child work out those tiny muscles in their hands and develop their fine motor skills, here are some activities that they can do.
- Monkey Bar Exercises
Let your child hang from the monkey bars without their feet touching the ground. You can hold onto their trunk to take some of their weight. Have your child change their gripping positions. For example, if they like to hang with all their fingers on one side of the bar, encourage them to use a “power grasp”. If they like to hang with their palms facing away from their face, ask them to try it with their palms facing towards their face. You also get them to try a mixed grip with one palm facing towards them and one palm facing away. This is also good for working out their forearm rotators.
- Swinging Exercises
It may not seem like it but swinging is a great way to hone fine motor skills as well. Teach your child how to swing on their own and they will have the time of their lives while getting in a good workout.
- Pretend Play involving Climbing and Crawling
Games like these that encourage your kid to pull themselves up or support themselves using their arms are excellent exercises for developing good posture and upper arm stability.