2022 Holiday Gift Guide-Big Body and Gross Motor Gifts!

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For most of us, winter means cold and less opportunity for time outdoors which means that parents are looking for ways to get their active kids energy out. They also want to find things that gets them away from the television or other screens. When putting this list together, I tried to find toys/products that wouldn’t take up much room and would be safe for independent play and could be used for multiple purposes. It was important to me that I included things that could be used on their own or part of obstacle courses and that would work on a variety of gross motor, motor planning and coordination skills while also working on developing a variety of other skills. Many of the items I shared can have a fine motor or visual motor component as well. Below, you will find a few of my favorite gross motor and big body toys and games that are not only great for therapeutic purposes, but to get kids moving and staying active at home during the colder winter months. The great thing about all these toys is that they are not only helping to develop a variety of skills but as they get stronger and things get easier for them, it builds their confidence and self-esteem making them more likely to try some of the more challenging big body activities in school or on the playground with their peers. 

  1. Zoom Ball-this is one of my favorite therapy tools and a great gross motor toy to have at home as it doesn’t take up much room. This actually was one of the best toys at our gym to use during covid because we could easily maintain distance between two kids while still trying to add a social component to our sessions. Not only is the zoom ball fun, it works on a ton of developmental goals! Kids work on improving upper extremity strength and shoulder stability, encourages bilateral coordination and motor planning skills and increases core strength. I like to add challenges when I am using the Zoom Ball with my kids such as taking turns saying the alphabet each time we send it back and forth to each other, or ask a question that they have to answer when it gets to them and then having them ask a question that I have to answer when I get the ball back.
  2. Wobbel Board-I am a huge fan of the Wobbel Board and even got one for my daughter during remote learning to give her something easily available to provide movement when she was getting antsy. The Wobble Board is a versatile piece of equipment that not only helps with strengthening but provides sensory input at the same time and is good for kids (and adults) of all ages. Some of the benefits of a Wobbel Board are that it can work on improving overall body strength, encourages motor planning, motor organization and coordination skills and works on improving balance and coordination. I love the Wobbel Cards that you can download with a bunch of activities and exercises that you can do with the board. For older kids, I like to offer the Wobbel Board and cards as part of a home sensory diet.
  3. Turtle Stepping Stones-we have always had stepping stones at the gyms I’ve worked at because they can be used during both occupational and physical therapy sessions in a variety of ways. There are a ton of stepping stone options out there and I am going to link others but I love this particular set because it not only comes with the cutest set of turtle stepping stones, it comes with activities and game ideas on how you can use them at home. Stepping Stones work on improving balance, coordination, motor planning and motor organizational skills. It’s also a fun way to introduce colors to younger children as they walk over the turtles. Sometimes we will flip our stepping stones over and give the kids beanbags that they have to try and throw into the right color to work on improving visual motor and hand0-eye coordination skills. Here are some links to stepping stone sets that have varying heights which are great for older kids to physically challenge them more but you can also work on size and sorting by having kids put them in height order.
    Balance Buckets
    SteppingStones Set
  4. Indoor Hopscotch Kit-another easy to store/not take up a lot of space gross motor toy that can be adapted and graded for each child’s skill level. What’s nice is that you can use this on its own or can be part of an obstacle course using other materials and objects that you might have at home. Kids work on developing motor planning and  motor organizational skills while also working on increasing overall body strength. Many of the kids we work with are working on learning how to master jumping so we start by having them just jump from square to square, then work on jumping with legs together in the single boxes and jumping with feet apart in the double boxes and then move onto the traditional hopscotch game.
  5. Swing A Ring-so many people are finding the benefits of having a swing in their homes/apartments to help with self-regulation in the last couple of years and are constantly asking me for my favorites. We call this the Spiderman swing in our gym and it’s great for working on improving core strength while providing some much needed sensory input for kids. It can be used indoors or outdoors, is affordable and doesn’t take up much room.**As always, children should always be supervised when on the swing or on any other kind of sensory equipment.
  6. Stomp Rocket Dueling Rockets-these have been a staple on every gross motor gift guide and one of my favorite toys to recommend for home. This is often used as a treat for our kids at the gym after they have worked on other activities but it’s really a great toy to work on developing a variety of gross motor skills. It’s a great way to teach kids to learn how to jump and run, especially those who are more resistant. This can be used safely indoors or outdoors because the foam rockets are soft and won’t break anything or hurt someone if they hit something. We like to use this as part of obstacle courses or try and put in another gross motor challenge such as animal walking to pick up the rocket. An added bonus is that kids can work on improving visual motor and visual tracking skills as they follow the rocket to see where it lands.
  7. Magne-Darts-this has become one of the new favorites in our gym and the best part is that kids have no idea how many gross motor, fine motor and visual skills that playing with this dart set works on. One of the reasons I like this particular dart board is that it is very sturdy and doesn’t take up much room which is great for apartment living. In the gym, we are able to combine this with part of an obstacle course  or have them stand on a balance board or bosu ball when using the dart board. It’s important to find fun activities to couple with the more challenging ones, especially for kids who are avoiders, and we have found that we hear less complaining when distracted by something like the dart board activity. Obviously, we wouldn’t use a real dart board in our setting, but what’s nice about a magnetic board is that kids are more likely to have success getting it on the board which helps build up their confidence and self-esteem. In addition to all I have already mentioned, this dart board makes a great gift for older kids who need to work on executive functioning skills such as focus, attention and planning.
  8. Lycra tunnel-when I make recommendations for things and products at home, I try and find things that are easy to store and don’t take up a lot of room because my clients live in smaller spaces with less storage space here in the city. The lycra resistance tunnel is an amazing tool to use in therapy sessions and at home. It’s versatile, doesn’t take up much room and it can work on so many developmental and sensory goals. This lycra resistance tunnel can provide proprioceptive feedback while helping to increase core and upper body strength, improve motor planning, motor organization, body awareness and coordination skills. One of our favorite activities at the gym is to have the kids push pillows or beanbags through the tunnel. Another benefit of the tunnel is that it be used with two or more kids working together; while one kid is crawling through, the other one can be holding the tunnel for them.
  9. MicroKick Scooter-I’m a fan of the Kick Scooter and it’s one of the most commonly seen one here in New York City. It’s lightweight and moves very smoothly so even our kids who have a lot of motor planning or strength issues can be successful when using this scooter. Scooters are not only a great replacement for a stroller, they are great for working on developing a variety of gross motor skills such as improving overall body strength, encourages motor planning and coordination skills and works on improving balance. I encourage parents of sensory seeking kids to have their kids ride a scooter to school to help provide them with proprioceptive input before getting to school to help them with focus and attention so they can be ready to learn. If you are looking for one of these for your kids, be sure to check out your local toy stores. They often carry a wide range of Kick scooters with varying sizes and in tons of colors. 
  10. Indoor Snowballs-throwing is a developmental skill and one that a lot of the kids that I work with have trouble doing, especially with accuracy because of decreased hand-eye and coordination skills. And because it is difficult for them, they avoid it. We try and find fun and motivating ways to work on the tricky things and we have found that having the kids play with these soft and squishy snowballs make it more of a game. Since they are soft, you don’t have to worry about them breaking something or hurting someone and you can figure out all kinds of games to play with them. It’s also great for keeping little ones (and the big kids love them too) entertained during the colder winter weather. You can work on improving hand-eye coordination by setting up a target for the kids to throw at and increase the challenge by setting up different targets that they have to throw at when given directions. You can also work on improving core strength by having them balance on an exercise ball when throwing the snowballs.
  11. Over The Door Mini Basketball Hoop-this basketball hoop has been a huge hit with kids of all ages at our gym and it’s another thing that can be great for home because it doesn’t take up a lot of space. This particular over the door basketball hoop seems to be the most sturdy one I have seen and has taken quite a beating from our kids at the gym who are trying to master their slam dunk. The best part about this is that kids are working on developing a ton of gross motor skills without even realizing it. It also works on developing hand-eye coordination, improves focus, attention, motor planning and motor organizational skills. It’s also a great toy to have at home for siblings to play together to work on improving sportsmanship skills and coping with winning and losing. One way we like to use the hoop so we can work on improving core strength, is to prop it up on something lower and have the kids lie on their back with their heads under the hoop, grab the ball with their feet and then take their legs and pull them up to put the ball in the hoop.
  12. The Floor Is Lava-this game is a great gross motor game that works on so much more than building big body skills. With the weather changing and kids spending less time outside, I love to share family games to keep kids entertained without it being screen or technology driven and this one fits the bill. In The Floor Is Lava, players must imagine the floor is molten hot lava while spinning the color wheel to jump to the right foam pieces to reach safety. The game comes with 25 non-slip colored foam stones and 27 challenge cards.  The Floor is Lava is fun way to work on increasing body strength, improve motor planning and motor organizational skills, improves coordination and balance and works on focus, attention and sensory processing skills.

These are just a few of the many, many gross motor and big body gifts that I am sharing with you all this year. As I mentioned, it was important to share things that could be used on their own or as part of an obstacle course. I also tried to find as many things that would be appropriate for children of all ages so they would grow with your child and be good for family use. If you are looking for anything specific for your child, please reach out to me at otmeghan@gmail.com and I will help find the perfect gift for the children on your list this year.

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