14 ways to help older kids build motor skills

There are many activities to help kids develop fine and gross motor skills. But a lot of them are aimed at younger kids. Tweens and teens may prefer these 14 fun activities.

Activities to improve gross motor skills

1. Trampolines

Jumping on a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance. It can also be part of a sensory diet for sensory seekers. Going to an indoor trampoline park can turn practice into a social event with friends. You can also buy a mini-trampoline to use at home. (If you do, it’s important to follow safety rules, such as having a jump bar.)

2. Bowling

Aiming for targets and rolling a bowling ball is another way to work on gross motor skills. If you don’t have a bowling alley nearby, you can always set up water-bottle bowling at home, using empty plastic water bottles and a soccer ball.

3. Walking or climbing

Walking or climbing over unstable surfaces can strengthen trunk muscles. Consider going on a hike together. Or throw a few pillows on the floor for practice with walking on uneven surfaces.

4. Swimming

With swimming, the whole body has to work against the resistance of the water. Swimming also helps with proprioceptive awareness. That’s knowing where your body is in space.

5. Playground activities

Using “unstable” playground equipment also helps develop trunk muscles. Kids can try out things like rope ladders and wobble bridges. Plus, it gives older kids an excuse to return to the playground!

6. Riding a bike or a scooter

A scooter is a little easier to master and can be a step on the way to bike riding. But once kids get the hang of riding a bike, it can help them learn to maintain balance. Plus, it gives them a way to get around and is fun to do with friends.

7. Dancing

Try a dance class, a dance at school, or just dancing to music at home. Dancing helps kids develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. And it’s a great way for kids to socialize.

Activities to improve fine motor skills

8. Cooking

From chopping vegetables to beating an egg, cooking can be a relaxing way to build fine motor skills. It also lets you spend some time together. And if your child builds cooking skills at the same time, it’s a bonus!

9. Building

Show your child how to help with home repairs. (If you don’t know how, either, look for YouTube videos together.) Working with hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches improves hand-eye coordination and uses both small and large muscles. It can be a big boost to self-esteem to complete a home repair project.

10. Juggling

Juggling is a fun way to improve both fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s also a good activity for kids who tend to fidget. This is another skill you can find instructions for on YouTube.

11. Playing a musical instrument

Playing an instrument can help build fine motor skills. Even if kids had trouble playing an instrument when they were younger, it’s worth trying again if they’re interested. If you can’t afford private lessons, talk to your child’s school to see what they suggest. (See a list of instruments and the motor skills they require.)

12. Practicing beauty routines

Putting on makeup and creating complex hairstyles both require a surprising amount of fine motor skill. Keep in mind that learning how to perfect a smoky eye doesn’t mean makeup has to be worn outside of the house.

13. 3D puzzles

3D puzzles have foam-like pieces that fit together to create models. They have everything from the Titanic to the Empire State Building. Start with simpler puzzles and work up to more complicated ones.

14. LEGO

You may think of LEGO as a toy for younger kids. But there are advanced kits with thousands of pieces that teens and tweens enjoy. LEGO also has a robotic product that combines bricks with motors and sensors. Kids can build creations that can be programmed to move. Many libraries, schools, and rec centers have LEGO clubs. It’s a great way to socialize and makes this activity less expensive.

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