Gross motor skills are such an important part of the healthy development and children of all ages. In fact, gross motor activities not only get the kids moving and active and allow them to release much needed energy, they also are responsible for helping children regulate their sensory needs. One of the easiest ways to include proprioceptive and vestibular input on a daily basis in our home is with Animal Walks.
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What are Animal Walks?
Animal walks are simple and fun exercises that anyone can do to get a quick dose of gross motor play in their day. Simply put, they are exercises that resemble the animals they are named for. Some of the animals walks we do have classic instructions that are known throughout early childhood and physical development experts, such as the crab walk, bear walk and frog jumps.
However, the fun doesn’t have to stop with the classics. Animal walks can resemble any animal and are a great way to encourage creativity while developing the important gross motor skills and providing sensory input.
Many of these movements require core strength, balance, and agility which are wonderful for sensory input and regulating the sensory systems (especially when there is a problem).
When we first learned about including heavy work into our day as part of our son’s sensory diet, animal walks where the first thing we tried (before any other sensory therapy). We learned about the following animal walks and were encouraged by our occupational therapist to include them at least once an hour every day. It wasn’t long before we started noticing how effective these were in calming down our son during gatherings, before school, and before homework.
Classic Animal Walks
Crab Walk | Start by squatting down close to the ground. Lean backwards and place your hands on the ground. You should look like a “table top” now. Now walk sideways, while holding your bottom off the ground and your back straight.
Bear Walk | Start in the standing position. Bend over and put both hands on the ground. Now, walk forward with the same leg and arm. So, move your right arm and right leg forward, then the left leg and arm at the same time, then repeat. For additional challenge, try keeping your legs and arms straight.
Frog Jumps | Start in the squatted position. Place your hands on the floor in between your knees. Using your feet, jump forward and land with your hands and feet on the ground.
Additional Classic Walks:
Alligator Push-ups | Have your child lay on their belly and push up into a plank with their hands and toes. As they walk have them push up with their hands while trying to keep their bodies as straight as possible.
Snake Slither | Have your child lay on their belly and put their hands to their sides. Wiggling their hips and shoulders side to side, have them try to move forward across the floor without using their hands.
Kid-Made Animal Walks
Donkey Kicks | Starting in the standing position, lean over and put both hands and both feet on the ground. When the area around you is clear, jump with your legs and kick behind you, leaving your hands on the ground.
Turtle Crawl | Starting in the kneeling position, curl your back over and put your elbows on the ground. Keeping your bottom on your heels, and your elbows and hands on the ground, pull yourself forward in a slow motion.
Kangaroo Jumps | Starting in the standing position, put both feet together and squat down. Jump as high as you can using only your feet, and no hands.
Additional Kid-Made Animal Walks
Whale Swim | Laying on your stomach, with your arms stretched in front of you, rock back and forth on your hips. This takes a lot of core strength and can take some time to get used to.
Gorilla Walk | Start in the squatted position with your hands at your chest. Walk down the hall while staying in the squatted position. For added gross motor exercise, try beating your chest with your fist as you walk.
Inchworm Crawl | Start in a standing position and bend over with your hands and feet touch the floor. Try touching the floor as close to your toes as you can. Then slowly walk your hands away from your feet, as far as you can. Finally walk your feet back to your hands, always keeping your hands on the ground. Repeat this until you have walked across the room.
Elephant Walk | Start in the standing position and bend over with your hands held together. Keeping your back straight and parallel with the floor, hang your hands under your shoulders and swing them back and forth as you walk with straight legs across the floor.
Octopus Wiggles | Start in the seated position on the floor. Attempt to lift both legs off the ground at the same time while wiggling your legs and arms.
Gross Motor Play A-Z
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