As the season of winter is vastly approaching, snow is (potentially) in the air! While we may want to stay indoors when it is snowing, playing in the snow actually has many benefits to a child’s development (once bundled up, of course!). Playing, moving around, building and creating in the snow provides opportunities for gross and fine motor skill development, coordination, body awareness, problem-solving, and even social skills. Not to mention an overall great activity to provide sensory input. Here are a few benefits and ideas for when that first snowfall of the year comes:
Kids love to help! Plus, who doesn’t love a purposeful task? Have your child help with shoveling, as tolerated. This provides ample opportunity for heavy work through proprioceptive input (input into the muscles, joints, and ligaments). For children with sensory integration challenges, proprioceptive input can be calming and organizing to the body, and may help with overall regulation. Think about how hard your muscles need to work! Not to mention, a great activity for also building strength.
Build a Snowman
Roll, pat, and carry! Have your child navigate through the yard to retrieve additional pieces to add to the snowman, including sticks or rocks. You can even work on body awareness and identifying various body parts while building the snowman and adding each piece. Once complete, have your child identify those body parts on the snowman and themselves.
Making snow angels is not only fun, but it can work on so many great skills! Think about how your child needs to coordinate movements to first assume a position on their back, then synchronize both sides of their body. Such a great activity to work on motor planning and bilateral coordination skills!
Need to downgrade: Have your child only move their arms OR their legs first until they can coordinate those movements.
Extra Challenge: Have your child try opposite side movements – just moving one arm and the opposite leg, then switch!
Playing in the “Snowbox”
Who says sandbox toys are only a summertime activity? Take out those sand castle molds, shovels, and buckets! Have your child create snow castles and various creations. Shoveling snow into the bucket, patting snow with both hands and using both hands to secure the bucket when turning it over – so many skills including fine motor, upper body strength and stability, bilateral coordination, and even force gradation.
Snow Play “Indoors”
Once the outdoor fun is all done, bring the snow inside! Place some snow in bowls to be used for a variety of crafts and activities. Create science experiments, paint the snow, or fill a bucket of snow and hide items inside for your child to “dig” out.
Want more ideas specific to your child’s needs? Speak with your child’s occupational therapist for additional ideas for some fun in the snow!
Written by Maria Cerase, OTD, MS, OTR/L