Coordination can be tricky, even for some adults! We all know, and perhaps we were, that kid who is just uncoordinated or klutzy. Yet coordination is something we can build as a young child and improve through the lifespan. Coordination building games can be great fun for the entire family and lead to much laughter and silliness! Here are five to get you started.
1. Musical chairs – This age old classic can really help with gross motor development and spacial awareness. Play it the traditional way with kid friendly chairs. When the kids get good at it, replace the chairs with mats, carpet squares, or “spots” on the floor. For an even more advanced version ask the kids to perform a yoga pose or other task when they get to a spot. They aren’t “safe” until they’ve completed the task! Not only can this game help kids improve their balance and reflexes, it teaches social skills like turn-taking.
2. Alphabet Memory Yarn Toss – Buy a big ball of yarn at any craft store. The bigger and more brightly colored, the better! Start sitting in a circle on the floor or in chairs. One person starts by naming something that starts with the letter A. They then grab on to the end of the yarn and toss the rest of the yarn to someone across the circle from them. That person catches the ball of yarn and names something starting with the letter B. They then hold on to the yarn and toss the ball to someone else across the circle (not the person who tossed it to them!). That person names something starting with C etc. etc. With young kids this can be a great way to work on both coordination and alphabetic memory. With older kids the leader can pick a theme such as “things in winter” or “animals.” Each person then has to not only remember what letter they are on, but find an answer that fits the theme. The most advanced way to play this game is to stay with the same letter of the alphabet and the same theme until someone flubs and can’t come up with an answer. You can also put a time limit on answering such as five seconds. A medium size ball that bounces can be substituted for a ball of yarn for a lesser coordination level.
3. Obstacle Courses – These can be great fun to both build and complete. Get as creative as you want. Use mats, chairs, blankets, foam/soft blocks, boxes, boards, jumprope and hula hoops! An obstacle curse for a very young child may be practicing stepping on or over different objects and surfaces. School age kids can practice heel-toe walking, stepping quickly on and off specific targets, crawling low under low-hanging “roofs”, or working in pairs or teams to get everyone through the course. Even tasks that seem easy like jumping from hula hoop to hula hoop can be made challenging for kids and adults alike by changing how they must travel from target to target (i.e. feet have to stay together, hop on one leg, etc.). This game helps build confidence, teamwork, spacial awareness and both fine and gross motor skills depending on the obstacles chosen.
4. Hoop Hop – This can be played with any object that is safe to land in or on while hopping. I suggest hula hoops or carpet squares with non-slip backing. First place the hoops in a straight line with edges touching. Hop from hoop to hoop without touching hands down, skipping any, or stepping on the hoops. After everyone has the idea with the hoops in a line, rearrange them into progressively challenging arrangements such as staggered positions, further apart, etc. Think of this as a changing version of hopscotch. Kids can jump on both feet or advance to hopping all the hoops on one foot without touching the other foot or their hands down! This can be loads of fun (and great on the abs too!) as the hoops move further apart! This game is great for eye-body coordination, spacial awareness, and gross-motor skills.
5. Play-Doh Ball-Snake Pass – This is best played in groups of three. All you need is a blob of Play-Doh for each group. The first person rolls the Play-Doh into a ball using only the palms of both hands. They then pass the ball of play-doh to another member of their group who must take it using both hands and NOT touching the other players fingers! The second player rolls the ball out into a long snake or string of Play-Doh and pass the snake onto the third player who has to take it, again not touching fingers. Player three uses only his palms to roll the snake back into a ball and passes the ball to player one. Player one rolls the ball back out to a snake and so on. When the kids get really good, they can try to do this one-handed! This game teaches bilateral coordination, turn-taking, patience, and fine-motor skills.
With a little modification, any of these games can work for kids young and old. Have very young kids? Try number five without passing the Play-Doh back and forth. Just rolling and unrolling the ball is great for motor skills and bilateral coordination. Have a house full of teenagers? Try musical chairs with their favorite music using chairs of different heights (boxes, bean bag chairs, kitchen chairs, mats, etc. Get their brains going as well as their bodies!) Seriously, what better time than the holidays to give family bonding through coordination building games a try? You’re already together. Make it fun AND grow while your at it!