Get the Wiggles Out with a Winter Obstacle Course!

These tips are provided for the Melissa & Doug blog by Cindy Utzinger, pediatric Occupational Therapist.

Is it just me or is anybody else ready for summer?  These cold and rainy days – snowy for many of you - with less daylight start to make us all a little crazy (I think!).  I hear so many parents and teachers comment on how much extra energy their kids seem to have this time of year because they aren’t able to get outside and get their wiggles out.   It’s no secret that kids with extra energy = parents, caregivers, and teachers pulling their hair out!

Why is this?  Well, what happens when kids aren’t able to get outside to play is that they miss out on opportunities to get the extremely valuable sensory input that they require in order to get their neurological systems organized.  This will lead to them seeming a little extra disorganized (or discombobulated as I like to call it) and cause them to, sometimes, literally “bounce off of the walls” in an attempt to get this sensory input that they are longing for.

What, then, can we do to help combat this?  We have to make sure that since they are missing out on opportunities to run, jump, climb, swing,  and use their heavy work muscles outside (all which provide valuable sensory input), that we give them opportunities to do this inside.

My favorite way to do this is through setting up indoor obstacle courses.  Any mix of activities that involve jumping, spinning, rolling, and using heavy work muscles are great activities to include. Here are a few ideas of activities we include in obstacle courses in our house:

m and d obstacle course

  • Crab walking
  • Wheel barrow races
  • Sack races (using pillow cases for our sacks)
  • Jumping activities such as jumping jacks, jumping from one target to another on the floor, jumping over small obstacles (boxes or cones),  jumping on the indoor trampoline, bouncing on a hippity-hop ball or playing hopscotch using the bella butterfly hopscotch
  • Spinning in a chair (Office chairs work great for this.) or playing “helicopter” by standing and spinning in circles 5-10 times in each direction
  • Playing “Over-Under” with a ball (the Froggy Kickball is a great size for this activity)
  • Crawling through or rolling across the room while in the Happy Giddy Tunnel
  • Take turns doing blanket pulls or playing “Giddy Up” with a blanket
  • PupushPush or ride on weighted toys such as the toy shopping cart or Trunki Terrance (Canned goods work great for adding some extra weight.)
  • Bending over to touch your toes 10 times or playing “Windmill

These are just some ideas to get you started but you can certainly use your imagination with this.  Your kids may really enjoy helping you to come up with the different stations of the obstacle course, too.

m and d wheelbarrel

The best thing about this is that not only do your kids get their wiggles out and get the sensory input they need to organize their neurologic systems (or become un-discombobulated), but it is great quality time for you to spend together; making this a WIN-WIN!!

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Cindy Utzinger is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, handwriting tutor,
and founder of Building Write Foundations LLC.  She lives in North
Carolina with her husband and two young children (a son and a daughter).  In her
free time she can be found running through the streets of her neighborhood to
get some exercise or enjoying time on the lake with family and friends.  Through
her website (www.cindyutzinger.com) she provides
parents, teachers, and caregivers with information regarding the importance of
building each and every child’s sensory foundation and provides ways to help
build their sensory foundation and their foundation for learning.  Through her
website she also blogs and tackles issues dealing with handwriting problems,
ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder, and diagnoses on the autism spectrum.