Whole Body Activities to improve Gross Motor Skills for those with physical disabilities who are mobile on the floor

This page was created children and young people who are mobile on the floor but are not yet walking independently due to physical disability.

Whole body exercise is a way for those with physical disabilities to stay fit and have fun!

This page gives ideas, activities and resources for your child to play and exercise their whole bodies and improve their gross motor skills.

Exercise is beneficial to everyone’s general health – it helps with cardiovascular health, prevents things like stroke and heart disease, is great for self-esteem, it releases endorphins so is good for mental health, help your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels and help control weight.

For those with physical disabilities it has many added benefits:

  • Improves strength which leads to better gross motor skills and more independent living.

  • Improves sleep which is very often a problem with those with physical difficulties.

  • Reduces constipation – as the body moves, the muscles in the stomach contract and help move stomach contents to help with painful trapped wind and constipation.

  • Protect joints by increasing muscle strength which takes pressure off joints. A large proportion of older people with Cerebral Palsy have chronic pain in their joints so exercise at a young age can help to reduce the pain and maintain or increase their function.

  • The pull of muscles and weight bearing both increase bone density – reducing the risk of fractures.

  • Exercise can help to maintain or increase muscle length through active stretch – keeping ranges of motion in joints and enabling better gross motor skills and thus improved function and independence.

  • Exercise can reduce fatigue and improve exercise tolerance so improving function and independence in every day tasks.

  • We all have a different level that we start from with exercise, so it may be that your child gets a good workout just by moving their body and arms or by doing small movements.  Tailor these activities to your child’s level so that they are always successful for some of the activity but are being challenged.

  • As with all exercise, doing a little more than they are used to doing is the way to get fitter and stronger. If we do the same every day we will not change our strength or fitness so always try and progress the number of repetitions or the amount of effort that your child uses. 

  • Here are some ideas of games and activities you can do at home to get your child to be active in the home. 

Here are some fun and exciting indoor activities to try at home with your Bustling Butterfly 

1) Take photos of objects on your phone or tablet or print out the photos.  Start by having a couple of objects in front of them and showing a photo of 1 of them and see if they can match it to the item. If they are able to match objects, put the object further away (within their visual range). Show the child 1 photo at a time and they need to find it in the room/ home. Make sure the objects are very desirable to keep your child engaged (e.g. favourite toy, food or a phone/tablet) and that they get to play with it once they have found it.

2) Once they understand the game, take photos of different things around the house and they need to go around to find the object. See our video to show you an example of how this is done. 

1) Obstacle course options are endless. You want to set it up to get your child to move in as many different ways as possible. Use furniture to make your course – setting it up with the help of your child is a lovely way to get them active as they will need to carry and move furniture and objects with you. Let them come up with new obstacles as it will work their imaginations. You could have themes on different days- e.g. Pirates, Beach, Jungle, Castles

2) Once your obstacle course is set up, you can also add some extra stages and mark them with a piece of paper or some tape. For example: 

    1. Throw and catch a ball

    2. Pull to stand at furniture and then get back down again.

    3. Spinning on their bottom

3) Once you have set this up you can ask them to negotiate the obstacles in different ways e.g. Backwards, without bunny hopping, whilst blindfolded with someone giving instructions of how to get through the course. 

1) This has the added bonus of creating a space for them to play in after it is built. Provide your child with sheets and they can build a den anywhere in the house. The process of building it should mean lots of moving furniture and lifting cushions so is a great way to get them moving without realising it. 

1) This is a great copy game. One person does an action and the other person has to copy them. This is a great way to convince your child to do any action you want from them!

2) Alternatively ask them to lead the game and see where their imagination takes you.

3) If your child would struggle with this concept, try copying everything they do. If they move their arm, you move your arm the same etc. They may start moving just to make you move.  

1) This is a great game to work visual skills. To begin with just hide an object under a piece of material in front of them so that a big part of the object is visible.. Preferably an object of interest (a phone?!) Encourage your child to pull the material away to reveal the whole object. 

2) You can start to make this more complicated by hiding something behind a door with half of it poking out and see if they will notice/ point out or try to reveal the item.

3) Next you could hide yourself, a sibling or object somewhere in the room and see if they can they go towards it. 

4) Finally use the whole home to play the game. They could also do the hiding and you/ their sibling could look for them. 

1) If you don’t have a parachute at home then a sheet will do the same job. Hold onto the edges between at least 3 of you. Your child can be seated or in kneeling.

2) Put objects in the middle and make the objects move around the sheet by lifting or lowering your arms. You may need to help your child to hold on but they will get a lovely new perspective bringing the parachute up and down above and below their eye level.

3) Challenge your children to try and work out how to make the object jump as high in the air as possible or go around in a circle as quickly as possible.

1) If your child has sitting balance on the floor or on the bench/roll, you could try having some fun on an uneven surface while also working their core. This could be on a wobble cushion, on a gym ball or, if they fit on your lap, you could move your lap as a moving surface.

2) If using a gym/physio ball, make sure you have complete control of the ball and your child to try this – it may take 2 adults. If you are using the ball, you can wedge it into the corner of the room to make it more stable until you are more confident in our handling.

3) Hold your child at their hips so you have control of their bottom and the ball. Very slowly move the ball back and forward or side to side. 

4) As they get more confident you can move in bigger movements in all directions but keep going very slowly to challenge them. Hold the position at the extreme of where they can go to make it a little harder but have a second person ready to catch them if they fall. 

5) If they appear happy and confident, they could also have fun rolling over the ball and walking on their hands to do a puzzle or throw balls into a bucket.

6) Alternatively, hold their feet while they lie back on the ball to pick up objects from the floor behind the ball and then come back up.

1) Set up several balls/ socks or beanbags about 1 meter apart with a bucket/ laundry basket at the end of the line (1m away). Your child should start at the bucket end and move across the floor to pick up the first ball/ beanbag.

2) They should then go back to put it in the bucket.

3) Next go to the second ball and then back to put it in the bucket. They should continue until all the beanbags are in the bucket. 

1) An egg and spoon race is a great way to challenge hand/ eye coordination while multi-tasking.

2) Use a large spoon and a small ball, or if this is too hard, a wooden spoon and a beanbag or soft toy. Your child must get from A to B without the ball falling of their spoon. 

2) Progress this by putting obstacles in the way. 

1) Using a beanbag or soft toy is great for this game. Try to get from one end of the room to the other without it falling off your head.  

1) Wheelbarrow- hold your child by their hips with their legs straddling you and their hands on the floor. Move around the floor picking up objects for as far as you can go.

The wheelbarrow is a great whole body exercise that children can do together!

2) Move your hands down to your child’s knees and walk around the room – picking up objects or playing a matching game or skittles.

3) If you can, hold your child by their ankles. Make sure they keep their bottom in the air and don’t hang their tummy’s down. Again find a game to make this more entertaining. 

4) As your child gets stronger you could try to get from one end of the house to another – even trying going up the stairs.

5) You could also make an obstacle course to go around. 

1) Use a combination of the sports day ideas above to make a great relay race around your home, each person taking their turn to complete a challenge. 

1) Roll a ball between you. Start with a big ball and get smaller as your child improves. 

2) Try to stop the ball when it comes to you before rolling back. 

3) Try rolling with more accuracy-e.g. into a container. 

4) Try stopping the ball with 2 hands 

5) Try stopping the ball with 1 hand.  

1) Staying nice and close to each other, roll a balloon to your partner and ask them to hit it back. This is great for cause and effect as little effort goes a long way and the balloon moves slowly so gives more time to aim the hit back.

2) As you get better, stand/ sit/ kneel further apart and launch the balloon into the air rather than along the floor. 

1) Use a beanbag or soft toy to practice throwing. Start with a big container or target very close to your child.

2) As your child gets more accurate, move the container further away.  

3) You could use colours or other descriptions to throw into different containers (e.g. red toys into bucket, green toys onto the laundry basket OR dinosaurs through the hoop, farm animals into the saucepan.) 

1) Set up a 10 pin bowling set with empty plastic bottles or stack a pyramid of empty tins. 

2) Start very close to the target. 

3) Give your child a large soft ball or soft toy to throw. 

4) Encourage them to get more accurate by seeing how many throws it takes to knock them all over. 

5) As your child gets more accurate, move the target further away. 

6) You could also set up a points system by drawing a target on some cardboard and fixing it to the door or on the floor. You could also use bits of paper or post it notes on the wall as more difficult targets-the higher and smaller the target, the higher the points. You could also put letters on the targets so your child can spell out a word. 

1) Give your child a bucket. This could rest on the floor or on a tray in sitting or in their arms. 

2) Throw a beanbag or other soft toy into the air and they need to move the bucket to catch it. 

3) As they get better, make the bucket or container smaller so they have to increase their accuracy.  
4) You could also make the ball small or harder for an extra challenge. 

  1. Set up a balance board on a table or on the floor with a board and a bottle or rolling pin.

  2. See this video for an explanation of how to play this great hand balance game.

1) Start with a big soft ball and standing/ sitting very close together. Roll the ball into your child’s hands so they get used to holding it and balancing the ball between 2 hands. 

2) Ask your child to throw it back and keep practising until they are accurate to you at a very small distance. 

3) Start moving back a little so there is a gap between you. 

4) Start making the ball a bit smaller-soft balls and beanbags are easier to catch than fully inflated balls. If you don’t have balls at home use rolled up socks or soft toys. 

5) Move onto large inflated balls such as footballs and then move on to smaller or harder balls

6) Progress from 2 handed catches onto 1 handed catches 

7) Try also catching on their own-throwing into the air or against a wall. 

8) Try moving further apart from each other one step at a time to increase the challenge. If you are feeling brave try this outside  with water balloons.

  1. Table cricket is played by children with all disabilities. It is a great game to play with all the family and can be played using a regular table. 

  2. This video below gives a quick demonstration of how to set up and play table cricket in the home. 

Visit this video by the Lords Taverners Lord’s Taverners | Rules of Table Cricket for more detailed explanations of how to play this great inclusive game. 

Volleyball

  1. You can set up a volleyball court with a piece of string between 2 walls in a corridor or between 2 chairs. The aim is to make the balloon/ ball touch the floor on your opponent’s side of the string.

  2. A corridor is great for this if your child has less accurate arm function as the walls keep the balloon in reach.

  3. If your child has better hand/ eye coordination, put the 2 chairs with the string further apart so they have to move around more to retrieve the balloon. 

  1. Dribble a balloon around the house using a broom stick.

  2. You could set up an obstacle course with chairs and a goal at the end for a single child game.

  3. You could adapt it by keeping the balloon/ ball up in the air while they make their way around the house towards the goal. 

  1. This is a fantastic game and involves playing in teams and getting your team’s ball nearest to a target ball. It can be played with as few as 2 people and your child can play from their wheelchair or sitting on a bench or the floor.

  2. If you don’t have balls, use rolled up socks.

  3. See our video for details on the rules for this very inclusive game you can play anywhere. 

1) You can use tape to make targets on the wall or floor. Painters tape works well as it doesn’t leave a mark when you remove it and is colourful. 

2) You can also draw out an obstacle course with the tape in a room or along your walls. This great video can give you some ideas of how to set up a tape obstacle course/ sensory path inside the home.

3) Maybe put this along your corridor and your whole family can follow the steps each time they go through the corridor. 

4) This video gives lots of ideas of games to play with tape:

Be aware that there are some reasons NOT to use a trampoline – such as if your child has had spinal rodding, There are several other times to be cautious so make sure you check with your physiotherapist before going on the trampoline for the first time with your child.

1) Trampolining is a fantastic, fully inclusive activity. Whether your child is mobile on the floor or starting to stand, they may well get benefits from having a bit of trampoline fun.

2) See if your child can bounce themselves in a hands and knees position. You could also help them bounce while they hold a sitting or hands and knees position. See if they can keep their balance while you walk in a circle around them on the trampoline or make them bounce. This will make them use different muscles to balance themselves. 

3) You may need 2 people to help your child on the trampoline but this is definitely an activity that the whole family can enjoy! 

1) Turn up the music and let your child dance however they want to. Dancing is a brilliant form of exercise and there are numerous you tube channels with music to dance along to for younger kids – or just Pop music for older children.

2) See our ‘Music at Home’ page for videos you can try.(Coming Soon)

3) This video from Flamingo chicks is the first in a series of inclusive dance videos which use Makaton and easy to follow steps to help your child to dance. They are each themed (this one is Space). Look out for more coming soon. 

4) Find one song that your child especially likes. Help your child with the movements to start with and, over time, they may well anticipate the next movement and start to take over. This is a great way to get a daily workout into your child’s life.

More fun resources for Bustling Butterflies

Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos

Ball Games

Our video shows you quick and easy ways to set up ball games for those in wheelchairs or with limited mobility.

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