Whole Body / Gross Motor Skill Exercises for children with all abilities and disabilities.
This page is suitable for our Jungles; children and young people with any disabilities and abilities.
Moving their whole body can help a child in their physical and cognitive development.
Moving the whole body improves strength, stamina, endurance, stability and mobility.
Cognitive skills which are developed include motor planning, problem solving, bilateral integration (using the 2 sides of the body and brain together).
If your child doesn’t have full mobility, exercise helps to strengthen and stretch muscles, improve endurance and heart and lung fitness and help with gross motor skill development.
For those with Autism, exercise can result in marked improvements to numerous behavioural outcomes including improved social and communication skills, stereotypical behaviours, social-emotional functioning, cognition and attention.
Those with ADHD can experience the following benefits: ease stress and anxiety, improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behaviour, enhance working memory, improve executive function – that’s the set of skills required to plan, organise and remember details.
Most of all there are loads of opportunities for fun while your child stays active.
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 head or their arms so start from their level.
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 tries that your child makes.
See our sections on proprioception activities, vestibular activities and calming activities (coming soon) for more specific exercises to help your child with sensory processing difficulties.
Here are some gross motor skills and whole body exercises, games and activities you can do at home to keep your child active.
Using balloons, crumpled paper or a pair of socks to make your ball sports more home friendly.
Obstacle course options are endless. Try to set it up to get your child to move in as many different ways as possible. For many other ideas for setting up an obstacle course for different abilities see our YouTube channel
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 etc.
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:
Hopping on the spot
Standing Long jumping (jump as far as possible with 2 feet or with 1 foot.)
Spinning in bear walk position/ crab walk position
Once you have set this up you can ask them to negotiate the obstacles in different ways e.g.
As a different animal
While holding an egg and spoon
On one leg
Blindfolded with someone giving instructions of how to get through the course.
You can draw out an obstacle course with painters tape in a room or along your walls or with chalk in your garden or on the pavement. This great video can give you some ideas of how to set up an obstacle path on a pavement.
Maybe put this along your corridor and your whole family can follow the steps each time they go through the corridor.
Make different shapes on the floor with tape or different objects – each one requires a different action – e.g. jump on the spot, do a star jump, touch your toes, do a press up.
Play musical shapes and whichever they land on when you stop the music is the action they must do.
For loads of other ideas of what to do with tape see this video…
Take photos of objects around your home on your phone or tablet. You can do this from unusual angles (e.g. from under a chair).
Or have a task in different areas (e.g. have clothes pegs on different materials) and take photos of them.
Give your child the phone/ tablet with the photos and the child needs to find each object around the house.
If your child can’t wheel themselves or move on the floor, give them options of ‘right, left and forward’ in their communication aid or by sticking paper on their trays so they can instruct you on which direction to go in to find the item.
See this ‘Our Home’ video on an example of the game in action.
Ask your child to put their feet into a pillow case – getting their feet int the corners helps with this game.
They should then stand up and hold onto the top edge of the pillow case.
Try walking or jumping around the house. Be careful as this may be slippery on hard floors.
You could make this more physical by setting up an obstacle course for them to manoeuvre around, over and under while in the pillow case.
Be warned this may make holes in the pillow case!
An egg and spoon race is a great way to challenge hand eye coordination while multi-tasking.
Use a large spoon and a small ball. The child must get from A to B without the ball falling of their spoon.
Progress this by putting obstacles in the way for your child to walk around
Progress to stepping over objects, going backwards or going around the whole house including up and down the stairs (make sure you stay close for safety).
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.
Stand 2 children of similar sizes side by side with their feet next to each other.
If there aren’t 2 children, try this with your child but remember to remove your shoes to reduce the risk of stepping painfully on their feet!
Tie a dressing gown cord around the 2 people’s ankles. Make it nice and tight to make this more comfortable.
Hold each other close and try to walk.
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 run to pick up the first ball/ beanbag.
They should then run back to put it in the bucket.
Next run to the second ball and run back to put it in the bucket.
They should continue until all the beanbags are in the bucket.
Use a combination of the sports day ideas above to make a great relay race around your house, each person taking their turn to complete a challenge.
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.
A corridor is great for this if your child has less accurate arm function as the walls keep the balloon in reach.
If your child has better hand/ eye coordination, put the 2 chairs with the string further apart so they have to run around more to retrieve the balloon/ ball.
Set up a laundry basket or draw a circle on a piece of paper and stick it to the wall for a goal.
Try to score a goal from different places – getting further away with each successful shot.
Set up 10 bowling pins in a triangle shape – use loo roll inners or empty plastic bottles if you don’t have skittles.
Try to knock over all the skittles. See how many tries it takes to knock them down.
Get further away from the skittles as your child improves.
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.
If you don’t have balls, use rolled up socks.
See our video for a demonstration and on the rules for this very inclusive game you can play anywhere.
Dribble a balloon around the house using a broom stick.
You could set up an obstacle course with chairs and a goal at the end for a single child game.
You could adapt it by keeping the balloon/ ball up in the air while they make their way around the house towards the goal.
Make an obstacle course which your child needs to dribble around – depending on their skills, they could go around objects or furniture or even try to shoot between 2 chairs as goals.
Try walking through the house with a balloon between your legs.
Stepping over or onto objects/ cushions while you do this will make it more challenging.
Try getting from 1 end of your home to another keeping the balloon in the air
Try blowing the balloon from 1 end of the room to the other
Roll a ball between you. Start with a big ball and get smaller as your child improves.
Try to stop the ball when it comes to you before rolling back.
Try rolling with more accuracy-e.g. into a container.
Try stopping the ball with 2 Hands
Try stopping the ball with 1 hand.
Staying nice and close to each other, roll a balloon to your partner and ask them to hit it back. This is real 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.
As you get better, stand further apart and launch the balloon into the air rather than along the floor/ tray.
Use a beanbag or soft toy to practice throwing. Start with a big container or target very close to the child.
As the child gets more accurate, move the container further away.
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.)
Set up a 10 pin bowling set with empty plastic bottles or stack a pyramid of empty tins.
Start very close to the target.
Give the child a large soft ball or soft toy to throw.
Encourage them to get more accurate by seeing how many throws it takes to knock them all over.
As your child gets more accurate, move the target further away.
You could also set up a points system by drawing a target on some cardboard and fix 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.
Give your child a bucket. His could rest on the floor or tray in sitting or n their arms.
Throw a beanbag or other soft toy into the air and they need to move the bucket to catch it.
As they get better, make the bucket or container smaller so they have to increase their accuracy.
You could also make the ball small or harder for an extra challenge.
Start with a big soft ball and standing/ sitting very close together. Roll the ball into the child’s hands so they get used to holding it and balancing the ball between 2 hands.
Ask the child to throw it back and keep practising until they are accurate to you at a very small distance.
Start moving back a little so there is a gap between you.
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, small cushions or soft toys.
Move onto large inflated balls such as footballs and then get smaller
Progress from 2 handed catches onto 1 handed catches.
Try also catching on your own-throwing into the air or against a wall.
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.
Trapping the ball/ toy/ beanbag, in the elbow, under the chin, between the shoulder and cheek, under the arm or behind the knee and then letting go. Move the object between creases (elbow to elbow, cheek to elbow).
Here is a lovely video for more advanced throw and catch against the wall.
A skipping rope can give you hours of fun. Here are 2 videos which show you simple skipping through to more complex skipping games to keep your child occupied for hours.
Jumprope for Kids. Shows how to measure your rope and how to jump with the rope by your side until ready to skip.
Basic Jump Rope Tricks with Lauren Matsumoto Goes from simple skipping to some highly complex skipping
Elastics is a brilliant physical game to play on your child’s own or with 3 people.
- French skipping
This video shows the 10 different moves you can do on your own. All you need is 2 chairs and a long piece of elastic (tied to make a loop).
This mini series gives some examples of how you can put the 10 moves together.
If you have 3 people, you could try bringing the elastic higher each time you do a routine. You could see if you can do them at the ankles, knees, thighs, bottom and waist.
Both headstands and handstands are brilliant ways to challenge your child’s whole body. They should be tried only if your child has a good level of fitness and strength already and can manage the wheelbarrow exercise held at their ankles.
These videos take you step by step through the process of doing a headstand and handstand. Make sure your child takes these very slowly to avoid injury and help and supervise your child throughout.
This first video takes you through the process of doing a headstand. Watch the whole thing through before you help your child to try. Make sure your child is stable at each step to avoid injury later on. Beginners Yoga Exercise – Tripod Headstand For Beginners YOGA EXERCISE
This video is great for teaching a smaller child the beginning steps of a handstand. The final step is up against a wall. https://youtu.be/W1dY7omecSw
This video is appropriate for teaching handstand to older and stronger children who love a physical challenge; Workout Series: How to Master the Handstand . If your child is very physical this will be a good challenge and may also help to calm and regulate them. Remember to stay with your child throughout these exercises for safety.
Forward roll – How To Do A Forward Roll With Coach Meggin! Updated Gymnastics Lesson Shows you how your child can do a forward roll in a very well explained video.
This series by Coach Meggan takes you through a wide variety of beginner gymnastics tutorials. Watch them through before trying with your child as she can have different important tips all the way through and safety is key! Beginner Gymnastics With Coach Meggin (Tutorials, How To’s, Tips)
Jumping is a fabulous workout for children.
If you have a trampoline then these Trampoline Tutorials take you through the basic trampoline techniques in a very thorough and well described way. Trampolining can be dangerous so we advise nets around the trampoline and supervision if your child is trying something new.
If you don’t have a trampoline, your child can jump on the bed, off the sofa onto a pile of cushions (make sure the cushions wont slip away as they bounce onto them) or just on the floor.
Try giving them challenges – how many jumps can they do in a row. Can they throw and catch while they jump (this is harder than it sounds).
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. See our ‘Music at Home’ pages for ideas of You-tube channels to try.
If your child is glued to their screens, how about downloading Tik Tok. There are ample opportunities for your child to learn a new dance routine which could get them off the sofa and moving again.You may even want to join in!
There are countless exercise and workout videos out there at different levels. See our exercise videos section for our favourites
Spectrum Bristol Bears Community Foundation have created this fantastic series for those with more profound learning needs. They use very straight forward language and Makaton, give plenty of time for processing information and have a lovely variety of activities to try or engage with.
They have started a weekly series with different themes each day including:
Monday – Hello
Tuesday – Storybook
Wednesday – Exercise
Thursday – Dance
Friday – Challenge.
Join in with as much as you can and help your child to move where possible.
See the whole series on their You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpx3Y7rl9HmojNnJdcfUizQ
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.
This video Keeping fit and healthy at home: Table top tennis 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.
You will need a big enough ball so that the footplates of the wheelchair can move the ball. If your child can wheel themselves, encourage them to move the ball towards a goal (between 2 chairs). If they can’t wheel themselves this could be a nice game to play with the family, passing to each other in a circle. It may be that your child rolls the ball off the tray to their siblings/ parents so that they can participate as much as possible.
This great series Tennis at Home done by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) provides simple ideas to practice your tennis skills in your back garden or in a room with a few meters of space. If you don’t have a tennis racket you can still try these games with a fly swatter, any other kind of bat, a roll of wrapping paper or a broom. You could use socks, a balloon or scrunched up paper instead of a ball.
This mini series gives some fun activities to do at home which are loosely rugby focused. You don’t need a rugby ball and most of their activities use things you can find around the house. Some are indoor, some are outdoor.
Here are a selection of suitable Our Home videos for Jungle
This obstacle course is suitable for those children who can crawl along the floor, this includes younger children with Down Syndrome.
This video is suitable for mobile children. You can create the laser string quest anywhere in your home and make it as big or small or as easy as you like!
The scavenger hunt is really simple and easy to set up. It can be adapted to suit any disability and household.
Silly Socks and a bit of Boccia
Lucy Lost-it has created some fun easy to set up games. All you need are some socks!
Stealthy Ways for Handwashing
This video contains tips on how to ‘stealth handwash’ whilst still having fun with various kitchen or household props. And also how to pimp up our liquid pumps to make it more fun for children.