Welcome to the Home Exercise page. These exercises are suitable for wheelchair users to do in or out their chair.

These resources are suitable for our Butterflies – children and young people who have profound and multiple learning and physical difficulties which may also be associated with complex medical and health needs.

This page has activities and ideas that will help keep our Butterflies 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. 

Exercises for core stability and core muscle strength
  • 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, releases endorphins so is good for mental health, helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels and also helps control weight. 
  • 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 and bilateral integration (using the 2 sides of the body and brain together). 

For those with physical difficulties there are 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 contracts and helps move stomach contents to help with painful trapped wind and constipation 
  • Protects joints by increasing muscle strength which takes pressure off joints. 80% of 21 yr olds with Cerebral Palsy have chronic pain in their joints so exercise at a younger age can help reduce the pain and maintain or increase their function in the future. 
  • 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 the 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. 

For those with Autism  

  • Exercise can result in markedimprovements to numerous behavioural outcomes including improved social and communication skills, reduced stereotypical behaviours, and improved social-emotional functioning, cognition and attention. 

For those with ADHD  

  • Exercise can ease stress and anxiety, improve impulse control and reduce compulsive behaviour, enhance working memory and improve executive function (the set of skills required to plan, organise and remember details). 

Here we have put together a list of our favourite exercises and activities for wheelchair users with learning difficulties.  

  1. Roll a ball or object between you on their tray or at a table.

  2. Start with a big ball and get smaller as your child improves.

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

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

  5. Try stopping the ball with 2 Hands

  6. Try stopping the ball with 1 hand.

  1. Staying nice and close to each other, roll a balloon to your child 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 they improve, stand further apart and launch the balloon into the air rather than along the table/ tray.

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

  2. You could set up a ramp (piece of cardboard, tray or cushion) off their tray or lap to help them.

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

  4. 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 the 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.

  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 you can play from your wheelchair.

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

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

  1. Give your child a bucket. this could rest on the floor or tray

  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.

  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, small cushions or soft toys.

  5. Move onto large inflated balls such as footballs 

  1. Take photos of objects on your phone or tablet or print out the photos. 

  2. Start by having a couple of objects on their tray and showing a photo of 1 of them and see if they can match it to the item.

  3. If they are able to match objects, put the object further away (within their visual range).

  4. Show the child 1 photo at a time and they need to find it in the room/ home.

  5. If your child can’t wheel themselves or move on the floor, see if they can guide you to find the object with pointing and other forms of communication.

  6. Make sure the objects are very desirable to keep your child engaged (e.g. food or a phone/tablet).

  1. This is a great copy game.

  2. 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!

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

  4. 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. There is a similar technique called intensive interaction for communication and you could try both together to see if your child will move and make sounds. To find out more about intensive interaction see this series dedicated to it.

  1. This is a great game to work visual skills. To begin with just hide an object under a piece of material on the tray with a big part of the object visible. Preferably an object of interest (a phone?!)

  2. Encourage your child to pull the material away to reveal the whole object. 

  3. 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 it out or try to reveal the item.

  4. Lastly you could hide yourself, a sibling or object somewhere in the room and see if they can search it out with their eyes, point to it or, if they can move their wheelchair, can they go towards it.

  1. If you don’t have a parachute at home then a sheet will do the same job.

  2. Hold onto the edges between at least 3 of you.

  3. 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. This is also a lovely way to get an arm stretch in.

Sports day games for your Butterfly

  1. Set up the room so that there is a beanbag or soft toy on furniture at a height that is in easy reach of your child. Space the furniture out and put a laundry basket at the end.

  2. If your child can wheel themselves or if they use an electric wheelchair then encourage them to do this activity themselves. If not you can push them.

  3. They need to go to the first beanbag and pick it up and put on their tray. They then go to the laundry basket and try and throw it in. Next go to the 2nd beanbag and take it to the laundry basket.

  4. Continue until they have put all the beanbags into the basket. This is a lovely game to play with siblings as they can do a relay race playing the same game.

An egg and spoon race is a great way to challenge hand/ eye coordination and hand control.

  1. Use a large spoon and a small ball. You can adapt this depending on your child’s needs. They may need a large spoon and a beanbag. Or a bucket and beanbag.

  2. The child should try to get from A to B without the ball falling off their spoon/ beanbag out of their bucket.

  3. Use whatever wheelchair mobility they have. For a child with more severe learning difficulties it may be that they just keep their hand on a ball on their tray and try not to let go!

  1. Use a beanbag or soft toy for this. Help them put the item on their head and see if they can keep it on while they/ you wheel them from one end of the room to the other.

  2. You may want to use a mirror when you put it on their head so they know what is going on. You could also try putting a ball in their hand to see if they can hold on as you move them around gently or more roughly – depending on what they prefer.

  1. Trampolining is a fantastic, fully inclusive activity. Whether your child is on their feet or in a wheelchair, they may well get benefits from having a bit of trampoline fun.

  2. 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.

  3. If your child is not mobile, try them in different positions on the trampoline. For example if your child has not got sitting balance, they can lie supported by cushions while you very gently bounce them or walk around them on the trampoline. This will make them use different muscles to balance themselves.

  4. You could do this with them in sitting if they have some sitting balance Trampolining is a great seated exercise for wheelchair users

  5. Or try them on their hands and knees or sitting on a wedge.

  6. 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. See our ‘Music at Home’ pages (coming soon) for ideas of You-tube channels to try.

  2. 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.

This series by Bristol Bears is wonderful to move along to. Join in with as much as you can and help your child to move where possible. They have a different theme each day – Wednesday is exercise but the other days may be better for your child so check out the playlist on YouTube. 

These videos are aimed for the child using Makaton and simple instructions. If your child can’t manage on their own then help them to move. A new video will be released for exercise every Wednesday but the whole series is great for our Butterflies.

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. 

  1. 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).

  2. If your child can’t wheel themselves this could be a nice game to play with the family, passing to each other in a circle.

  3. 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.

Other helpful Butterfly resources

Thank you for visiting Gympanzees’ website. All information provided by Gympanzees is of general nature and for educational / entertainment purposes. It is up to you as the parent or family member to judge what is appropriate and safe for your child. No information provided by Gympanzees should replace any professional information and advice that you have been given and speak to your therapist or doctor if you are unsure of anything. Should you use any of the information provided by Gympanzees, you do so at your own risk and hold Gympanzees harmless from any and all losses, liabilities, injuries or damages resulting from any and all claims.