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Get Crafty: Large Motor Skills Activities Inspired by Art

Use artsy large motor skills activities to add active play to your child's day.

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Child outside painting big cardboard box

Painting can be a large motor skill activity.

Catherine Holecko

Got an arts-and-crafts lover in your family—maybe a child who'd rather draw pictures or string beads than play outside any day? While those fine motor skills activities are good for his brain and body, he needs large motor skills activities too (projects that get him really moving his arms, legs, and trunk). The good news is that you can use his creative passion to inspire active, muscle-building play. Try one of these projects that stretch both creative and large motor skills:

  • Go big, bigger, biggest: Use a roll of paper, an oversize cardboard box, or an old bedsheet as the canvas for a large mural. Give kids some washable paint and let them go wild (this is fun as a group or solo activity). Brainstorm different painting techniques to try. What happens if they paint with their feet, their elbows, an old shoe, a paint roller, a large sponge, a corn cob?

  • Smash it: Offer your child a large block of modeling clay and let her pound and shape it with wooden tools or with her hands.

  • Scavenge for materials: For a painting, clay, or collage project, challenge your child to search your home and backyard for items to use in his artwork. What can he find that will look cool pressed into clay, dipped in paint to make a print, or arranged on sticky paper for a collage? (Remind him needs to get your permission before using the items, so your best kitchen tools or favorite earrings don't end up crusted with paint and clay!)

  • Build a building: Your child can use cardboard boxes of various sizes and shapes to create a castle, fort, or other structure, then decorate it with art supplies.

  • Feel the music: While your child is drawing or painting, preferably while standing at an easel, play some music and let it inspire her artwork. "With slow, classical music, the strokes tend to be long and leisurely. With fast-tempo music, the strokes turn into jabs of paint. It's a good way to get some upper torso exercise," says Rae Pica, a specialist in children's physical activity and the author of A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child (Marlowe & Company).

  • Hammer, nail, and glue: With supervision, kids can safely create cool sculptures with wood scraps and miscellaneous pieces of hardware (screws, bolts, old keys, wire).

  • Raid the recycling: Maybe your child will be more interested in sports if he creates the equipment himself. Check out this photo gallery of homemade fitness equipment. Of course, decorating the finished product (family team colors, anyone?) is always encouraged!

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