Get these Outdoor Activities for kids that will work on their writing, scissor skills, fine motor skills and self help skills without them even realizing that is what they are doing! Hand strength plays a major part in all of these life skills!
Why is Hand Strengthening So Important?
Kiddos begin developing their hand strength and their ability to move their hands and fingers starting at birth. They need hand strength in order to complete fine motor tasks, writing, coloring, cutting, and self help skills. Kids who have weak hands, have a harder time completing these tasks.
The most effective way to get kids to work on strengthening their hands is by having them be engaged in the task. They won’t even realize that they are working because it is fun and they WANT to do the activity. This is my goal as a Pediatric Occupational Therapist EVERY TIME I work with a kiddo!
Don’t Want Your Kids to Make a Mess of Your Yard?
Some people have beautiful backyards with gardens, flower beds and lush grass. If this is you, then some of the ideas that I suggest might make you cringe. But there are ways for your kids to play and maintain a nice yard!
My backyard is not fancy by any means, but we have certain areas that my kids gravitate toward: the mulch, the bed of rocks, and the sand box. Our general rule of thumb is, that the kids can play in any of the areas as long as that material stays in that area.
Do my kids follow these restrictions? I like to think that they try! And in all honesty, I think it’s my 3rd child that needs the most reminding. But that is expected at the age of 3.
If you can create an area that is for your kids to play, dig, and be messy, I think all parties would be happy! But I know that it is not always realistic.
Don’t Have a Backyard to Play in?
A lot of these outdoor activities for kids that strengthen hands do not require a lot of “equipment”. And most can easily be carried to a nearby public park.
Another option is to fill a large bucket or container with sand, dirt, or mulch and store it on a porch or balcony. If that is not an option, a plastic, under the bed storage container with a lid like this could work too.
Consider This When Choosing Which Outdoor Activities for kids that strengthen hands are BEST for Your Kiddo…..
Some of these activities require the use of a rope. It is my general recommendation to supervise kiddos when they are playing with ropes at all times. Kids like to wrap things around their bodies and it only takes a second for an innocent action to become hurtful.
Climbing trees is another activity that should be closely supervised as your kiddo can get into danger quickly and need rescuing from you. They may also need guidance on how high is considered safe versus dangerous.
25 Outdoor Activities for Kids
- Squirt Bottle Play – Squeezing a squirt bottle is great for strengthening hands. And my kids can literally spend hours outside playing with one. If I could only give them one toy to play outside with, it would be a squirt bottle without a doubt.
- Dig stones out of the ground with sticks – You might think this is obvious, but I had to show my kids how to do this! Show your kiddos to take a stick and go along the side of a rock to dig it out!
- Make “stew” – Have a large pot or bucket? Have your kiddo make “Stew” using items that they can collect outside! Think grass, weeds, bark, stones, dirt, etc. If you are doing it with them, describe how the items feel.
- Hammer in golf tees using a mallet – Have an extra wood crab mallet? If not, you can buy one here. Use this to hammer golf tees into extra boxes, styrofoam pieces, a stump, or even the ground! I like to use fluorescent golf tees like these so that they are easy to see. There are also multi-color ones that can be fun to make a pattern or a design with.
- Smash ice – Use ice cubes or make ice treasures! Ice treasures are things found outside placed in a muffin tin. Add water and freeze. After they are frozen, use a mallet, your foot, or the sun to get to the hidden treasures!
- Sidewalk Chalk – Use the chalk on the sidewalk, or on a vertical surface like a brick wall or a wood fence. Whichever surface you use, it will be resistive because it is not smooth. Increased resistance means increased strength to move over it. Vertical surfaces add an additional bonus for shoulder strengthening!
- Climb a tree – Nervous about your kiddos climbing trees? Have them start on a short tree and only when you are near them. You will most likely need to help them either get down or help them plan how to get down. Eventually they will become master climbers. Decide what you are comfortable with and set the boundary.
- Hang on a tree branch – Find a tree branch that your kiddo can reach while standing. Have them try to hang by lifting their feet off the ground. Make it harder by having them try to lift their knees to their chest or lift their legs straight out!
- Pull Dandelions – My kiddos are obsessed with dandelions. Anywhere they go, if a dandelion is in sight they want to pick it. Which is great for strengthening their pincer grasp!
- Painting on a Shower Curtain – Hang a shower curtain and let your kids paint it! By hanging it, your kiddo will work on increasing their shoulder strength. Encourage them to use big strokes. Once you are done painting on it, use your squirt bottle to get it wet and watch the colors run together.
- Shovel dirt/mulch – Shoveling is a great hand strengthening activity. Hand your kiddo a kid size shovel like this and they will dig mulch, dirt, and/or sand. Fill a wagon, wheel barrel, or a dump truck and move it to another area.
- Rake dirt/leaves – Kids love “moving” dirt. A kid size rake is perfect for this!
- Dig holes – Designate an area in your yard where your kiddo can dig a hole. Have them measure how big and deep it is. Do an experiment to see if it will hold water!
- Build a Fort with sticks/blanket – Have your kiddo pick up fallen sticks around the yard to build a fort. Your kiddo will probably need help with this one, to make sure that the sticks are secure enough to climb under
- Pull/Push wagon over grass – The grass acts as resistance, so pulling or pushing a wagon or a stroller is hard work and a great outdoor hand strengthening activity!
- Make large bubbles – I don’t think I have met a kid who doesn’t love bubbles! Make these DIY extra large bubbles and make a large wand with a coat hanger or string and two straws.
- Catch and Throw a ball – Ball play is a great hand strengthening activity amongst other things. If your kiddo is new to catching and throwing balls, use a soft squishy ball. Bigger balls are easier to catch but harder to throw. Smaller balls are easier to throw but harder to catch.
- Set up a Pulley – Another activity my kids LOVE! Set up a pulley by attaching a rope to a bucket. Then wrap the rope around a tree branch. Fill the bucket and pull the rope to make it go up!
- Use a Watering Can – Fill a watering can so that your kiddo can carry it. Teach them to let out just a little water at a time! This is called graded control which is used for all fine motor activities! Kiddos need to learn how much force to use when using different items!
- Sponge Clean outside toys – This is another favorite one of mine. For this activity, I like to give my kids large sponges like this for two reasons. One: it holds a lot of water so it’s heavy when they carry it from the bucket to their toy. Two: to squeeze the water out they need to use two hands! Win Win!
- Use a Hose with a squeeze nozzle – Back to water play. Give my kids a hose, they will water anything, and anyone for however long I let them! Don’t want a huge water bill? Turn the water on 1/2 way.
- Foam Water Blasters – In my opinion, these are the best type of water blasters. I LOVE that my kids have to motor plan how to keep the tip of the water blaster in the water, while squeezing and pulling the lever back to fill it. Then they have to hold the canister still, while squeezing and pushing the lever in to blast the water out!
- Scoop and Pour sand/water into other containers – Scooping and pouring sand and water into another container is a great outdoor activities for kids that strengthen hands. Added bonus, when one hand is holding a container, while the other hand is pouring or scooping! This is known as bilateral coordination.
- Fly a kite – My kids like to “make the wind” by holding the string attached to a kite up in the air while running. Holding their arms up while holding the string becomes tiresome fairly quickly. On windy days, they hold the string down but feel the resistance of the kite against the wind!
- Throw Rocks into Water – If you are lucky enough to live close to water, this is such fun and satisfying to see the splash of water when the rock hits it!
Which Outdoor Activities for Hand Strengthening Are You Going to Choose First?
While reading over the list, did you see your kiddo enjoying a particular activity? That might be a great place to start!
Also, if you know that your kiddo could really benefit from one, but know that it is going to be really hard for them, pair the activity with something rewarding. Or have them do the task for a short period of time. You can always build their endurance over time!
And remember, the BEST activities are child lead! This is when they are generally motivated and don’t even realize that they are “working”!
Now that you have 25 Outdoor Activities that work on hand strengthening, let’s hope for good weather! However, if the rain continues then you NEED these indoor activities!
I can’t wait to hear which activity your kiddo liked best! Make sure you share in the comments below. I read all comments and love to hear from my readers.
So that you don’t lose these ideas, pin them to your “Activities for Kids” board on Pinterest!
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Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.