These creative ways to use card games for kids are perfect for targeting movement and gross motor development.
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I am going to tell you a little secret about myself — it’s my hidden super therapist talent…
I can take just about any toy or object and create and entire therapy session around it. With kids, you HAVE to be flexible, you HAVE to be creative, and you absolutely, positively, have to be able to come up with ideas on the fly. This is what almost 20 years as a pediatric physical therapist has taught me to do.
One of my favorite simple things to structure a therapy session around? A deck of playing cards. You might be thinking, “What? You’re a PT! How can you use cards to promote movement?” Let me show you how!
First, here are some of the card games you’ll find in my therapy bag. Some of them promote movement directly, while others require a bit of creativity:
Physical Therapy Favorites: Card Games for Kids
7 || An ordinary deck of playing cards
How Card Games for Kids Support Development
Cards are great for fine motor skills. It takes a pretty decent grasp and some good finger and hand strength to remove one card from a deck or pick a card up from a flat surface.
Playing a game of cards is also great for visual motor skills and visual perceptual skills (looking down to see which card to play next, scanning your cards to determine which to play, distinguishing the differences between your cards, etc.) and great for bilateral coordination.
Card games are great for challenging cognitive skills as well. Kids have to attend, focus, and concentrate. They have to take turns and interact with others. There is typically some element of planning and problem solving involved as children decide which card to play next.
All of these skills are awesome reasons to use cards with kids at home, during therapy, or in the classroom. But there are tons of fun ways to turn card games into gross motor activities too!
Gross Motor Activities Using Card Games for Kids
1 || Toss and Catch
Sometimes, I will toss cards in the air, one at a time and have kids try to catch them as they float down. This is a great activity for hand-eye coordination, body awareness, balance, and motor planning.
2 || Card Movement Relay
I also use cards as part of a relay during which kids run from one end of the playing area to the other, choose a card, perform repetitions of a certain exercise or movement based on the numbered card they chose, and then run back to the start so their friend can take a turn.
3 || War
War is a great card game to get a group of kids moving. Play as usual and then, if you win the war, you are exempt from an exercise while the other players have to do an exercise for the number of reps of the card that was lost.
4 || Go Fish (On the Go!)
Try playing a game of Go Fish on scooters, with the fishing pond where players retrieve cards placed several feet away. Kids can ride the scooters on their bellies while propelling themselves to pick a card with their hands, or they can ride on their bottoms, using their feet to propel themselves. Try other gross motor actions to get to and from the pond (hopping, wheelbarrow walking, jumping, skipping, galloping, etc.)
5 || Card Games in Different Positions
You can use pretty much any card game to promote core strength, weight bearing, weight shifting, balance, coordination, and many other skills simply by thinking about positioning.
Try playing any card game in: prone, prone prop, all fours, standing, or kneeling. Or try moving the deck of cards or the discard pile to encourage transitions between positions or other movements (e.g. play the card game on the floor in sitting, but move the deck/discard pile onto a higher surface so the child has to move from sit to stand to take their turn).
For Virtual Sessions:
You can play any of the games above virtually as long as the child has a deck of cards on hand. You may want to have your own deck handy too! This way you can play War or Go Fish with the child virtually!
What are your favorite ways to use card games for kids in therapy to promote movement? Leave us a comment below!
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What a fantastic hidden super therapist talent to have! You have such great ideas!
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