Activities to Promote Perceptual & Motor Skills

Walking a balance beam requires body, spatial and directional awareness.
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"Can you run over there and kick the red ball to me?" This task is simple only if a child has well-developed perceptual and motor skills. Listening to directions requires auditory perception, following through requires sequencing, kicking the red ball requires visual perception, judging when to kick requires the temporal skill of timing, and both running and kicking require body awareness. These skills usually develop naturally in playing popular children's games and activities.

1 Body Awareness

Climbing through a tunnel provides practice for spatial and body awareness.
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The ability to locate all the parts of the body and understand their function takes body awareness, as does the ability to perceive and interpret input from the senses. Have students identify hidden objects by their texture, size or shape. Make "art dice" by drawing squiggles, lines, curves and shapes on the sides of a cube. When students roll the dice and draw the shape on their paper, they are using their visual awareness. "The Skeleton Dance" invites the students to name and move the parts of their body when they sing, "The foot bone's connected to the leg bone. …" as does "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."

2 Spatial Awareness

Spatial awareness is the knowledge of the space your body occupies and how to maneuver and position the body in that space. Obstacle courses challenge children to plan different kinds of movements, to be aware of how to fit their bodies through spaces, and to manipulate objects to progress through the course. When planning your course, include tactile input, such as a beaded curtain hanging from a doorway or over a table so children can learn that this is a boundary their bodies can pass through. Hula Hoops also make great obstacle courses. Stand them upright and attach yarn or scarves for the students crawl through. Place them flat on the floor for children to hop through, or suspend them from the ceiling for children to toss soft objects through. For extra input, include a space with a tight squeeze, such as a tunnel.

3 Temporal Awareness

To catch a ball, you have to judge its motion over time.
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To measure the passage of time, sequence events, and predict how soon a moving object will arrive, a child must have a well-developed temporal awareness -- the awareness of the passage of time. Any game that requires a child to predict where an object will be at a given time, such as popping bubbles, hitting a balloon with a pool noodle, chasing a rolling hula-hoop, or jumping rope, reinforces temporal awareness. Play some music and give students rhythm instruments like shakers or drums; let them dance and march to the rhythm. Finally, whenever giving children a countdown -- such as "Two minutes until cleanup!" -- make sure you follow through accurately, so they can practice estimating the passage of time.

4 Directional Awareness

Differentiating between up and down, top and bottom, front and back, or left and right takes directional awareness. Give each student a beanbag and play "Simon Says" using directional skills. For example, Simon may say, "Put the beanbag on top of your head, under your arm, behind your feet, or on your left hand." Classic dances like the "Hokey-Pokey" and "Looby-Loo" encourage students to practice left and right and control the position of their bodies.

With degrees in biology and education, Jennifer VanBuren now utilizes her research and instructional skills as a writer. She has served as educational columnist for "Austin Family Magazine" for four years and also reports on area businesses for "Faces and Places" magazine.