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Resistive Activities for Toddlers

by Christina Schnell

When referring to toddlers, the term "resistive activities" generally applies to the upper body and fine motor skills. Anything that requires toddlers to move through a resistant force, from kneading dough to raking in a pile of sand, qualifies as a resistive activity. These activities help build strength and coordination. The same muscles that enable toddlers to manipulate a pair of tweezers will eventually help them write with a utensil, dress themselves and tie their own shoes.

Outdoor Resistive Activities

Scooping a handful of snow, digging a mote around a sandcastle or pushing mud together to make a mud pie are all examples of outdoor resistive activities. Scooping with bare hands strengthens the muscles around the wrist as the hand points down, while scooping with a shovel or digger improves coordination and muscle strength through the upper wrist and top of the hand. The resistance comes from the weight of the material the tot is moving. For additional difficulty, use snow, sand or dirt that's wet, thereby making the weight heavier.

Tool-Based Resistive Activities

Tools that require toddlers to pinch, grasp and manipulate against some measure of resistance strengthen the small muscles through their fingers and also improve hand-wrist coordination. Moving marbles between two plates with a pair of child-sized tongs or grasping fuzzy balls with tweezers are just two of the ways toddlers practice grasping and releasing against natural resistance. Encourage your toddler to to wipe down a small table using a paper towel after spraying the surface with a tiny spray bottle filled filled with equal parts water and vinegar. Squeezing the spring-loaded spray trigger requires coordinating the muscles in the fingers and wrist.

Art-Based Resistive Activities

Toddler-friendly art projects encourage creativity while furthering muscle control and coordination. Molding dough or clay requires toddlers to manipulate and shape the clay against its natural resistance. For an added challenge, fold a coin or small toy into the clay and have your toddler try to extract it by strategically pushing and pulling the clay in various directions. Rolling clay or sugar cookie dough flat with a child-sized rolling pin builds the muscles in the forearms, upper arms and shoulders. Erasing a colorful chalk board is another way to strengthen the muscles in the upper arm.

Bathtub Activities

The bathtub is the perfect place for toddlers to practice resistive activities using water for resistance. Paddling through the water with a toy-sized paddle, pouring and dumping water between two cups, and squeezing and squirting water in and out of a turkey baster require muscle strength and coordination throughout the upper body, wrists and hands. As your toddler becomes proficient in the basic motion, encourage her to change the speed of her movement, such as squirting or pouring water very slowly, which requires adjusting and controlling the muscles even further.

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