Best Activities for Kids with Cerebral Palsy
Even the most supportive parents of children with cerebral palsy may at times wonder whether their kids will be able to participate in certain physical activities. After all, cerebral palsy affects the brain’s motor area, which can make movement, sight and even cognitive ability difficult.
But here’s the good news. There are tons of activities you can do — both indoors and outdoors — that will help your child improve coordination and motor skills. Best of all, when children with CP know that they can participate in the same activities as their friends and classmates, it helps them feel a sense of belonging and independence. Here are the best ways to help your child improve their physical ability while having fun.
For kids with cerebral palsy, one common area of limited motor function is grasping objects and moving fingers. That’s why activities that incorporate hand play are so important for strengthening muscles and coordination. These include:
- Sorting games. For younger children especially, start simple. Choose objects such as candy, rocks or playing cards that are easy to grasp, and encourage your child to sort these into bowls or baskets by size, shape or color.
- Sticker play. Sticker books or the old-fashioned (yet always fun) game of Colorforms are excellent for working on fine motor control with the fingers.
- Clay or Play-Doh®️. What kid doesn’t love to sculpt? Use Play-Doh®️ or make your own clay, and encourage your child to go wild with their imagination.
- Music and art. Learning an instrument or picking up a paintbrush is another hugely beneficial and fun activity for improving fine motor skills in children with cerebral palsy. It also helps promote confidence and independence in kids and can become a lifelong passion. Studies have also shown that music positively affects brain development in young children.
Whether in a national park, your neighborhood park or simply a patch of local green space, heading outside is a fantastic way to help your child with CP explore the natural world. Best of all, physical activity is beneficial for sensory development. Here are a few outdoor activities your child may enjoy.
- Commune with nature. Try a nature walk in the woods, and bend down to examine different wildlife and plant life, engaging your child with questions along the way. The simple act of helping your child to appreciate nature and fostering a sense of curiosity will do wonders with helping empower and encourage development.
- Join a sports team. Even if your child is wheelchair bound, they still have the option to play sports just like other kids. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act mandates that kids with disabilities must be able to fully participate in all school activities — and this is where adaptive sports come into play. Your child may not be able to sprint down the basketball court, but they can still dribble the ball or shoot a basket with proper adaptation. The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs (AAASP) works with schools and communities to create sports programs and set standards for inclusive play for all children. Outside of school, there are adaptive sports and recreation opportunities in every state. Visit Adaptive Sports USA for a list of organizations in your area, or check with local county and state level parks and recreation departments to see what inclusive and adaptive sports and recreation programs they offer.
- Do yoga. There’s good reason why this exercise for both body and mind dates back 5,000 years. Yoga helps strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance — all of which are extremely helpful for kids who suffer from muscle weakness and poor motor control. But the benefits of yoga are so much more than physical. Regular practice offers the calming mental aid of meditation, which is key for helping with mood regulation.
- Play catch or fly a kite. Both of these activities are fun and great for improving coordination and motor skills. You can even use a larger object, such as a beach ball, which is easier to catch and kick, and work your way to smaller objects.
Raising a child with cerebral palsy typically requires a great deal of support, education, financial and otherwise. In some cases, if your child’s cerebral palsy is due to the negligence of a medical professional, you may be eligible for compensation to help you offset some of these expenses. If you’re seeking educational or legal resources, our experienced team is here to help your family move forward. Contact us today to discuss your potential case, and let us help your child reach their full potential.