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Encouraging movement - ideas and advice for children with SEN

Supporting, caring for and teaching children with Special Educational Needs is something I’m incredibly passionate about. I believe the key to doing this well involves listening to and taking advice from parents (they are often the experts of their own children) as well as any other professionals involved in their care. Through good communication, you can ensure any necessary adaptations are made to the setting and that meaningful, fun learning activities can be enjoyed!

I’m a mum of two little ones and a qualified teacher/SENCO and I set up a site ‘The SEN Resources Blog’ for parents and teachers of children with Special Educational Needs - to share my advice, ideas of activities and recommendations of resources.

Parents of children with special educational needs are often keen to work on when developing their child's Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills in particular. This is often because these two skills are fundamental for children gaining some independence (dressing themselves, sitting at a table to eat dinner etc). So here are just a selection of activities to help with some key skills (Fine Motor and Gross Motor) that you as a practitioner may be advised to help develop. Additionally, these are simple and great ideas for parents to use, if they have children with SEN. 

Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor activities build the tiny muscles in the fingers and hands that are necessary for tasks such as learning to write, un-doing zips and buttons and using a knife and fork.

There are lots of activities you can do with your children to help develop this skill, including:

  • Play dough: Squishing, moulding, squeezing, rolling and cutting all help build those tiny muscles! The possibilities are endless, you can use play dough, kinetic sand, play foam or even bake biscuits and use the biscuit dough shaping as a fine motor opportunity.
  • Sorting Activities: Best with small objects (as long as they won’t pose a choking hazard to your child) such as Pom Poms, buttons, marbles, rice, stones etc. Children can use their fingers or tweezers/scoops/spoons to sort the different objects.
  • Painting: This could be with paints or even water outside on concrete slabs! Be creative. They don’t even have to use a paint brush they could use their fingers, cotton buds, feathers or cut up potatoes for potato printing.
  • Beading/Threading: Either with bought beads or homemade versions (like pasta), the actions of putting beads on the string and pulling the string through really helps develop fine motor skills.
  • Weaving/Sewing: This could be using plastic needles and thread or weaving with strips of paper/pipe cleaners/ribbon.
  • Building: Playing with building blocks or alternatives such as Duplo, Lego, mega blocks.

Gross Motor

Unlike Fine Motor Skill Activities which require the small muscles in the hands and fingers, Gross Motor skill activities use the larger, core stabilising muscles. They are just as important as fine motor skills. In fact, children will often find sitting at a desk practising fine motor skills easier if they have developed their gross motor skills- as their back and shoulder muscles enable them to sit in an upright posture at a desk for periods of time. 

Gross motor skills enable us to stand, go up the stairs, to climb on and off the toilet, to sit at a school desk for a period of time, to carry things, throw things and catch. They are therefore, incredibly vital.

Develop gross motor skills outside

There are so many, fun and engaging ways to help children develop their Gross Motor Skills*

  • Going to the Park - climbing the steps to the slide
  • Soft play centres 
  • Trampolines/bouncy castles 
  • Bikes
  • Scooters
  • Swimming 
  • Obstacle courses
  • Standing/walking on uneven surfaces like a wobble board
  • Dancing to action songs  
  • Classic playground games: Hopscotch, Simon Says, What’s the Time Mr Wolf etc.

Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills are just two areas of focus, if you’re interested in finding out more details about any of these activities, or keen to discover more ideas, including tips on areas such as sensory play please visit The SEN Resources Blog or follow us on TwitterFacebook or Instagram

Please note it is your responsibility to ensure a child’s health & safety when deciding to try out any of these activities. If you have any concerns about a child’s development- seek medical/professional advice- this article does not replace this type of advice. 

About the author:

I’m Georgina, a mum of two, qualified teacher, a previous head of Special Needs (SENCO) in a Secondary School & tutor for Children with SEN ‘Cheshire SEN Tutor LTD’ (

I have a BSc (Hons) in Medical Sciences, PGCE with QTS, National Award for Special Education Coordination, Post Graduate Diploma in Vulnerable Learners and Inclusion and Certificate of Competence in Educational Testing. I’m also a Registered Test User With the British Psychological Society. I started The SEN Resources Blog to share my thoughts, recommendations and ideas of good learning activities to try at home. I also share reviews of resources, toys and books for children (particularly for children with Special Educational Needs). 

Great article. Movement is vital in the early years. The highest form of balance is actually sitting still, so I agree that to make it easier to sit down (without fidgeting too much) and practise fine motor skills, children need to first practise their gross motor skills. Maria at
01/05/2021 17:12:18

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