Bring Out Sidewalk Chalk
Kids love chalk, and parents do too! Chalk can be quick and simple when coming up with activities for your child or family to enjoy at home or a park.
What makes chalk fun is that it is easy to use with very little prep and easy cleanup. The weather is warming up, and kids are home from school. Try using sidewalk chalk to get your child outdoors to have fun, teaching, and maintaining skills learned.
The many learning opportunities include gross motor, fine motor, sensory activities, educational activities, DIY crafts, science, and art projects. Using chalk is a great way to teach kids how to learn colors, letters, numbers, shapes, and to stimulate your child’s senses.
Make Learning Fun
Make learning fun while using sidewalk chalk with your child to draw shapes and use different colors. Draw squares on the sidewalk and show your child how to jump in and out of them, or even color them different colors to create a pattern. These ideas will help turn your outdoor space into a safe classroom learning experience for your child.
Be creative! You can do many things using sidewalk chalk that includes having fun, getting active, or learning. Create fun games, learn numbers, colors, letters, writing words, drawing, etc. The most important thing about sidewalk chalk is that it is fun, creative, and safe for you and your child.
Sidewalk chalk isn’t just for drawing and coloring, it can be used to create ways to move and play beyond just the shapes on the sidewalk. From hopscotch to obstacle courses to roads and pathways for bikes, scooters, and toy cars, there are a multitude of ways to create gross motor activities with chalk. It is a great way to get outdoors and play in new and exciting ways to work on jumping, balancing, throwing, and more!
Hopscotch: Is one of the most classic ways to play with sidewalk chalk. It is a great way to work on jumping skills for different ages and levels just by changing the jumping pattern. Draw hopscotch patterns on the sidewalk, practice jumping
o Two feet in each square following the numbers
o Out and in with both feet in the single squares and one foot in each square for the double squares
o To one foot with hopping in single squares and jumping to two feet for double squares-alternate which foot you use to hop in a single square
Jumping Jacks: Help your child coordinate the pattern for jumping out and in. Draw shapes or different color targets lined up 3 in a row
o Practice jumping out on outer two and in for both feet on middle one for jumping jack pattern
o Jump Patterns: draw lines or shapes to practice jumping forward and back or side to side
o Jump side to side or front and back over lines, practice staying in one place or moving down the line as you jump
o Jump on and off shapes practicing jumps backward and sideways
o Jump to the corners of a square or triangle
Jump Distance: draw lines, shapes, pictures or different colors at different distances apart to practice jumping longer distances
o Increase the distance between each target by 2-8 inches and practice jumping to reach each line, shape, picture, color
Tandem “balance beam” balancing: draw a line on the ground and practice walking balancing on the line
o Make lines straight, zig-zag, swirly/loopy, or wavy
o Practice walking with heel touching toe each step, walking backward on the line, or place cups/cones/obstacles on the line to step over while keeping balance on line
Throwing targets: draw colored targets to throw at and score points
o Draw colored shapes or monsters on the ground/sidewalks, walls of brick/cement buildings to throw bean bags, balls, or water balloons
Learn words and Sounds
Let your fun be learning and engaging in skills beyond just writing letters and words. From letters forming sounds and words and words forming stories to describing and comprehending these words and stories; our language is complex and builds throughout childhood. Here are some ways sidewalk chalk art can build your child’s speech and language skills:
Write your child’s speech or vocabulary words in hopscotch squares
o If your child was reading about black holes, have him/her write the vocabulary words from the reading passage in each square. Then, have your child talk about what each word means in their own words after they play hopscotch.
Practice your child’s articulation (speech) production skills
o Think of words that have the /k/ sound to practice phonemic awareness with your child. If his/her speech therapist sent home words for the week to practice the /k/ sound in words, write those words in the center of each hopscotch square or on the ground. Have him/her say them while writing them on the sidewalk or doing them in a hopscotch pattern!
Make a creative story using sidewalk art
o To help increase your child’s sentence formulation, grammar, and expressive language skills, create a story together using sidewalk chalk. Practice learning about the setting, characters, describing the scene, making predictions, and determining a conclusion. Your child can then act out the story with you!
Draw animals or other common nouns to help develop letter/sound awareness
o Drawing and/or writing the name of the animal can help your child develop his/her phonemic (letter/sound) awareness. For example, ask them what letter the word “pig” begins with, then write the word together, and finally, underline the first letter of the word for emphasis. Make sure to practice the sound together.
Model Core Words on your Child’s alternative and augmentative (AAC) as you draw/write
o To help with carryover of your child’s AAC core words across a variety of environments, model the action/request on your child’s AAC device as you complete it. For example, to target “go” to begin drawing/coloring, select the icon “go” after you say “ready, set, ____.” Or, model the “more” icon after you hand your child more chalk pieces.
Let’s Get Drawing and Writing
Sidewalk chalk is a great tool to work on many occupational therapy-related goals such as shoulder stabilization, fine motor, visual motor, and bilateral hand skills. Your child will be having fun this summer while unknowingly working on all the things that will help them with writing, typing, cutting, etc. during the school year.
You can use a box of regular chalkboard chalk, or you can use a few jumbo sidewalk chalk pieces. The key with the jumbo pieces is to get them smaller in order for hands to really develop the skills they need for holding a pencil and writing. This can be done by using a rock or a hammer to smash the chalk into smaller pieces. All you need is a small chunk of chalk. Kids really enjoy this part of the fun, and it’s a nice upper body strengthening activity, too!
Make a huge dot-to-dot. Draw small circles with numbers or letters in them. Have your child connect the dots.
o Drawing connecting lines on a resistive surface like the sidewalk promotes the visual motor skills necessary for letter formation and line placement when writing letters and words.
Play games like Pictionary, Tic-Tac-Toe, Hangman, and others.
o Writing on the sidewalk while engaging in these games promotes shoulder stability, visual motor skills, fine motor skills as well as attention and turn-taking skills.
Add water to chalk dust to create DIY liquid chalk paint. Finger paint or paint with paintbrushes of different sizes on paper. Then use bamboo skewers or craft sticks to scrape lines, pictures, and words into the paint.
o This activity works on fine motor skills and will promote a variety of tool usage. There is also a sensory component if the child is willing to engage in finger paint with the liquid chalk paint.
Color rocks of various sizes using a small piece of chalk.
o Holding the rock in one hand while coloring with a small piece of chalk is a bilateral hand activity that provides heavy input through the assisting hand. This promotes an awareness of the non-dominant hand while the dominant hand colors in the rock. The rock will need to be manipulated within the hand, which allows for arch development and intrinsic hand strength.
Write on a brick wall and then squirt it with a spray bottle to erase the words.
o Writing on a vertical surface has so many benefits. It encourages an extended wrist, strengthens the arm, and promotes better posture, breathing, and lung capacity. It also promotes dexterity in the precision side of the hand and separation of the two sides of the hand. Using a spray bottle promotes gross grasp strength of the power side of the hand, separation of the two sides of the hand, and visual-motor integration as kids aim and squeeze.
In These Times, We Still Shine
We have seen hopscotch and sidewalk chalk messages brighten our days, featured as some of the positive messages and inspiration from the coronavirus pandemic. As we continue to move forward in the opening of our communities and children have finished school, we look forward to returning to fun gatherings and outdoor activities. With weeks and months spent at home, children are excited for summer break but also looking for new activities to do at home and parents are looking to continue to keep their children engaged, learning, and having fun. Sidewalk chalk provides so many opportunities for creativity, learning, building skills, and endless possibilities for different games and challenges. Keep exploring your world and all you can do with just a simple piece of sidewalk chalk. And, if your child’s needs extend outside of simply passing time with a fun activity, read more about how art therapy can be used to benefit mental health.
Don’t Have Chalk???
You can make chalk easily in muffin tins, ice cube trays, or any small containers, by mixing equal parts cornstarch and water, divide into separate containers and add 2-3 drops of food coloring. Allow to harden and voila! Homemade chalk in any color you want!!
Blog Written By: Kiera Adams, M.Ed., QBHP, Amy Crowder, OTR/L, Leah Marchetti, M.A., CCC-SLP, Cassandra Rice, DPT