Photo credit: Joey Lim
Bubbles are one of my absolute favorite things to use when playing with kids, especially those virtually indestructible Gymboree bubbles I mentioned yesterday (read post here). And since I recently began a new job in a new city where I have to start up a new relationship with every single kiddo on my caseload, I’ve been using bubbles with almost all of them on the first day because, let me tell you, it is a fantastic way to break the ice!
Not only is bubble play an easy way to have fun with a new little friend, it’s also a fun way to work on a host of developmental skills, such as:
- Fine motor skills. Kids have the opportunity to practice pinching the skinny wand, coordinating two hands to hold the bottle and dip, holding the blower with a pencil-like grasp, opening and closing the bottle, and using hands in different ways to pop the bubbles (poke with index finger, “squeeze” to grab bubbles with the whole hand, use two hands to clap the bubbles).
- Visual tracking skills. Follow where the bubbles go. Some are fast and some are slow. And some will even glow!
- Hand/eye coordination. It takes serious practice to link up what the eyes and hands are doing in order to accurately dip and blow with a wand.
- Sensory processing skills. Bubbles are wet. and slimy. and sticky. They feel funny. And the physical act of blowing can be a very effective sensory-based way to help children “organize”, calm, and focus their bodies.
- Oral motor skills. Obviously. Blowing bubbles is good exercise for little mouths, but it can hard work! Bubble blowers (like the tube-shaped ones) are easier than bubble wands, and kids won’t inhale bubble solution if they decide to suck instead of blow out. Skinnier tube blowers are typically easier than fat ones. And blowing at bubbles that have already been blown and are sitting on the end of the wand can also be easier than straight-up blowing through the wand.
- Social and communication skills. Kids can ask or sign for “more” and establish eye contact when doing so. And if playing in a group, they can practice taking turns and keeping personal space between their bodies so they don’t bump into or knock each other over.
- Gross motor skills. What an easy way to get kids to reach way up high, stand on their tippie toes, squat, jump, run, stomp, and kick.
- Following directions. You can give them directions on how to pop the bubbles with each turn (clap them, poke them, squeeze them, jump on them, etc.) either one at a time or by telling them a popping sequence (first poke, then squeeze, then clap). Or they can follow the directions to a turn-taking sequence (first Johnny pops, then Caitlin, then Danny). The possibilities for directions are endless.
- Identifying body parts. Pop with your finger, your elbow, your knee, or your nose!
- Speech skills. I’m not a speech therapist, but I know that /b/ and /p/ (those formed in the front of the mouth with the lips) are early speech sounds that are naturally used during bubble play. A few examples include “Bubbles!” “Bye-bye bubbles!” and “Pop!”
- Language and cognitive skills. You can teach toddlers and preschoolers how to understand and describe where the bubbles are and what they’re doing by pointing things out when they happen. “The bubbles are going up (or down)” “They’re going fast (or slow).” “There’s a bubble in front of (or behind) you.” “I see one next to you.” “There’s one above (or below) your head.” “It’s to your right (or left).” “That’s a really big (or little) bubble.” “Go pop the biggest (or smallest) bubble!”
Babies often love to watch others blow bubbles and think they’re so interesting, and bigger kids love to play with them in all kinds of creative ways. So grab your bubbles and get ready for some beneficial fun, fun, fun!