If you have a child, have worked with a child, or have seen a child before, you are probably familiar with the pure JOY and excitement that children get from playing with bubbles. The moment that the kids at the daycare I work at see bubbles, it’s like absolute magic.
Something that I learned recently, is that bubbles are a fantastic way to connect with children of any age, and even the most stressful situations. Before COVID, I used to volunteer at Sick Kids hospital with Camp Ooch , working with the children who were undergoing cancer treatment. Sometimes children were unable to join us in the camp room because they were too sick or too fatigued, so we would go to them. For most of the younger kids, and babies, our bubble wands were our magic wands. Now not only is bubble play an easy way to connect with someone new, but as an occupational therapist, I love bubbles for working on a variety of developmental skills! There are so many ways to incorporate bubbles into acticvities with your children, whether through rapport building, bubble blowing in the park, or creating bubble art with paint! Get creative and have fun! (There are links at the bottom of this post with some ideas)
Fine motor skills – this one is probably the most obvious to think about. Using the skinny wand that usually comes with a bubble container, children can practice pinching and holding the bubble blower as if they were holding a pencil! They can also work with bilateral hand coordination, as one hand is holding the bottle while the other dips the wand in. There is also strength and dexterity required to open and close the bottle, and lots of different ways to pinch, poke, or clap the bubbles!
Gross motor skills – The act of chasing bubbles and trying to pop them can be a great way to get kids to crawl, jump, run, stomp, bend down and reach up super high! This fun play can help strengthen children’s muscles and develop important gross motor skills, and usually the chase of the bubble is it’s own reward!
Sensory processing skills – Bubbles are wet and slimy, they feel interesting on your skin. This might be something some kids LOVE…and other kids might hate. It might be a nice way to practice getting used to a soapy texture if you’re trying to help your child with their willingness to bathe/wash their hands. The physical act of blowing a bubble can also be very effective as a sensory based way to help children organize and focus their bodies.
Mindfulness/calming – As a yoga instructor and pediatric occupational therapist, I usually encourage children to use deep calming breaths by relating it to something they know. “Deep breaths” can be pretty abstract and daunting, but blowing bubbles (whether that’s actually blowing bubbles or just pretending) is the same action and result but a more concrete action! Because you need to practice deep breathing with your child when they are calm, maybe try practicing with actual bubble wands, and then they are able to connect with that idea when they really need to calm down. (remember you might need to still cue them and breathe with them when they are using their coping skills)
Hand eye coordination and visual tracking skills – The process of playing with bubbles take lots of practice to connect what the eyes and hands are doing in order to use the wand! With this practice, we can also work on tracking skills, by pointing out the bubbles high and low, to have your child look at them to their left, right, up and down.
Oral motor skills – Blowing bubbles is hard work! To blow a bubble you need to pucker your lips to make a little circle (also called lip rounding), which can help improve oral motor skills! These oral motor skills can help exercise the jaw muscles to prepare the mouth for pronunciation of words. I read a tip that if you see that their lips are making a flat shape instead of a round shape, you can gently squeeze their cheeks to get their lips to make the right shape.
Turn taking – this can also be related to communication skills, but playing with bubbles is especially focused on turn taking skills. Usually there are multiple children playing with one or two bubble wands – as the adult, you can get involved in reminding children to ask for their turns (“Can I have a turn?”, “How many more minutes until my turn?”) and organizing turns out loud (“Ok first Sam is going to finish his turn, then Jamela will have a turn and THEN your turn”)
Play time can be not only fun, but also incredible for providing endless developmental opportunities! Here are a couple links below for fun bubble games which you can play to support your child’s development !
Enjoy!!! Do you have any other pointers about bubbles, or different activities you’ve found exciting for kids before? Feel free to share them in the comments!