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Walk the Line

This article is part of our weekly series Executive Function Tips for Families.

Step to the beat! Practicing inhibitory control can be a cakewalk with this play-anywhere game!


About the Activity:

This activity introduces mindful concentration to help your child learn how to inhibit motor responses and control their body.
Executive Function Skills Practiced:

Focused attention:

At each game level, your child must concentrate on appropriate start and stop times and locations, as well as walking the line. At the highest level, they must also maintain upper-body balance to keep an object balanced on their spoon!

Inhibitory control:

The combination of modeling, marking, and music promotes mindfulness and encourages your child to focus on moving appropriately throughout the game.

Before You Start:

Duration: 10-15 minutes

Materials List:

  • Tape or chalk

  • Music

  • Items to carry, such as spoons with beads or a small ball (optional)

Environment: Anywhere in your home, yard, or neighborhood

Ready To Play? Game Levels and Step-by-Step Instructions:

  • For the first round, choose the right level of play based on your child’s age.

  • At all levels, keep the game going until you sense your child’s interest or concentration waning, then stop the music.

Game Level 1- Find Your Spot (2-3 years):

  1. Draw a line with chalk or tape and place several Xs on the line.

  2. Have your child stand on an X and explain the game to them.

  3. Demonstrate walking to the next X, stopping on it.

  4. Say, “When I say ‘go,’ we are going to walk on this line and stop our bodies when we get to the next X. Like this!” Model walking to the next X and stopping.

  5. Let your child try. Have them turn around 180 degrees when they reach the end.

Game Level 2- Traditional Rules (3-4 years):

  1. Draw a line with chalk or tape and place several Xs on the line.

  2. Explain the rules: “When the music starts, walk on the line.”

  3. Have your child turn around 180 degrees when they reach the end.

Game Level 3- Altering the Line (4-5 years):

  1. Draw or tape new lines, such as zigzag or curvy, and have your child stand on them.

  2. Encourage mindful walking to stay on the lines and explain: “We’re going to play the game again, but this time we are going to use a new line! When the music starts, try to stay on the new line! It’s okay if you sometimes fall off the line.”

Game Level 4- Carrying Items (5+ years):

  1. Repeat Level 2, but have your child try carrying a spoon with large beads or a small ball on it.

  2. Explain, “When the music starts, your job is to walk on the line, carrying the spoon and trying not to let any beads fall off!”

  3. Keep the game engaging by varying the tempo, switching directions, or giving him or her other things to carry as they move along the line (e.g., small toy on head, rolling object on palm).


Talk & Reflect:

At the end of each activity, discuss with your child what they noticed about the game. Use language acknowledging the difficulty of the game and ask questions like: “What did you notice while you were playing the game?” “What were you supposed to do when the music stops or starts?” “How did you need to move your body so that none of the beads spilled?”

Additional Ideas & Resources:

Try drawing unique shapes for your child to follow, like a big swirl. Encourage your child to make up scenarios while playing, such as pretending there is water or hot lava on either side of the line! Vary the music tempo to indicate how fast or slow your child should walk. Introduce other challenges, such as hopping on one foot or walking heel-to-toe. Discuss different animals that move quickly or slowly and have children pretend to be those animals.

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