Watching a child learn how to jump is one of my favorite things. They are so serious about the process. Some of the learning to jump begins when you see them bouncing up and down in their cribs while they hold onto the edge. Now, they aren’t ready to jump at this point but they are learning how their legs work and getting a feel for their muscles. In addition they are using their arms to help with balancing themselves and possibly to eventually get some leverage for when they are ready to ‘take the leap’ of jumping.
I have worked on jumping with lots of kids and each child is slightly different. Many kids will pick it up without any problems and you’ll have a little Tigger bouncing all around the house. For those kids that want to jump but aren’t getting any air I have some ideas for you to help them out.
First I get a catch phrase for them whether its ‘jump’ or ‘bend and jump’ or ‘pop’ or ‘down and up’. Basically so they know what do to and you aren’t just lifting a sack of potatoes up into the air! Once you have that down you can watch them attempt to jump, which usually looks like mini squats. The good thing about this is they are strengthening their leg muscles at the same time.
From this point I usually hold them by the hands to give them some oomph. If their arms are like limp spaghetti and not giving you any resistance you may need to hold them at the waist and when they bend down and start to go up give them a spring up into the air. Start working your way to their upper arms and then to their elbows and eventually you should be able to hold their hands to help with the jumping. Once you hold their hands this helps because they will start to use their arms to give them a little boost and will be doing more of the work themselves.
Also, when you are using their arms you can start jumping all over the place. For instance when coming down the stairs and you get to the last step have them ‘jump’ off, or when you are stepping off a curb, etc.
Using a kids trampoline can help give them some spring as well as make it fun for them to jump up and down over and over. This not only provides fitness but also lets them blow off some steam and burn up some energy. In addition its a great way to get some sensory input and possibly some self regulation.
Once jumping on level ground is mastered (i.e. their feet leave the ground all by themselves) you get to progress to advanced jumping! This includes jumping on one foot, jumping over things, jumping onto varying heights, jumping off of a height and jumping between different surfaces. All of these are part of development and a great way for your child to explore. Check back later for more advanced jumping ideas and strategies!