I love working with kiddos on learning how to jump. And then they finally master their first jump all by themselves and I want to jump with them (I usually do). I get so excited that I forget there can be so much more to jumping. Don’t get me wrong, jumping all by themselves opens up a world of possibilities for kids. It can help them with peer interaction, it can assist with self regulation, it can show when they are excited, it can provide them proprioceptive feedback and it can strengthen their legs as well as help to get the wiggles out of them.
Once they are able to jump up into the air with two feet leaving the ground they are on their way to becoming jump masters. I know it seems like jumping up in the air should be all it takes but there are jumps beyond this basic jump that you probably haven’t even stopped to think about. I’ll name a few below:
- Jumping multiple times in a row
- Jumping forward
- Jumping backwards or sideways
- Jumping in a circle
- Jumping up for an object overhead
- Jumping off of a height (like a step, curb, chair, etc)
- Jumping onto a height (like a step, curb, etc)
- Jumping over something
- Jumping open and close (like in jumping jacks)
I’m sure there are plenty of others that I am forgetting but these are plenty to get you started with your jumper! With each new task your kiddo has to go through a different set of motor planning, as well as mental readiness before they can do the jump that is needed. What I do now is I just start adding in scenarios for kids to practice different types of jumping (once they are able to jump with two feet – although sometimes I will start a few of these while they are still learning to jump). For instance, for jumping off of things, if I am having them practice the stairs or a balance beam or stepping stones, I will usually hold their hands and have them jump off with my help. This way jumping off of things becomes routine. Jumping up for something is the one that always surprises me as being more challenging than I would have thought. I will usually use things like the stacking cups and hold them up in the air so the kiddo will jump while trying to reach for them. Or I will use suction cup balls on a wall/window/mirror and have the kiddo jump up to try to pull them off the surface. Jumping forward works really well with colored spots or using a hopscotch board because you get great visuals. We also work on numbers at the same time. If I make the pieces into a straight line so its a number path from 1-10 we start with jumping on each number and then we switch to jumping only on evens and then only on odds. I usually have to give a hand hold assist to help them get the clearance. I also use hopscotch boards to work on jumping open and close. I love the boards that let you move the numbers around! Jumping onto things I start with something that’s barely elevated. I use these foam colored spots that we have that are maybe a little over a quarter of an inch and I have the kiddo jump onto the spot. Then I may have them jump onto the mat (which is maybe a little over an inch high). By doing it this way they often don’t realize they are jumping up onto something and don’t have time to mentally psych themselves out. Same with jumping over something I start with something little like a line and then I may have them jump over my leg and slowly increase the height until they aren’t even thinking about it.
These are just a few ideas for progressing jumping. I’d love to hear other ideas you have or any questions you have about different jumping tasks!