Now that nice weather is upon us its time to get outside and play with the kids! Parks are a great place for kids to effectively ‘burn off’ their energy while working on gross motor skills and socialization. Here are some of the great things about parks:
- There are other kids around to play with. They may not even know them but if they are sitting next to each other playing in the sand conversations can start up and they make a new friend. For kids that need to practice social skills there are lots of opportunities to encourage play and socializing.
- Kids can climb. There are climbing opportunities for kids of almost every level. There are usually changes in height on the ground that little ones can practice climbing up and down. The stairs that go up and down the play structures offer opportunities for walking or crawling up and down stairs. Ladders come in all shapes and sizes with different patterns that offer opportunities for motor planning and problem solving. Also they let kids work on climbing down which can offer its own challenges. Lastly there are usually climbing walls, fake climbing rocks, chain link nets to climb or arches to go up.
- Lots of different surfaces to walk or run on to practice balance. Sand, grass, tan bark, wiggly bridges are just a few of the surfaces that can provide opportunities for challenging balance. If you take kids shoes off these same surfaces provide great sensory input opportunities.
- Slides can work on core when kids are learning to go down sitting up, they provide vestibular input, work on depth perception and awareness of height as well as different sensory input depending on if it is straight, curved, steep, in a tunnel, etc. And if its okay at the park kids can practice climbing up slides (one of my favorite things to do when I was little).
- Swings are a great place to get vestibular input as well as work on head and trunk control. If kids are old enough to start self propelling its also a great core workout and opportunity for motor planning and coordinated movement as they figure out how to lean back and bring their legs up and then pull themselves forward while bending their knees all while timing it with the movement of the swing. Another one of my favorite activities as a kid was to see how high I could swing and then jump off. We had contests to see who could go the furthest! You may want to have them practice that on a smaller scale first.
- Lots of space can be found at parks which is great for running races, games of tag, riding bikes, throwing and catching balls, soccer, frisbees, kites. All of these activities are great for gross motor development.
- I also forgot the little ride on toys that bounce back and forth which are fun and provide sensory input as well as problem solving for climbing on and off, and core strength to keep it moving!
- I almost forgot monkey bars. This is great for upper extremity and core strength. You can practice having kids hold on to one bar with both hands or stagger their hands across two different bars. Make sure you change which hand they are leading with. And, you can help them learn to traverse the monkey bars. A great way to work on visual attention with a task as well.
What are some of your favorite activities to do at the park?