We get a lot of kids who want to get better at monkey bars. Its something that their friends and classmates are doing with ease and they are struggling back at the first monkey bar, or having to have someone help them across. Here are some ways we have found to help them:
- Get used to swinging/holding onto one bar. This could look like holding onto the first monkey bar and letting their feet swing once, twice, three times, or more. Or have them hold onto an overhead bar for a count of X before they drop down to the support surface. This gets their hands and arms used to gripping onto the bar and supporting their weight, as well as the feeling of having their feet unsupported
- Use a trapeze. We have a small trapeze that we let our kids swing on. Some of them struggle with the core strength to pick their feet up off the ground to swing. We have remedied that by putting the trapeze close to a wall and using a large therapy ball or peanut. We have them hold onto the trapeze and help them get their feet onto the ball. They then get to push off and swing back and forth as many times as they can. They begin to start trying to get their own feet on the ball which supports their core strengthening.
- Knee walking or walking. We are lucky enough to be able to recreate monkey bars indoors and we have a treatment table that we can put under it. We could also use a balance beam or any other elevated surface so that their feet are supported while they traverse the monkey bars. We then have them work on reaching through with their hands so that only one hand goes onto each bar. This lets them practice the coordinated movement of reaching through with their hands, and looking at the next bar, without the added strain of supporting their own body weight.
- Swing through. I know reaching through to the next bar so that only one hand is on a bar at a time may seem harder, but we have found it to help the kids we work with. When they get two hands onto the same bar their tendency is to turn off their core. This stops any momentum they have going and have to generate the energy all over again to move to the next bar. By swinging through and only putting one hand on each bar they are working on the efficient use of momentum and keeping their core engaged which decreases the work on their hands and arms.
- Practice, practice, practice. Lots and lots of repetitions of all of these techniques as well as just going across the bars.
I don’t want you to think we forgot about core and upper extremity strengthening, because we didn’t. We focus on those areas as well, but I limited this post to working on the actual monkey bars.
What are ways you have successfully worked on monkey bars with kids?