Learning how to jump requires that the vestibular, visual, muscular and skeletal systems are all working fluidly together. Check out these fun ideas to help kids learn this important developmental skill!
Some kids learn how to jump easily – everything clicks and they are bouncing like kangaroos in no time. For other kids, achieving a vertical jump can be tricky. They may be able to achieve a squat position, arm swing, and do the most amazing countdown only to get a hair off of the ground.
Skills Needed for Learning How to Jump
It’s our job as therapists to figure out why a child is having difficulty with this skill and how to help them achieve proper form. Here are a few things to consider when you are formulating a plan of attack:
The Vestibular System
Is the vestibular system ready for jumping? Check out the child’s eyes. If her eyes can’t remain steady with significant up and down movement, her vestibular system may need a bit of training before it can handle the feeling of her feet leaving the ground to achieve a basic jump. Try bouncing on a therapy ball!
Jumping requires strength in the leg muscles and some core strength too. Is the child strong enough to propel their body weight off of the ground against gravity? That sound pretty daunting, doesn’t it? Try a fun core strengthening program, work on improving the strength of ankle plantar flexors and hip/knee extensors (powerful muscle groups in the mechanics of jumping).
Is there a depth perception issue that is causing a challenge for the child? If so, this can cause a lot of fear in a child who may be working on jumping down from surfaces.
Range of Motion
Does the child have enough range of motion in their ankles, knees, and hips to produce the jump?
Can the child motor plan this movement? Sometimes it is difficulty for a child to move from lower extremity flexion to extension slowly let alone quickly! Maybe it would be beneficial to break the task down into parts of the whole.
Creative Ideas for Learning How to Jump
Here are a few creative ways to help kids with their jumping skills that will provide you with some new ideas for mastery of this common goal.
Bolster Blast Off
Have the child lay in full hip and knee flexion on the floor with their feet flat against a bolster. On your cue, have them push off with their feet to send the bolster flying forward. Mark the spot that the bolster hit and have them try again to beat it. Bonus: If they tend to push harder with one lower extremity, the bolster will roll that way.
Try having the child stand on the therapy wedge at the top of the incline with their feet pointed down the incline. This helps with the weight-shift forward from the heels into the toes and can help a child learn to initiate a jump from their ankles instead of relying on their arms or hip flexors.
Bouncing in sitting is great for core activation and vestibular input! Progress from seated jumping on the floor to seated jumping on a mini- trampoline.
Stabilize the ball on a base or between a few yoga blocks and have the child use their legs to bounce up and down on the ball.
Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of cause and effect to motivate a little one! Repeated reps of jumping to shoot the rocket into the air is a great way to practice.
Have kids hold a balloon or ball with both hands, bend down a touch and then throw it up in the air. This activity targets the pre-jump position and the kids often jump accidentally as they complete the motion.
Need an easy way to practice at home? Have kids stand on the couch and hold on to the back. Then, have them try to jump like they are on a trampoline.
Spring Loaded Rocking Horse
If you are fortunate enough to have access to one of these old school toys, they are perfect for encouraging jumping!
Kids LOVE this one! Have them lay supine on a scooter board and push off a wall with both feet. Who can fly the farthest?
Jumping in chest deep water with hands supported takes gravity out of the equation and allows work on mechanism of jumping with feet leaving the surface. This is great for beginners!
Have kids put their hands on the floor and jump their feet up! Gradually raise the surface for their hands until they are upright. Another good idea for core activation and lower extremity mechanics.
Have kids practice jumping down from a low step or a curb to get experience with the movements and timing.
Frog Jumps or Squat Jumps
Getting low to the ground (as described above with the balloon activity) can encourage the momentum and starting position that is needed for jumping.
Looking for other fun jumping ideas? Check these out: