We’re back again this month with our awesome group of therapy bloggers to talk more about Functional Skills for Kids! This time around, we’re taking a closer look at playground games and activities. Each therapist is tackling a different aspect of how playground play is linked to child development.
We’ve talked before about how the environment shapes the way kids play, and there’s no more quintessential childhood environment than the playground! Most kids can’t get enough of the slides, swings, ladders, and other features that a playground has to offer.
And, as therapists, we love using playground equipment during treatment sessions to promote the developmental skills we’re working on with kids. Going out to the playground is a simple way to get kids moving and an effective way to target nearly every developmental skill under the sun! Whether a child is just learning to walk, or they tend to seek out more movement than other kids, or even if they’re a little more hesitant and cautious, there’s always a way to get everyone involved!
Promoting Developmental Skills with Playground Games and Activities
1 || Playground obstacle course – Make up a quick obstacle course on the fly, giving kids multiple directions to follow. Climb the slide, go across the monkey bars, slide down the fire pole! This is a great way to work on direction-following and sequencing, along with the motor skills required to perform each task. Our kids especially love this activity when we time them to see how long it takes to complete the sequence…nothing like a little friendly competition!
Areas of development: cognitive skills, coordination, balance, strength, endurance, vestibular processing, proprioception, auditory processing
2 || Conquer a playground challenge – It’s always good to have goals and kids will love conquering a skill that will give them a little cred on the playground! Completing a program of fun exercises, kids can work up to conquering those monkey bars or learning to pump on a swing!
Areas of development: grasp, coordination, strength, vestibular processing, proprioception
3 || Bring Some Playground “Accessories” – The playground on its own is an amazing setting for building developmental skills, but throw some “accessories” into the mix and you can spark great creativity while challenging kids in all kinds of new ways!
Things to bring on your next trip to the playground:
-Slide them down the slide to a friend
-Toss them onto playground equipment and then climb up to retrieve them
-Climb up on a high platform and toss them down to a friend below
-Entice reluctant climbers by blowing bubbles up on higher equipment for them to pop
-Hold the bubble wand in one hand while swinging on a swing
-Check out more fun ways to use bubbles here!
-Hold them up in the air as you fly down the slide or on a swing
-Toss them from a high platform and watch them fly to the ground
-Check out more creative ways to use streamers here!
-Draw a path for kids to follow around the playground, including the various equipment. See how fast they make it from the beginning to the end
-Try a game of Line Tag, hopscotch, or Ring Around the Posies
Areas of development: Vestibular processing, proprioception, visual processing, strength, coordination, social skills
4 || Balance Beam Fun – Use the props above to create fun, new balance and coordination challenges on a balance beam!
-Scatter bean bags on the ground on either side of the beam and see if kids can bend to retrieve them as they make their way across.
-Can they get enough speed while crossing the beam to get their streamers to fly behind them?
-Incorporate some academic concepts into the mix with a fun balance beam learning game!
Areas of development: Balance, strength, coordination, cognitive skills, visual processing
5 || Grab a Partner! – The only way to make an obstacle course more fun? Try it with a friend! This partner obstacle course would be an awesome challenge on your next visit to the playground.
Areas of development: Social skills, coordination, strength, endurance, cognitive skills
6 || Don’t Touch the Ground! – Here’s a super fun game for a group of buddies to try together. Challenge kids to play a game of tag on the playground, but here’s the catch…no one is allowed to touch the ground with their feet! They can leap, jump, or giant step their way from one piece of playground equipment to another, but can’t touch one toe on the ground, or they’re it!
Areas of development: Social skills, cognitive skills, balance, strength, coordination, endurance
7 || The Classics – Bringing games like tag or hide and seek to a new setting like the playground breathes new life into these old classics, making them fun and fresh again! Try Simon Says (Simon says run up the slide! Simon says slide down the pole!) or one of these classic backyard games!
Areas of development: Social skills, endurance, coordination, strength
8 || Go on a Scavenger Hunt! – Print off a hunt for your little ones and use it to spice up your next trip to the playground!
Our popular sensory motor scavenger hunt is perfect for getting bodies moving and for engaging all of the senses!
Areas of development: Coordination, tactile processing, auditory processing, vestibular processing, proprioception, visual processing, cognitive skills, strength, balance, endurance
9 || Hop on a Swing – There are tons of awesome ways to use swings to support a wide range of developmental skills in kids. Here are some of our favorite swing games for kids – perfect for entertaining kiddos at the playground while building lots of skills!
Areas of development: Vestibular processing, strength, visual processing, social skills
10 || Walk on the Wild Side! – Ambulating on varying surfaces, like all of the great ones found at the playground (rubber playground surfacing, hard cement, grass, mulch) is awesome for balance, proprioception, and – if you take off those shoes and socks – tactile processing too! Try taking giant steps, baby steps, dinosaur stomps, hops, jumps, and more!
Areas of development: Balance, coordination, tactile processing, proprioception
What are your favorite ideas for promoting developmental skills at the playground? Leave us a comment below!
Developmental Progression of Playground Skills | Your Therapy Source
Promoting Fine Motor Skills at the Playground |Miss Jaime OT
Sensory Integration Therapy at the Playground | Sugar Aunts
Modification Ideas for Playground Equipment for Children | Growing Hands-On Kids
Playground Rules to Break for Greater Play Skill Development | Kids Play Space
Playground Games and Activities for Kids | The Inspired Treehouse
Developing Visual Skills and the Playground | Therapy Fun Zone