By Bri Dandrea
Playground equipment is a fun way for children to work on gross motor activities. For a small town like Sheridan, our community is very lucky with the parks and playgrounds we have. Most of our playgrounds have swings, slides, ladders, and monkey bars, each of which requires a unique skill set to complete.
Swings are great for vestibular integration, strength, balance, coordination and general body awareness. The child uses upper body strength to hold onto the swing, as well as core strength to keep their body upright on the seat. Balance and body awareness go hand in hand with this. To pump the swing the child needs to be aware of where their legs are in space, and use coordinated leg movements to keep the swing going.
Slides are also a great core strength, working on balance and spatial awareness as well. Children typically seek the thrill of a slide, making it an enjoyable activity. If the child is unable to sit up while going down the slide, it can become an overwhelming or maybe even scary activity. Start with small slides and have them hold onto your hands while you stand next to the slide.
Ladders and monkey bars help develop upper body strength, from grip strength to shoulder strength. They provide deep proprioception and can involve the vestibular system if the child is swinging from bar to bar or hanging upside down. Core strength, motor-planning, and motor strength are also big components of ladder/monkey bar activities.
Best of all, these are fun, screen-free activities! Just being outside and engaging in activities away from a screen is so important for development. It is also good for the soul!
As an occupational therapist, I love to use playgrounds for sessions. They are versatile, work on a multitude of activities, and are fun for kids of all ages!