As the school holidays approach some parents might be thinking that 6 weeks is rather a long time to keep their kids entertained. Here are some quick ideas for primary school aged children that not only exercise their body, but with a bit of imagination, exercise their mind too.
1. Wheelbarrow races. Remember these? We did them as children, before more complex and technology based games came along.
Tip: For younger children or those that may be struggling with making the distance, hold onto closer to the hips. For those that like a challenge, hold closer to the knees.
Physio tip: As with all new activities, first time supervision/assistance is a good idea. Watch out if it looks too difficult for your child, or if they experience any pain, stop. Also if you notice difficulty in keeping their bottom up, or sagging between the shoulders, your child may have poor core strength. Poor core strength can lead to back pain, postural abnormalities and impact their ability to excel in sport/gross motor activities. See your paediatric physiotherapist if concerned.
2. Hopscotch. Using chalk on the driveway (or shaving cream on the lawn) draw out your hopscotch course, making it as difficult or as easy as you like to suit the child. Use a beanbag to toss in and decide which square to skip, or write in numbers and use dice.
Tip: For a bit of brain work, ask your child to devise their own course.
Physio tip: By 5 years old, children should be able to hop repeatedly and with reasonable balance on either leg. (And if not, should be able to get there with practise.) If your child has difficulty on either leg, it’s a good idea to start practising! If you are concerned about their ability to hop or jump, it might be a good idea to consult your paediatric physiotherapist.
3. Play-ground obstacle course. This can be for any age. As you can get the children/adolescents to make up the course. In fact, I’ve seen some adults do this in personal training sessions!
Tip: If you are devising the course, it’s a good idea to watch your child/children play around the playground first so you get an idea of their ability. Please keep in mind to set reasonable ‘obstacles’. Younger children will lose interest quickly if something that is too challenging and make sure that if an older child is setting the course that it is safe for the younger ones too.
Physio tip: Gross motor activities such as climbing, crawling and navigating awkward obstacles requires balance, co-ordination, strength, flexibility, spatial awareness and sequencing. These are all important components to your child’s ongoing gross motor development, and it’s important that they have the opportunity to develop these skills. Activities such as these, under your watchful eye, can help highlight any gross motor dysfunction before it becomes a real issue.
4. Backyard basketball, soccer, cricket. These activities are great at any age, as rules can be adjusted to suit. Basketball is great for hand-eye co-ordination and bilateral (between left and right) co-ordination if you challenge your child to try dribbling/passing with either hand. Soccer is great for eye-foot co-ordination and balance, again encourage them to kick/pass/block with either foot. Cricket is also good for hand-eye co-ordination, bilateral hand/arm co-ordination, sequencing and timing, speed and agility.
Tip: it’s alway more fun to work with a goal, whether it be a drawn on circle on the garage door (if you don’t have a basketball hoop), buckets used to mark a soccer goal, or the garbage bin as the wicket.
Physio tip: Having friends over is a great way to make this more fun. Just keep in mind that each child is an individual and even if they are the same age, they skills are most likely to be a little different. If you are concerned that the gap may be too big (assuming that the other child isn’t a Michael Jordan/David Beckham/Michael Clarke in the making!) try a little encouragement and practise. If you’re still concerned it may be time to see a paediatric physiotherapist.
General tip: If the weather outside is not suitable, most of these activities can be modified to safely do indoors.
It is well known that physical activity is great for stimulating children’s ability to learn and to positively affect academic performance. So what are you waiting for? Get your kids out there!