What a shame the UK weather let us down again… But lets all keep our fingers crossed that we enjoy an Indian Summer this September so we can see the playgrounds and recreational centres across the country covered with little bodies climbing, sliding and swinging.
Most of us will have seen that playgrounds come in all shapes and sizes, and that no two of them are exactly the same. So, you can pretty much find something to interest any child. However, for our children that demonstrate sensory difficulties, decreased motor skills, or motor planning concerns, you may find that they try to avoid the playground. These are the children you see walking the perimeter watching the other children as they climb and slide, or the ones who often sit at the edge playing with sticks and pebbles.
So the question is how do we enable these children to get the most out of a playground?
Playgrounds themselves offer an all encompassing sensory
and therapeutic experience by providing vestibular, proprioceptive, auditory, and tactile play. To help achieve this, Southpaw has recently introduced to the UK a new line of outdoor swings. They have found that that the standard equipment found at playgrounds does not always cater to the children we live or work with on a daily basis, and therefore developed items such as the Full Body Swing.
The Full Body Swing.offers linear movement while a child feels safe sitting or lying inside the bucket of the swing. It allows the whole body to be inside a space and not have anything hanging out in the open air. This helps a child feel secure and safe, allowing him or her to enjoy swinging with ease. This is very beneficial for those children with lower tone and decreased trunk stability needed for a standard swing. In addition, it helps with giving them a good sense of body awareness.
A similar new indoor product is The U-Boat Swing which has been designed
to give similar benefits to the Full Body Swing, but gives extra trunk stability due to the Baltic Birch construction. Unlike the Full Body Swing however, it allows their legs to hang out, challenging their body awareness. In addition, The U-Boat Swing is also great to hold several toddlers simultaneously, encouraging socialisation and cooperative play.
Besides the new Southpaw swings, other strategies to help children get the most out of their playground experiences include making sure you choose the best time of day to visit. If your child is over-stimulated, it is best to visit when there is less of a crowd. This will enable your child to try out the equipment without getting trampled over. In addition, make sure it is a space where your child feels safe. For some, that may mean that the playground itself is contained in a fenced in area. Pay attention to your behaviours, making sure that you are not pushing your child to do things he or she may be very uncomfortable with, but encourage your child to at least try out the equipment. Partaking in this experience is the most beneficial. Getting on the swing or sliding down the slide with them helps them feel safe and may take away some of their anxieties. In addition, try and scope out different playgrounds. Find a place that will allow your child the “just right” challenge, and watch them soar.
Originally written by Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L, (edited for UK purposes)