By: Jane Kilkenny
We are finally seeing playgrounds around Australia re-open after being closed due to Covid-19 restrictions, it’s time to celebrate. Our playgrounds are not just fun spaces, they are important educational spaces as well and a vital part in the development of our kids.
Physical literacy plays a key part in the neurological and emotional development of our kids. It is not just about who can run the fastest, jump the highest, or throw and kick a ball with precision. Those skills may be important for sporting success but the fundamentals of physical literacy, such as balance, co-ordination, spatial awareness and motor skills are all crucial for development.
Balance plays key part in learning to control the position of our body in space with confidence. Games and activities that challenge balance, such as hopscotch, are simple to set-up and play. Walking along a ledge, just a few feet above ground, also makes a great balance challenge as you have to walk slowly and calmly to the other side.
Teaching co-ordination to children can be challenging. Basic marching patterns, with enthusiastic arms, is a great way to teach kids about how the body can provide it’s own natural stability. If the left knee is lifted, the right arm should be driven forward to counterbalance trunk motion. This is the very basis of learning to move and then run with efficiency. Catching and throwing are also important for developing co-ordination and movement patterns.
Spatial awareness, knowing where your body is in relation to other objects, should be a learning focus at the moment. Encouraging kids to understand how to position their bodies in the context of games, skills, danger and social distancing are important. For example, teaching children how far away to stand if they are playing catch will influence the successful development of the skills. If they stand too far away they may struggle to catch the ball, conversely if they stand too close they may be struck by the ball. It’s a great process of trial and error, making mistakes and growing in confidence as skills develop.
Playgrounds provide excellent opportunities to develop motor skills and movement patterns. Climbing requires executing coordinated movements, opposite hand and foot moving simultaneously. Swinging from monkey bars develops upper body strength and coordinated motion to progress.
Playgrounds are safe spaces, you just need take the necessary precautions for your child. The most important safety aspect is providing the right amount of physical and emotional support. Be close enough to catch but also allow them some independence when they are ready. Also a good dose of hand sanitizer or wipes are a good idea right now.
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