Today I have a fun activity for kids…playground themed balance activities! This virtual playground activity has various movement and coordination tasks that challenge kids to work on posture, position changes, coordination, core strength, and much more. While playing at the playground is the way to go to develop gross motor skills, sometimes getting outdoors is just not possible. That’s where this playground therapy slide deck comes in!
For more information on playground therapy, check out our previous post.
Add these playground themed gross motor coordination stretches, movements, and poses to your therapy obstacle courses, brain breaks, and transition activities.
Playground Balance Activities
When you think about playing at the playground, you think climbing, stooping, sliding, and balancing, right? There are so many ways that playing on playground equipment is such a powerful way to develop gross motor skills, balance, coordination, and overall strength.
But, sometimes it’s just not possible to get out to the playground. Things like weather can impact playground use. Other times, limitations in using public spaces impacts use of the playground in the school setting. And, for therapists running therapy sessions, sometimes you want to incorporate all of the fun of a playground setting in the therapy clinic!
When you access this playground balance activity slide deck, you get to pretend you are at the playground no matter what setting you are in. Then, by following the commands on each slide, children can get all of the benefits of stooping, crawling, balancing, and changing postures.
Each slide on this free slide deck asks kids to follow the visual cue. There are visuals for different playground task. Things like:
- Balancing on one leg by monkey bars
- Stooping to pick up a ball
- Kicking a ball
- Squatting to play in the sandbox
- Climbing on playground equiptment
- Throwing a ball
- Climbing on a merry-go-round
- Jumping rope
- Reaching up for monkey bars.
There are many types of playground equipment that can challenge balance and coordination, including:
- Balance beams: These narrow beams require children to maintain their balance as they walk across.
- Wobble bridges: These bridges are designed to wobble and move as children walk across, challenging their balance and coordination.
- Swinging steps: These are sets of steps that swing and move as children step on them, requiring them to maintain their balance and adjust their movements.
- Climbing nets: Climbing nets require children to use their balance and coordination to navigate the ropes and reach the top.
- Rope bridges: These bridges are made of ropes that sway and move as children cross, challenging their balance and coordination.
- Stepping stones: These are sets of raised platforms that require children to step from one to the other, using their balance to keep from falling off.
- Monkey bars: These require children to swing from bar to bar using their arms and legs, while also maintaining their balance.
- Rocking platforms: Similar in nature to the sensory benefits of a platform swing, these playground surfaces are large, flat platforms that rock back and forth, challenging children to maintain their balance while standing or walking. If you can find a playground with an actual platform swing, that’s even better!
We used various images to challenge all of these movements!
Playground theme therapy
By going through the playground exercises, kids work on a variety of areas:
- Bilateral coordination
- Motor planning
- Core strength
- Position changes
- Motor control
- Visual figure ground
- Graded positioning
These skills impact daily functioning in kids! Why not use a playground theme to work on these skill areas?
When kids follow the directions on each slide, they are also gaining whole-body movements and heavy work input that can be calming as a regulation tool.
If creating a weekly therapy theme works for your plans, then this playground theme is one you’ll want to add to your line up of occupational therapy activities and PT activities. You can use these playground balance exercises in therapy sessions to incorporate a therapy theme.
- Try using these visual playground strategies in between other tasks in a therapy session. Work on handwriting, scissor skills, and other functional tasks. And then come back to the balance activity. Then do another task and come back to the balance activity.
- Kids can work through the slides and try to remember all of the movements.
- Call out a piece of playground equipment and the child can recall the specific balance exercise. This is a great way to work on working memory and attention to detail.
- Incorporate handwriting: Ask students to list out all of the playground equipment. Work on letter formation, legibility, spacing, and line use. Then they can go through the slides and do the balance exercises.
- Add these activities to a sensory diet that helps kids regulate sensory input. Our outdoor sensory diet cards are the perfect combination to a playground theme!
Free Playground Balance Activities Slide Deck
Want to access this free therapy resource? It’s just one of the many free slides here on the website. All you need to do is enter your email address into the form below. You’ll receive a PDF containing a link to a Google slide deck. Copy it onto your drive and you are good to go! Start playing on the playground no matter where you are!
Why use this playground pretend activity?
We know the value that play has for children. When children play, they are developing skills. Occupational therapy and play go hand in hand because of the value and importance of play as a primary role for children.
Through pretend play, or copying the poses in this playground slide deck, kids can pretend to move through playground equipment, while challenging the motor skills, coordination, and balance needed to perform playground activities. The pretend play is a valuable tool to support preschoolers, school aged children, and all ages because it offers a no-risk opportunity to build motor plans. The ability to practice skills in a stress-free environment such as a home, classroom, or therapy clinic can support the young child to prepare them for maneuvering over, under, and around that playground equipment.
Colleen Beck, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist since 2000, working in school-based, hand therapy, outpatient peds, EI, and SNF. Colleen created The OT Toolbox to inspire therapists, teachers, and parents with easy and fun tools to help children thrive. Read her story about going from an OT making $3/hour (after paying for kids’ childcare) to a full-time OT resource creator for millions of readers. Want to collaborate? Send an email to email@example.com.