Its finally autumn! The perfect time for children to be taken outdoors! As the autumn leaves fall, the sunlight and the slightly warm air brushes the skin, the sound of crisp leaves on the ground – all sensations to be discovered. Children always want to play outdoors, run and climb, and generally find excuses to go outside.
This is the perfect season, especially after being cooped up in the classrooms for hours. There is simply no substitute for sunlight and fresh air, they reinvigorate us and contribute to both our physical as well as mental well-being.
For children with Neurodevelopmental disabilities, outdoor activities can be a great choice to improve their fine / gross motor skills and over-all development. When given the freedom to explore the world around them, their learning can be tremendous. Not only do children in outdoor activities can be engaged in motor skills, their socialization, cognitive skills, and imitation skills are also improved.
Their high energy-levels called for reassembling the trempoline, getting all the exercise equipment out and gearing them all up for some fun activities. We decided to let them explore the outdoors and be as active as they could!
Jumping on the Trampoline
There cannot be a more fun activity than simply jumping on the trampoline until the child is completely exhausted and yet beaming with joy.
Children with sensory issues can benefit the most from jumping as the rhythmic action can be soothing and help to reduce stress and anxiety. Jumping helps to develop leg strength and balance, it requires coordination of upper and lower movements, and plays a huge role in building block for more complex movements.
To encourage jumping, we made sure our children hop over obstacles without support and without falling, working on bouncing on soft surfaces such as a trampoline. Some children that required physical assistance, holding their hands to help them jump up and down was something they absolutely loved!
A tip for parents/guardians that have trampolines at home or whose child is about to learn jumping: Once the child is able to lift both feet off the ground at the same time, assistance can also be reduced from both of hands to one hand and eventually to one finger, making sure they do it independently and happily.
Catching, Dribbling, or Kicking the Ball
Playing catch the ball, dribbling a basketball, or kicking a football, are all ways to help the child develop hand-eye and hand-feet coordination as well as motor planning skills.
Children learn to move their hands and arms to track a ball with eyes, helping them to coordinate these movements together. Similarly, kicking the ball with the feet requires the same coordination.
Their spatial awareness is also improved, which includes knowing the positioning of the body. These activities further hone this skill as children judge the ball’s distance and how to position their bodies to catch, kick or dribble it. Additionally, the trial and error put the child’s ability of problem solving to work! Our team made sure children use their limbs catching, throwing, dribbling, and kicking the ball as much as they could outdoors!
A tip for parents/guardians who engage with their child through play: Using a ball (of any kind) can be the perfect choice of activity for interacting with your child and building a joyful bond with them!
Energetic play is a natural way for children to move and feel happy. Running has an over-all boost in positive mood and happiness of the child, as feel-good chemicals are released in the body.
Compared to other outdoor activities, the key benefit of running with a special needs child is that you don’t require sophisticated equipment. We had our kids stand side-by-side and with the blow of a whistle, they ran as fast as cheetahs!
A tip for parents/guardians that encourage their child to run: There’s nothing that brings loved ones together like sharing some good moments. Racing with them is a great way to promote self-acceptance of their different ability levels, so enjoy being a kid!
Turning the Tire
Where is the fun in any activity if it’s not slightly challenging, well, this seems to perfectly fit our definition then! This arms-strengthening, endurance-building and balancing activity, helps children squat down to strengthen their legs and torso muscles.
Meanwhile, also promoting movement, which is essential to get the children moving. Holding and moving objects that are bigger in size, helps in improving their gross motor skills and break sweat! Our team made sure children grow their muscles and leave no tire unturned!
Having children walk for as long as they can with one foot in front of the other, to provide sensory stimulation, the play equipment usually has different levels that require using steps to navigate. Doing so is a great way to work on spatial awareness, depth perception, and balance, just to name a few. Some children found walking on the beam so irresistible, it was hard to get them off from it!
As a parent or guardian of a child with special needs, you may find it challenging to engage them in outdoor activities, as you may think that it’s not safe or may be overwhelming for them. however, the outdoors is actually a great place for them to learn and develop new skills. Next time your child is feeling bored or agitated, take him/her outdoors and enjoy the world that is beneficial for their development and a healthy lifestyle.