Top Ways to Get a Full Body Workout on the Playground

Posted by Lisa Josephsen

Kids Playground WorkoutsAs our children head back to school, they say good-bye to diving boards, jumping waves in the ocean, and running around with bare feet. The summer activities that provide physical outlets come to an end as the hours of sunlight get shorter and shorter.

After sitting and paying attention in school all day, it’s important to give our kids the opportunity for physical movement. Going to the playground or out in the backyard for even 15 to 20 minutes can revive our children and get their brains working even harder! Here are some of the best playground activities and how they help your child grow and develop.

1. Climbing equipment:
There are many ways to get to the top of jungle gyms on playgrounds or swing sets including stairs, ladders, and rock climbing walls. Each surface forces children to figure out how to use their arms and legs together and build up muscles as they go. Make sure your child varies the method of climbing so his/her body is using different muscle groups!

2. Slides:
Children become more comfortable with heights and learn how their bodies relate to gravity as they go down slides of different lengths and curves. Sliding from a high, straight slide allows for more speed than a curvy one. Slides can provide a great opportunity for turn taking while encouraging patience when kids must naturally wait until the slide is clear before going down.

3. Monkey Bars:
This is one of the BEST activities for children old enough and strong enough to do them. When hanging from a monkey bar, the arms are stretched in what is called traction, a sustained pull to joints in the body that gives information about where the body is in space. Just hanging alone is excellent for this purpose! When incorporating the swinging motion and reaching for the bar ahead, children learn how to grade their force and exert an appropriate amount of energy with their movements. To get started, hold your child until he/she feels secure and let go slowly. Encourage him/her to reach forward and hold onto each bar with two hands, then to progress forward, use only one hand on each bar.

4. Balance Beams:
These low-key pieces of equipment are a great way for kids to develop core strength and balance. Using it more creatively, children can jump over, crawl under, or walk backwards and sideways when on top. While it can often be overlooked, a balance beam is an effective teaching tool for children to slow down and control their movements in an organized way, relating to overall self-control skills.

5. Swings:
Both back-and-forth swings and circular tire swings are great options to utilize on a regular basis. On standard swings, kids practice coordination of their upper and lower bodies for pumping. This can lead to an overall sense of empowerment as they feel in control of how high they go. Tire swings are a fantastic option for the spinning motion kids often desperately crave so that their inner ears can provide feedback to the rest of the body about its position in space (vestibular input). Keep in mind that kids can tolerate much faster movement than adults, so what looks dizzying to you is probably just what your child needs.

Take advantage of the great outdoors while the weather allows and get your kids outside and moving!

Allison Mell, PT, DPT