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Monkey Bar Mania

It is time. Lunch is over and the weather is finally allowing our children to break free of their heavy winter coats and boots to enjoy the warm, fresh, and invigorating air on the playground. Antsy children struggle to contain their excitement as they take their final steps to the great outdoors- slides,Little girl climbing on monkey bars teeter-totters, swings, and kickball fields galore. Only the bravest of the brave dare take on the tall metal intimidators commonly known as the monkey bars.

Monkey bar climbing has been right of passage for children all across the playground. Conquering their cold frames take time, practice, and determination. Here are the developmental steps to achieving the ultimate goal: swinging from one end to the other without touching the ground as our ape-like friends seem to do so effortlessly.

  1. First, ask your child to reach for the monkey bars and let their feet dangle. Cheer them on and encourage them to hang on as long as they can. This will help them to strengthen the muscles in their hands and upper body.
  2. Next, encourage them to swing their legs back and forward while maintaining their tight hold on the bar. This swinging will in turn, give your child the burst of momentum they’ll need to eventually move across the bars.
  3. Next, help them coordinate the swing of their legs with the movement of an arm to reach for the next bar. Keep in mind that your child may need you to support them at their waist in order to complete the first few swings. It may also be a good idea to encourage them to first reach with their dominant hand as they may have an increased rate of success at grabbing the bar.
  4. After successfully completing one swing, talk your child through bringing their other arm to same bar that the first is holding. Once your child can successfully cross the monkey bars one at a time, they may then practice alternating hands on sequential bars. Once they’ve mastered the monkey bars, they can move on to eventually skipping one or two bars at time!

For other playground tips and tricks, see Amanda Matthews’ blog suggesting tips to work on motor skills at the park.

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5 Swings Used in your Child’s Therapy Sessions

Oftentimes, parents probably wonder ‘what makes the swings and equipment at my child’s therapy different than the swings at the  playground’?  The answer is that each of the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be used in a much safer and controlled Little girl sleeping in hammockenvironment, as the therapists are able to place mats and pillows under and around the swings, and the therapist can therefore challenge how the child engages in the activity and moves and manipulates his body (e.g. hanging underneath the barrel swing).  Similarly, the swings used in the therapy gym are able to be hung on a rotating hook to allow the child and the swing to move in a variety of planes and directions, providing the child with a greater amount of vestibular and proprioceptive input.

Below are explanations of 5 of the swings therapists use throughout your child’s therapy sessions to help best understand the benefits of using the therapy equipment

  1. Superman swing: The superman swing is also referred to as our prone extension swing, meaning that the child is lying in a prone position (on his belly with his arms and legs extended). The superman swing is suspended high enough off of the floor so that the child has to weight bear through his upper body (shoulders, arms, hands). We often refer to this position as using his ‘wheelbarrow’ arms. This position helps to improve upper body strength, neck strength, trunk control, and multi-tasking/motor planning, as the child is typically playing some sort of board game or activity while maintaining this prone extension position in the swing. As the child gets stronger, he shoots to remain in the swing for longer and longer durations.
  2. Cuddle swing: The cuddle swing is mostly used for self-regulation and calming, as it mimics a hammock, in that it completely surrounds, engulfs, and molds to the child’s body. While in the swing children often feel extremely secure and at ease as the swing provides them with a squeezing sensation- much like a big bear hug from mom or dad. The cuddle swing can provide the child with slow rhythmic movement, which can be very relaxing for a child, especially when he is feeling anxious or when his body is moving too quickly. The cuddle swing can also provide a child with more intense vestibular input, as the child can be spun in circles, when he is seeking more fast-paced input.
  3. Rainbow swing: The rainbow swing looks exactly how it sounds, as it has 4 different colored layers, which the child can crawl in and out of. The rainbow swing provides a rhythmic motion when the child lies on his back or stomach in one position, while the therapist swings him back and forth. Similarly, the child can start at one end of the swing and crawl through like a resistive suspended tunnel, until he reaches the other end and can crash out onto a pile of pillows. This serves as a heavy work activity and can ideally help to increase his attention and body awareness.
  4. Frog swing: The frog swing looks exactly like a playground swing, in which a child needs to pump his legs or be pushed by a therapist to get his momentum going. Typically, the child is instructed to listen for a ‘magic word’ before jumping off of the swing to crash into a pile of large floor pillows (e.g. ready, set, and ‘go’). This activity helps to work on following directions and motor planning, as the child must figure out how to get his body off of the swing at the correct timing to land on the pillows.
  5. T-swing: The t-swing looks like an upside down letter “T”, and may also be referred to as a barrel swing. The child is required to wrap his arms and legs around the barrel like a koala bear and hold on as tight as he can while the therapist is pushing and swinging him. This swing helps to work on entire body strengthening and endurance, and it also requires motor planning and body awareness in order to assume the correct position initially to get onto the swing.

As therapists, we find that the swings listed above are extremely motivating for our clients to use, and serve many distinct purposes; as such, equipment truly helps us to better reach our client’s goals (e.g. following directions; attention; body awareness; self-regulation).  The swings are also a great reward for clients to work towards throughout a therapy session, as they see all of the other children playing on them, and they want to partake in the fun too.  Feel free to ask your child’s therapist if you can come-in and peak at the therapy gym during your child’s session to help you to best understand the treatment process.

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