Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L
Movement is important to children for many reasons. We are finding with decreased recess time and outdoor play, and increased sedentary activities, the growth and development of children is affected. From increased difficulty maintaining attention and poor motor control to difficulty with school tasks and poor health and weight control, the lack of gross motor play is having an effect on our children. Overall coordination and use of proper movement patterns are also affected. We tend to find that these children struggle with balance and moving outside their center of gravity. Therefore, there needs to be a greater emphasis on play and movement-based activities, especially for our younger population.
It begins as early as infancy, when we encourage children to become "container" children. We find that so much of the baby equipment on the market today brings the entertainment and play to the child. With swings, activity gyms and children seats, there is no reason to encourage movement and exploration. In addition, the amount of time that children of any age spend in front of a screen on any device also plays a role. These items are needed and can be beneficial when used in moderation. However, we find that they are beginning too early, not encouraging children to just move or allowing their bodies to motor plan and navigate in a variety of spaces and against gravity. We are not allowing kids to be kids.
Playground equipment is an awesome way to encourage natural play and movement. In addition, it challenges children to improve motor planning and sensory processing skills. These activities strengthen core stability, balance and bilateral coordination. Natural movement during play is essential. From the sensory processing aspect, climbing, swinging and sliding provide proprioceptive and vestibular input. They allow children to put their bodies in a variety of positions and encourage head placement in different planes.
In treatment planning, therapists often look for activities that encompass a variety of areas of concern as well as piece together all the sensory systems for overall self-organization. Sometimes natural play is just the ticket. However, not all clinics or treatment places are equipped with a "playground" that can encourage all of that. Therefore, finding different pieces of equipment that encourage play is essential. From scooter boards to swings to tunnels and climbing ladders, play can happen in a variety of ways. Or simply by using a chair to spin or a floor to roll, hop, jump or crawl, movement can easily happen.
Southpaw has put a lot of effort into developing the equipment that can help achieve the ultimate treatment experience. With their In-FUN-ity
system, children can challenge their bodies to climb, move, transition and motor plan in a variety of ways. This allows individuals to develop a system that fits their needs. In addition, there has been an increased focus on developing a Transition Wall, piecing together various pieces of equipment that encourage natural motor patterns and transitional movements.
So, whether it comes through using complex equipment or not, to improve our children's ability to move, focus, attend and use their bodies for coordinated movements...we simply just need them to MOVE!