By Regina Nicolas, Physical Therapist and Sensory Integration Specialist

Beneath the boisterous, happy back-and-forth on the playground, there is important work under way. As our children play together this summer, they are becoming stronger, healthier and more capable people. As we focus so heavily on our children’s mental and emotional development from September to June, we find a wonderful opportunity in July and August to focus on other areas of development that can escape our notice in other seasons. Here we share insight into the value of physical play time and offer a few ideas for helping children to get the most out of their play time.

Developing Balance and Motor Planning Skills:
Build an obstacle course by making a set track for your children and their friends to follow. Allow them to duck under tables, jump over cushions and weave in between furniture. It is a fun way to develop balance and motor planning skills, indoors or outdoors.

Regulating Sensory Input:
All children need to learn their level of appropriate movement stimulation. Coaching your child on a swing by saying “Feet under your seat,” and “feet to the sky,” can do a lot to encourage them. Follow your child’s lead so they discover their own comfortable level of stimulation.

Building Hand-eye Coordination:
Batting is one way to offer valuable training in coordinating movements to visual stimuli. The bigger the hitting surface and the ball, the easier the task, so as children improve, increase the challenge to enhance their skills.

It is easy to see how children benefit from climbing on playground equipment or following the rules of a game. The benefits of free play, in which children are left to draw on their creativity and make their own games can be less clear.

When you look at your running, wiggling child, think of all the wonderfully important abilities they are developing. This summer, remember to get outside, stay active and have fun!