Sometimes I think the importance of playgrounds are undervalued. I have often included in my posts photos and information about our trips to playgrounds and it strikes me that some parents may wonder why this is even noteworthy. Yet everything around us can be considered of educational value in some way. Other than the obvious health benefits of this physical exercise, a trip to a playground also has another clear purpose as well as ‘just’ being fun. Playgrounds are highly beneficial for a child with sensory processing disorder (or any child without!) because they provide plenty of opportunities to organise the nervous system, especially through vestibular and proprioceptive input, which helps to integrate and rebalance the senses. In short, it has a calming effect and helps the child to be more focused and ready to learn. A playground is almost like an informal sensory integration therapy session, with the added benefit of being readily available and often entirely free!
Personally we love going out alone to quiet playgrounds during school hours for some unrestricted and unhurried therapeutic play. When we meet up with friends at playgrounds it tends to be a very different experience compared to going alone, both beneficial for Squiggle but in different ways. Whilst one provides a lovely social opportunity, she gets less out of those trips in terms of sensory ‘therapy’ because she tends to play differently at playgrounds when with others, rather than spend as much time on the range of equipment. So she particularly enjoys the opportunity to focus on the environment itself sometimes too.
On Friday afternoon we went to Living Crafts held in the beautiful grounds of Hatfield House. This is an annual event, celebrating it’s 40th anniversary this year. Most of the workshops, demonstrations and stalls are in large marquees, which means the weather won’t spoil the fun. There was plenty to see (and do) of interest, way too much to list it all in fact! Just a few of our favourites included glass blowing demonstrations, origami workshop, soap carving, decopatch, watching maypole dancers and listening to steel drums. We actually had so much fun that we returned today for another visit, it is a fantastic educational experience and great for all ages too. We look forward to next year’s event already! For further details see www.livingcrafts.co.uk
Here is a small snippet of some of last week’s activities…
Activities at home this week included water play (sensory activity), studying a particularly friendly ladybug, discussion about the weather (with myself as well as our cat obviously!), drawing lots of different pictures including a cat character and Igglepiggle (as well as many others), making a decorated model house for her seal, sorting beads and inventing her own target games using a set of foil containers she found in the cupboard. In additon, our egg experiment can be found here. We also met up with friends at a local soft play centre.
A couple of months ago Squiggle developed a keen interest in seals. Therefore some of her recent learning experiences have been related to seals in some way. Below are some examples of how we have followed this interest in various ways and covered several subjects doing so.
Drama (and imaginative play): Squiggle acted out Christmas day with her seals. (19th November 2013)
Geography: Her lost seal ‘returned’ from Germany, which sparked a discussion about countries and travelling. We also looked it up on the globe. (26th November 2013)
ICT (and research skills): She wanted to know the difference between seal lions and seals, so we researched on the internet (2nd December 2013)
Literacy: She made herself a seal book (2nd December 2013)
Maths: She realised Maths Seeds has a walrus in, which is a similar enough to a seal for her liking, so she played this for several hours over the course of a couple of days. (3rd and 4th December 2013)
Design and Technology: She did some baking with her daddy and tried to make the mixture into seal shapes. (15th December 2013)
Maths: She used scales to compare weights of seals, using mathematical language. (25th December 2013)
More maths: She also used her toy seals for counting and calculating within her games several times.
We then visited the Sea life Centre in Weymouth to see real seals close up and observe their behaviour. She really loved this, especially as she was able to watch them peacefully for long periods so we spent several hours watching them, over the space of a few days. (13th- 15th January 2014)