The Importance of Playgrounds: Vestibular/ Proprioceptive Activities

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.

 

greenwood park zip wire 7 oct 14
Zip wire provides vestibular input.
greenwood park tyre swing 7 oct 14
The tyre swing provides a circular movement as well as backwards and forwards motion.
greenwood park swing 7 oct 14
Swinging can be very calming.
greenwood park seesaw 7 oct 14
Squiggle enjoyed walking along the see-saw so she could feel the movement through her whole body.
greenwood park roundabout 7 oct 14
More vestibular input on the roundabout.
greenwood park sensory mud 7 oct 14
Mud is also a fantastic sensory activity.
greenwood park running 7 oct 14
Space to run- up and down hills and over bridges as well as on flat land.
greenwood park climbing frame 7 oct 14
Climbing provides proprioceptive input.
greenwood park tactile maze 7 oct 14
These are lovely tactile activities. Squiggle had far more patience doing these mazes with her finger than she has for paper and pencil ones.
greenwood park different ways of using equipment 7 oct 14
Using the equipment in different ways (climbing over the tunnel and going down the steps like a crab).
greenwood park slide 7 oct 14
Slides are also great sensory input. She enjoyed using them in different ways too.
greenwood park chilling 7 oct 14
Of course taking time to relax is important too!

Our Week in Pictures: Water Play

Water play is therapeutic and relaxing for Squiggle but it is so much more fun when it’s outdoors and on a large scale, so there is nothing like sunshine to brighten her mood, just for that reason alone!

 

 

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Embracing Unexpected Learning Opportunities

This morning Squiggle was awoken by the sound of a loud noise coming from outside. She was clearly anxious but I reassured her it was nothing to worry about and went to investigate so I could tell her more about it. It turned out our neighbours were having their trees cut back by some professional tree cutters. I realised this was something we could either try not to ignore, whilst Squiggle got more and more distressed by the noise, or I could see what I could do to turn it into a positive experience for her. So I excitedly called her to the window and enthusiastically explained what they were doing, then invited her to watch for as long as she wanted. Thankfully, this successfully turned it around and not only relieved her anxiety about the unexpected noise disruption but it sparked lots of interest and discussion about nature, uses for wood and recycling, then led to some lovely role-play with her toys too. It was great how something she was initially ‘on edge’ about and therefore could have caused alot of stress, ended up being a really positive learning experience.

 

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Lowering down a large log with their rope pulley.
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Chopping the logs using chainsaws
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The wood chipper
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Squiggle role playing using her toys
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She enjoyed recreating the events she observed

Princess Diana Memorial Playground, London

Princess Diana Memorial Playground is in Kensington Gardens next to the palace. It has an excellent range of equipment suitable for children under 12, all adults must be accompanied by a child. There is a queuing system for when the playground reaches maximum capacity but on the plus side this really makes a difference to the playground not feeling too over-crowded, especially during peak season when other places can often be uncomfortably packed. Further details of this playground can be found on the website https://www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/kensington-gardens/things-to-see-and-do/sports-and-leisure/diana-memorial-playground

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There are giant musical instruments set in pretty natural surroundings.
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Lovely natural wooden playground with lots of equipment.
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Sensory garden
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Wet sand
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There is an impressive pirate ship in the centre of the playground.
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There is a stream to paddle in with a stone crocodile.
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The playground is set in beautiful surroundings and it has a wonderful calm vibe.
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Great shade for a warm day.

Development is not a race- the joy of seeing fine motor skill progress at her own pace

Here is squiggle’s writing development over the past few months, since she first decided to pick up a pen in order to try to write:

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This was her mark making in February 2013
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This was her ‘writing’ in May 2013
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June 2013- starting to form letters, some correctly. This says ‘book, bus, london’
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‘happy fathers day’ (15th June 2013)
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‘grandad’ (written backwards!) June 2013

And here is her drawing development (see the creative development page for 2011-2012 for comparison)…

milenium wheel drawing 11.03.13
London eye drawing March 2013
map of st albans 08.04.13
This is a map of St Albans she drew in April 2013
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This is her drawing of a person 9th May 2013
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Big Ben drawn and cut out independently May 2013
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London eye and a london bus June 2013
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London bus with a funny face drawn in late June 2013
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People in a garden looking at flowers June 2013
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Crocodile June 2013
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Observation drawing from a book 25th June 2013
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Funfair wheel 9th July 2013 (the circles in the middle are the cogs she noticed while riding on it)
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A very busy paddling pool! July 2013
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She copied the picture her dad had drawn for her and then added her own ideas to. July 2013
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Pigs on a swing 10th July 2013

Supporting current interests and finding new ways of ‘strewing’

Squiggle loves it when we have our food shopping delivered, she loves seeing what colour the van will be then helping to carry the bags into the kitchen and finding out what was ordered. So I decided to turn this into a potential opportunity by ordering an alphablocks magazine, since ordinarily she would ignore magazines on the supermarket shelves and reject any suggestion to buy one, but I thought it might be another useful method to help develop her reading and writing skills. She found it ‘hidden’ in the shopping bag and was very excited she had been bought a ‘present’. She couldn’t wait to play the free word game before enthusiastically asking me to help her read the magazine together. Great result for my new strewing method!

spelling and word game 10.05
Playing the word making game, spelling out ‘pig’

A couple of days ago we were walking to the park when we walked past a man with a poodle. Previously nervous around dogs, she unexpectedly put her hand out to stroke the dog as he went past. Myself and the very supportive owner gently explained it is best to check a dog is friendly and wants strokes before reaching out, then gave her the opportunity to pet the very excited dog who kept licking her, which she loved! Later on we walked past a lady walking her dog and Squiggle loudly asked if it was ok to stroke her, which the dog (and owner) were happy for her to do. The rest of the day was spent talking about dogs, playing with her dog sylvanian toys and acting out dogs. Fast forward to Saturday. After music class we were deciding where to go next when I remembered an email I had received from Littlebird about a Pet Show at Earls Court and thought it would be a good way to extend her new found interest in dogs. We drove down there and had a lovely time learning about different breeds of dogs and enjoyed seeing other animals to. She particularly loved seeing a dancing dog!

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Outside London Pet Show
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Stroking the horse during a grooming demonstration
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Poodle
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Irish Red Setter
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Greyhound
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Rottweiler
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She loved meeting the dog character
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Dancing with a cat!
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Petting a hamster

Since we were close by we then popped to the Science Museum to play in the Basement.

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Water play
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Quiet ‘room’
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Light and colour
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Working steam engine
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Working wheel

On the way home we drove past Big Ben and the London Eye, she was so excited because we happened to pass by at exactly 3 o’clock so we heard the chimes. She had been hoping to hear them so was exceptional timing! A lovely end to a lovely day.

Sensory Activities

Baking provides lots of sensory input.
Playgrounds offer plenty of vestibular input.
Light ups and flashing toys offer visual input.
This sensory room has lots of toys and resources for sensory input.
Tactile input- porridge oats

Tactile input with rice, porridge oats and pasta messy play.
Sand play is a great sensory activity.
Wet and dry sand play offers different tactile sensory input.
Science museum water play
Sensory play with popcorn (olfactory and tactile input)
There are lots of sensory products that offer sensory stimulation, such as this squidgy tactile mice and cheese.
Flashing light squidgy stars- great sensory toy.
Snow provides excellent sensory input!
Jelly stones tactile activity.
Soil is also a lovely natural sensory resource.
Bubble wrap provides auditory and tactile stimulation.
Water play in the garden.
Vestibular input from trampolines.