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!

Butterfly World (St Albans, Hertfordshire)

Last week we visited Butterfly World again. We have been here a number of times both on our own and with friends, as well as this we have attended a lovely toddler birthday party here a few years ago and organised two home education trips also. It has a very chilled out vibe and there is more to see and do than people might assume. Points of interest in addition to the butterfly house includes natural playgrounds, designer gardens, an ant colony and other insects. There are also handling sessions and talks during school holidays and at weekends. Butterfly World is now closed for the season but re-opens next March. For more information visit the website http://www.butterflyworldproject.com/

 

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Butterflies feeding in the tropical butterfly house
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Studying stick insects
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Leaf cutter ants
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There is lots of space to walk and play. At the top of the hill is a giant ant sculpture
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Natural playgrounds
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Natural surroundings to explore
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The magnifying glasses proved to be a good purchase from the gift shop!
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Designer gardens
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The gardens are fascinating, very unique
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This garden is designed ‘Honey I shrunk the Kids’ style, allowing visitors to imagine they are a tiny creature in the garden.