Who doesn’t love a good game of ‘JUMP and CRASH‘? Aside from how super fun it is to launch off a ‘platform’ into a soft landing; it actually has some pretty great benefits from a sensory and developmental perspective too! This post shows how our 4 year old and I created a simple indoor crash zone recently. With my OT hat on, I’ll also talk a little about why jumping and crashing is so good for kids.
Although there are plenty of awesome ready made jump and crash zones, such as: trampolines, sand dunes, fresh/soft snow, gym mats, and inflatable jumping castles – this DIY idea is simple enough for any home!
I feel I should warn you though, there is nothing fancy about this crash zone set up. It was as easy as pulling out whatever soft flooring we could find from the trundle of B’s bed (foam pieces, ‘thermorest’ mats), cushions, pillows, large soft toys, a fold out kids’ sofa, and to top it off – the doona (duvet) from the bed!
Getting everything in place involves loads of ‘heavy work’; pulling, dragging, lifting, pushing and pressing. And all of that muscle effort is great for muscle strength, tone and body awareness, as well as being really calming and regulating for the sensory system.
Then it was time to test it out! (Please excuse the blurry photos, my subject was moving really fast!)
Jumping, crashing, and returning to the launching spot… over and over… is a great movement based activity. In particular, the linear movement (up/down bouncing) helps to organise the sensory system. The repetition also provides terrific motor planning practise – organising and sequencing efficient, well-timed movements (climbing, preparing, waiting until the count of 3, jumping, landing, recovering).
Additionally, the crash itself, whether on all fours, or the side, front, or back of the body, provides exceptionally powerful tactile sensory feedback (joint pressure/impact) for improved body awareness.
Once he’d got into the swing of jumping and crashing – out came the bear suit (of course) and a whole variety of different animals had a turn! I particularly enjoyed the meer cat!
Crawling back after each crash landing, (on hands and knees/feet) provides an excellent opportunity for ‘heavy work’ and deep pressure/firm touch (proprioceptive) sensory input also. In fact, in the clinic, I often try to encourage kids to take a long route back to the start, preferably over uneven surfaces. It is a lovely opportunity for sensory feedback which in turn builds body awareness and motor planning (including balance and coordination).
If children find it hard to focus, attend, or position and move their bodies effectively to engage in play/learning, this kind of activity can also help them to regulate!
Have you set up a crash zone at your place? As a kid I remember us pulling out the seat cushions from our couches/sofas!
** Safety note: This kind of ‘risky play’ is wonderful for kids – if the cushions move and they feel the hard floor too much after one jump, it’s a great opportunity for them to exercise their problem solving skills! However, supervision and guidance as appropriate and necessary is always recommended. Some kids might be perfectly practised and competent to throw in a triple backflip with a 1 /2 twist and pike … whilst others may need reminding of the best choices for jumps/crashes (“Hey! How about you stick to either your left or right side?!”). Basically, whatever you decide is the right amount of support to avoid a head or spinal injury!
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