Indoor Obstacle Course: Value of Big Body Play for Kids

by Rashmie on June 21, 2012 · 15 comments

in Creative Play,Nurture & Culture

indoor play obstacle course big body play

I’m here finally after a rather long un-intended gap. Some of you (who follow me on Facebook) may have wondered why I haven’t been updating the blog even though I am online and posting regularly on my Facebook page. Friends, the reality is time or rather – the lack of it. Well, not even the lack of it but not having some quiet, focused time – good enough to write an article. Posting on facebook doesn’t really need THAT kind of time.

There are some changes we’re making in our personal lives (more on that later!) and we’re all trying to find a rhythm around it. But then, as you know, rhythm is the easiest thing to be affected but hardest to form. Yet, knowing how important it is to me as a person and for my family, every effort at it is worth it. May be I’ll write about it some day.

Today, I want to write about another issue (besides rhythm) that’s affecting us these days.

Pari’s need for constant physical activity and how not having that enough temporarily triggered irritable and even agitating behaviour! Phew….

Due to the scorching summer, she has to stay indoors till evening (well, even in the evenings the wind that blows is not comforting – it’s hot as if from a kiln). Her friends in the complex where we live, are not available to play until 6 PM – as some have gone out of town due to summer holidays and others, who are here, nap in the afternoons. It’s only in the evenings that she goes out to play. And, once gone, she won’t enter home before 8 PM or sometimes 9 (which is okay with me).

But the afternoons get on her nerves – to the point of she becoming agitated and irritable. We do art activities as always or she reads and plays or watches TV. We play lot of board games, too – like carrom, sort-it-out, un-scramble etc. Or just solve riddles, play mad-libs, pretend play….

Yet, there’s no mistaking her restlessness and the resulting anger and frustration.

It’s the pent-up energy that needs release. When this energy doesn’t find a physical outlet, it pushes the wrong buttons and comes out in the form of irritable behaviour.

But, I did not come to identify the cause immediately. I was baffled for a while and even aghast – looking for possibly wrong reasons. I was constantly tracing it back to myself. That may be MY own behaviour – is setting the wrong example for her.

But, then, I started noticing something else. At meals, even though she sits with us at the table, she can hardly stay put for even a few minutes. She’ll grab a bite – climb onto the sofa from behind, do a little jump, come over to her chair – again by jumping over. Or, she’ll run around the house – the food in her mouth for more than ten minutes without being chewed. We would ask her every now and then to sit still when having food. Doesn’t help much. There was a phase when she would cycle indoors – in our living room. The space is big enough for her to maneuver a cycle.

So, I came to understand that it’s her need for more physical activity – the ‘big body play’ type, the rough-housing type that will release her energy and calm her down.

So, what is ‘big-body play’ ?

As the term suggests – it means activity or play that involves the whole body along with the large muscles – jumping, climbing, chasing, crawling, play-kicking, rolling, tumbling, vigorous dancing, play-wrestling and many more.

These days, I’m always devising ways and games for her to channelize all that energy and make life more exciting for her – HER way. 

Though living in an apartment comes in the way of outdoor play, I’m trying to think out-of-the-box to come up with ways to include more physical activities even when indoors.

This obstacle course is one such idea.

There are a few other fun physical games we play – all set for different times of the day. The mud pie kitchen has been a real hit, too.

There are many ways you can make an outdoor obstacle course. I found that I can make one up quickly and creatively with coloured tape.

Besides creating obstacles with tape, I wanted to use some physical elements to create the sense of obstacle. So, I changed the sofa placement, folded up a carpet to make a balancing beam and went about laying the tape with the sofa as the start point and the end point.

Here are some pics – albeit blurry. Sorry, there was so much action, it was tough capturing a still pose!

The tape obstacle course included many challenges – hopping across really narrow path; skipping on one leg, jumping from one pair of tape-boxes to another by switching legs; crawling, walking on all fours…

Even reaching out for the ice/cheese on a plate by stretch full body!

indoor play ideas for kids children

We even did a one-minute challenge using a sand clock.

playful learning big-body play

So, the idea is to finish as many rounds as possible in a minute. This really set her adrenalin gushing. She was moving like a ninja as if every step and action was programmed into her system! It was a sight to watch.

roughhouse play importance for kids

She went on to do many one-minute challenges. I participated with her, too. Good for my own health and fitness. ;-)

indoor play fun for kids mommy labs

I won’t make generalizations here by saying all kids crave tons of physical activity or big-body play and hence every parent should try to find ways to get them involved. Each child is unique and so are his/her needs and passions – just like we adults have.

Even then, most kids – especially boys – need more physical activity than parents usually estimate.

We tend to think “oh he/she goes to swimming classes twice a week” or that “he digs in the backyard every morning”or that “she goes to dance class every other day”. We assume that one such organized activity is good enough. We couldn’t be far enough from it.

More often than not, these opportunities are not good enough. They probably most likely need much more large-muscle play (and more hours doing that) – the kind that will burn off all that piled-up energy; rejuvenate their minds; boost their confidence.

Physical activity is lesser in schools.

They spend most part of the time sitting in the class-rooms or playing structured activities directed by the adults. Besides, couple of 30-minutes recess in a 6-hour day is just not enough. All the more reason to make sure their need for physical activity is met when they come back home so their pent-up energy is released.

Here’re couple of books that you can read to learn more about big-body play and why it’s so beneficial for growing children – irrespective of gender.

  • Another useful book calledThe Art of Roughhousing‘ that says – how rough-and-tumble play can nurture close connections, solve behavior problems, boost confidence, and more. Drawing inspiration from gymnastics, martial arts, ballet, traditional sports, and even animal behavior, the authors present dozens of illustrated activities for children and parents to enjoy together—everything from the “Sumo Dead Lift” to the “Rogue Dumbo.” These delightful games are fun, free, and contain many surprising health benefits for parents. So put down those electronic games and get ready to rumble! (review from amazon)

These books reinforce my own lesson learned – that – when children don’t find enough channels to release their energy – in a big way, it manifests as behaviour issues – irritability, crankiness, aggression and anger. Even hitting. Gosh!

Thankfully, Pari’s problem has not reached such proportions. I’m glad I’ve identified this early on.

What about you?

How are you as a parent and/or Early Childhood Educator making sure your child is getting enough opportunities for physical activities and big-body play?