Sometimes, the most simple of activities can yield such amazing results. Thinking back to my childhood, I look back so fondly to creating ‘secret hideouts’ in the overgrown thrush on the side of my house, catching caterpillars from over-grown, moss-covered trees in my yard, feeling the tickle sensation of their legs as they crawled up my arms, and rolling down the snow-covered hill of the park near my home, the snow seeping through the parts not covered by my layers of coats, scarves, and socks.
In a world heavily focused on technical experiences, these types of imaginative-based play opportunities have less of an emphasis in day-to-day life. As a mom, I set up my home, routines, and environment to allow my children to value these types of more ‘simple’ and basic activities.
My goal, when possible, in my practice, is to bring my clients as close to naturalistic experiences as possible. Does that mean that I ignore the Ipad, or the great therapeutic products available? Not at all! I have a ton of these toys, tools, and supports, and utilize them when necessary. (Have you seen my playroom?:) ) They can be extremely effective! I just think that its important to remember that some of the best activities can be done with utilizing the child themselves, or objects within the surrounding natural environment.
Steps to creating our child-generated chalk obstacle course:
1. Depending on the skill-level of the child, I may create the entire course, draw one side, or allow the child to draw out the entire course (either collaboratively, or individually-depending on the number of children within the group). The course may be straight, curved, bent, zig-zag, or a combination.
2. Children utilized chalk to create boxes along the course.
3. I had the children draw out different items on each box. Some items were things to jump on-what they like (i.e.-candy, smiles, laughter, etc.), and other items were items were things that they had to jump over (i.e.-zombies, ‘shh, there’s a meeting’, lava, etc.).
4. Utilizing different color chalk to help create a visual, children drew out a ‘+’ symbol next to squares where they were supposed to jump onto, and a ‘-‘ symbol next to squares where they were supposed to either leap or jump over.
5. Depending on the skill level of the child, children would then jump (both feet), or leap (one foot) over the ‘-‘ squares, and onto the ‘+’ squares. To make the task even harder, I would ask some children to do different movements, such as hopping, etc.
6. To add an imaginative play component to the activity, I had the kids line up adjacent to the squares, and act out the scenarios before moving onto the next one. For example, if they were next to the ‘Shhh, its a meeting’ box, kids would tiptoe and whisper.
7. Of course, they had to sign it.
Before ending the session, I made sure that the children looked around, were mindful of the beautiful weather, and breathed in the clean, fresh air, appreciating it as it filled their lungs. What a beautiful way to start the week.