When we look at “occupation”, it refers to the activities we do as individuals or with others to bring joy and purpose to life. As occupational therapists, we use many occupations to improve daily life. For children, their main occupation is playing. Through play, children learn to facilitate growth and development, expand social skills, and improve skills needed for daily routine activities. It crosses all environments and spans across a lifetime.
Playing develops many skills including:
- Executive functioning skills
- Visual-motor skills
- Visual processing
- Sensory integration
- Language development
- Fine motor skills
- Gross motor skills
- Social-emotional development
- Stress relief
One great activity is a playground. The multiple structures children can play on allow various skills to develop. Here are some examples of playground equipment and the skills necessary to engage in these fun activities:
- Swinging works on core and upper body strength, social interactions, sensory processing, grip strength, improving critical thinking skills, and develops coordination skills.
- Climbing ladders and jungle gyms increase overall strengthening, bilateral coordination skills, promote exercising, and balancing skills.
- Monkey bars promote hand-eye coordination skills, core, and upper body strength along with grip strength, sequencing, and postural control.
Some children may struggle with these skills, affecting their ability to engage in playtime tasks. There are some exercises you can do at home to improve these skills and increase success while playing including yoga poses, animal walks, grip strengthening such as Playdough or squirt bottle use, core strengthening activities, and balancing activities.
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Building Play Skills for Healthy Children & Families. (2011). Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients Clients/ChildrenAndYouth/Building-Play-Skills-Healthy.aspx
Christie, Kiley, (2016, July 22). How to Support gross motor skills needed for PLAYGROUND SUCCESS. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from http://mamaot.com/support-gross-motor skills-playground success/#:~:text=Monkey%20Bars%20%E2%80%94%20I%20personally%20LOVE,co rdination%2C%20sequencing%2C%20and%20timing.
Learning Through Play. (2012). Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.aota.org/About Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/ChildrenAndYouth/Play.aspx
Occupational therapy play. (2019, July 11). Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.theottoolbox.com/occupational-therapy-play/
Trautner, T. (2021, March 17). Just swinging, sliding, and climbing! Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/just-a-swinging-sliding-and climbing#:~:text=Swinging%20helps%20develop%20gross%20motor,with%20the%20 evelopment%20of%20balance.
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