7 Elements of Play: Brachiating

October 21, 2016

We’ve been talking about the 7 elements of play and how these activities lead to a child’s success in the classroom. Our sixth element is brachiating.

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What is Brachiating?

If you’re like many people, you may not know what brachiating is so let’s start by defining the term.

Brachiation is the activity of swinging from one arm to another on overhead equipment.

Brachiating activityWhy is this important? Well, because swinging from one rung to the next one makes the brain work the same – left, right in an alternating pattern which is important in a child’s neurological development.

Unfortunately, you don’t see a lot of preschool playground equipment for this activity. As a society, we tend to think that young kids are not strong enough to do this. Instead, what we should consider is installing playground equipment low enough so that a child can raise his or her arms up and do the alternating activity while standing on the ground.

The important part of the activity is the alternating pattern, not that the child be suspended in the air.

We don’t have this equipment on our preschool playground so I take the kids down to the elementary playground. I stand below the kids and hold their feet while they do the hand-over-hand activity.

What are the benefits of brachiating activities?

  • Strengthens the upper body and develops grip strength
  • Increases endurance, flexibility and general coordination
  • Promotes kinesthetic awareness and rhythmic body movement
  • Develops gross, small and fine motor skills
  • Helps develop hand-eye coordination
  • Helps develop visual perception of distance

How does this translate to the classroom?

Do you see children who always seem to be tired or have a hard time making it through the school day? Get them out doing some overhead climbing to build their endurance. This improves upper body muscular strength and endurance as well as hand-eye coordination.

It also helps children develop critical thinking and conflict resolution skills.

For example, a child has to figure out the best way to get from point A to point B. Is that going to be by moving hand-over-hand across the bars or by grabbing the bar with the left hand, then with the right hand?

Other ways brachiating leads to success in the classroom:

  • coloring activitiesFine motor skills are needed for coloring, cutting, writing, painting; all the activities that are a precursor for elementary school.
  • Upper body strength enables children to sit comfortably at a table or sit at circle time.
  • Kinesthetic awareness gives children a better understanding of personal space, helping them stand in line without bumping into their peers.
  • Communication skills are vital to the playground so they learn to talk to one another, learn to take turns and how to resolve conflicts.
  • For many preschoolers, this is the first time they have experienced something like this and there are a lot of things to learn about actions and consequences.

Brachiating helps kids understand actions and consequences. For instance, when a child jumps up and is hanging there, he or she can do one of two things: either drop to his or her feet or yell for help. Or maybe you have a child coming from each direction who meet in the middle. They need to decide which way to go and who will need to turn around.

Play Matters. Play Moves.

Brachiating activitiesPlay is incredibly important to the development of children’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical development as well as creativity and imagination. It is essential to brain development and the development of certain reasoning abilities.

Learn more about how the seven elements of play on the playground affects a child’s growth and ability to function in the classroom.

Play Learn Grow TogetherWant to learn more? I give an educational presentation about the importance of playground activities, how these different elements of play contribute to a child’s success in the classroom.

Play, Learn and Grow with Us!
Jami Murdock Jami Murdock

Jami has been an early childhood educator for 25 years. She operated an “in home” daycare center for 13 years and has been teaching preschool for the past 12 years. She has experience working with children on the autism spectrum and sensory processing dysfunction. Jami presents on “How Important are Playground Activities to a Child’s Success in the Classroom.” Her passion is her family and her work with children.

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