Working as a pediatric occupational therapist for 45 years and almost exclusively with children on the spectrum for the last 20 years, I’ve learned an important fact: children on the spectrum like deep touch. This isn’t news and it’s why parents hear about the benefits of a child wearing a tight vest, playing squishy games and why Temple Grandin invented the Squeeze Machine. What I’ve learned is that another way to stimulate and satisfy the proprioceptive system is jumping.
I bring ropes to jump over and a stool to jump down from and whatever novel thing I can find, like foam noodles and ladders, to bring jumping to the classroom. All the kids love it but I do it because I want the child with autism to join right in — and they do!
I want parents to have this awareness and know this trick but I know most parents don’t have rope and stools or foam noodles…but they do have a broom.
Hence, here is the broomstick game. Let your child jump but with finesse.
Jumping on one foot stimulates the balance, the vestibular system. So does jumping with a twirl. Jumping backward and sideways increases coordination and body awareness.
Use this game and all its variations or make up your own. Jumping matters and so does playing with your child. The Broomstick game does both!
The Broomstick Game
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This is a good way to begin this game with kids because no one has any idea what the broomstick game is. Even reluctant players will be curious. But you know that you are about to introduce a game that will delight kids, especially those on the spectrum that like jumping and others proprioceptive and vestibular skills.
You start the game by laying the broomstick on the ground and saying:
- I’m challenging you. Can you jump over that?
They will probably do it very easily and laugh at your challenge but after awhile, you up the ante:
- Can you jump over it backwards?
- Can you jump over it on one foot?
- Can you jump over standing on the other foot?
- What about jumping over it sideways?
- Can you jump sideways, facing the other way?
- Backward on one foot?
- Jump over it and twirl?
Once your player has accomplished all those movements — or tried for some approximation of some of these movements (and trying counts for a lot), you can challenge them even more.
- Raise the broomstick up a smidgen and ask them to jump over this new height. You want it high enough to jump over and low enough so they don’t trip.
- Add any of the variations or let your child or children make-up new ones. Then, you have to do what that player says and they hold the broom! (kids love that)
- If you are playing with more than one child, make a rule that everyone has to start from the left or right side of the broom, not both. They’ll soon learn why. Two bodies going in the opposite directions will collide!
- Change the game, when it’s time, and hold the broomstick up high. Challenge your child to go under it WITHOUT any body part touching any part of the broom. I pretend the broomstick is hot and sizzles when I touch it — zzzzzz.
Heh Heh. Because as the game goes on, the broomstick keeps getting lower and lower and lower until it’s belly-slide with-the-tushie-tucked time!
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Sensory Play Ideas
If you joined in the jumping game above, uh…you might want to beg off doing this one. But, I bet the next time you say, “Anyone want to play the Broomstick Game?” you’ll get some immediate takers!
Want more game ideas with ordinary things?
Go to amazon.com/author/barbarasher-gameslady for more children’s games and check out the newest book: Everyday Games for Sensory Processing Disorder: 100 Playful Activities To Empower Children With Sensory Differences.
This article was featured in Issue 47 – Motherhood – An Unconditional Love