The almighty monkey bars. Always sought after in the playground by monkeys big and small. With so many benefits for your child you want to encourage as much time on them as you can. As wonderful as monkey bars are your child might not be able to swing from bar to bar. Why may that be?
Before we take a look the 3 possible reasons why your little one us yet to conquer this all-time favourite apparatus, let’s look at just 5 of the reasons why we have to get your child swinging about as soon as possible.
Increased upper body strength. This isn’t just about strong arms and shoulders but importantly strong hands. Gripping the bars builds strength and awareness in your child’s hands. This strength can then in turn help with fine motor skills like handwriting.
Increased core strength. Core strength is so important for children. Having adequate core strength increases gross motor skills, fine motor skills and improves posture.
Improved flexibility. Children can have poor posture but swinging from bar to bar or even simply hanging improves shoulder flexibility. Improved shoulder flexibility promotes better posture.
A huge positive self-esteem response. The monkey bars have a clear starting point and end point. As frustrating as falling short is, once your little one makes the full journey there are millions of internal fist pumps going on. Make sure you add yours to the pile when they succeed at it. It is a big deal so don’t brush it off!
The monkey bars require focus, effort and muscle contractions. These 3 elements all help behaviour regulation. It feels great for the child so get them monkeying about if they are in need of a bit of time out.
With all these great benefits in mind, what might be stopping your little monkey from making that first journey across all the bars.
Lack of confidence. My 7-year-old boy broke both bones in both arms (not on monkey bars) over Christmas 2019 and doing the monkey bars was a part of his rehabilitation. He was so nervous the first time he climbed up the steps to begin. I simply looked him in the eye and said “I promise not to let you go”. From there I hugged him from the front (bonus cuddles) and he grabbed on to the first bar. I let his arms take the load a little (without me letting go) and then he dropped into my arms. This is what you can try with your scared child. Either hugging from the front and they “swing from bar to bar” or if you have a light child hold from behind. This is a great first step for your child to experience the bars and the upcoming task ahead.
Not enough strength, yet. Hanging and grip strength is challenging (try it yourself) but can be developed with practise. Kids love it if you time them doing an activity so pop your child on one bar and count how long they can hold for. They will get stronger with repeated efforts. I played this with my boy to help him get stronger during his rehab and he loved it. “Count me today daddy” he would say. “No worries superstar. Go for it!”
Lack of exposure.
Unless a child has ample exposure to climbing or hanging it is very unlikely for a child to make the full distance across the bars first shot. Regular visits to the playground though will absolutely have your child mastering the monkey bars in no time. My little guy started with a 5 second hold with me helping him, to doing up and back in just under 6 weeks. All after being in double above elbow casts. Kids adapt to repetition, never give up on them.
With your help your struggling child will develop all the amazing benefits of playing on the monkey bars and be swinging across in no time. Ride the journey with them and celebrate BIG when they achieve that elusive full traverse all the way across.