Wheelbarrow walking is a dynamic activity for children that contributes significantly to their physical development, enhancing strength, coordination, and balance.
Wheelbarrow walking is a playful activity where one person walks on their hands while another person supports their legs in the air.
The person walking on their hands maintains balance and coordination while the supporting person holds the child’s feet.
It requires teamwork, strength, and communication between the participants.
This playful activity can be performed indoors or outdoors, proving as great tool and an exciting means for children to navigate spaces. Notably, pediatric occupational therapists utilize wheelbarrow walking to improve children’s daily living skills.
Understanding Wheelbarrow Walking
Wheelbarrow walking is a specific occupational and physical therapy exercise designed to improve balance and coordination in children. In this activity, children are guided by pediatric occupational therapists to maneuver a wheelbarrow filled with objects, enabling the strengthening of strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Wheelbarrow Walking Benefits for Children
There are many benefits of wheelbarrow walking to help young ones achieve developmental milestones. These are as follows:
- Core Strengthening: Managing a wheelbarrow filled with objects effectively engages and improves the core strength of a child.
- Scapular Stabilization: This activity aids in stabilizing the scapular muscles, located in the shoulder blades.
- Trunk Extension: As children reach out to grab the handles of the wheelbarrow, they extend their trunk, contributing to spinal flexibility.
- Hand strengthening: Grasping the wheelbarrow handles boosts hand strength.
- Balance and Coordination: This activity is particularly useful in enhancing balance and coordination, particularly when an empty wheelbarrow is initially used.
- Bilateral Coordination: Since wheelbarrow walking requires simultaneous use of both sides of the body, bilateral coordination is improved.
- Gross Motor Skills: Large muscle groups are used during this activity, boosting fine and gross motor skills.
- Cardiovascular Endurance: Wheelbarrow walking serves as an effective exercise for improving cardiovascular endurance.
- Wrist and Shoulder Strengthening: The process of pushing and pulling a wheelbarrow aids in enhancing wrist and shoulder strength.
Risks of Wheelbarrow Walking
There are no known risks associated with wheelbarrow walking. However, minor risks such as falls, injuries, and fatigue may occur. So, as with any form of exercise, it is always important to discuss these risks with your doctor or therapist before beginning this activity.
Wheelbarrow Walking Exercises for Kids
Wheelbarrow walking is a great way for children to get exercise and improve their balance and coordination. There are many games that can be played with wheelbarrow walking.
Many youngsters are a big fan of multi-piece toys like shape sorters and puzzles so integrating these into the wheelbarrow walks works a treat!
Here are a few ideas to get your child started:
- Forward Walking: This exercise helps to improve balance and coordination. The person behind should the kid’s feet tightly while the kid walks forward.
- Side to Side Walking: This exercise helps to improve balance and coordination.
- Obstacle Course: This exercise helps to improve coordination and balance. The therapist or parent can create an obstacle course for the kid to navigate with the wheelbarrow. This can be done indoors or outdoors.
- Wheelbarrow Races: This exercise is great for young ones who like to compete. An adult can time the children as they race around a course with the wheelbarrow.
- Relay Race: This exercise is great for young ones who like to compete. An adult can divide the children into teams and have them race each other with the wheelbarrow.
- Scavenger Hunt: This game is great for young ones who like to find things. Hide objects around the room or yard and have the child find them with the wheelbarrow.
- Puzzle: This game is great for little ones who like to solve puzzles. Give the child a puzzle piece to put together with the wheelbarrow.
- Shape Sorter: Shape sorters are a great way to help young ones learn about shapes. Give the child a shape to find and put in the wheelbarrow.
- Treasure Hunt: This game is great for young ones who like to find things. Make a treasure list and hide objects around the room or yard. Then, have the child find them with the wheelbarrow.
- Backward Walking: You can have your little one perform most of the above ideas backwards. This is an excellent way to make the activity novel. Also, you can combine forward and backwards to make the activity extra tricky.
Steps to Train Kids to Wheelbarrow Walk
Introducing this activity can be extremely beneficial for your little ones. Here are the steps to have your kid start wheelbarrow walking:
- Positioning and Preparation: Choose an area for your child to practice wheelbarrow walking, whether indoors or outdoors. Ensure the space is clear of obstacles such as furniture or toys to ensure safety.
- Warm-Up: Before starting the activity, it’s important to warm up your child’s muscles. They can engage in light exercises like stretching or walking to loosen their muscles and prepare for the activity.
- Starting Slowly: Begin the wheelbarrow walking exercise by assisting your child into the wheelbarrow position. They should place their hands on the ground, while you lift their lower body, creating a wheelbarrow-like position. Start with small, slow steps forward, allowing your child to adjust to the movement and build strength and coordination.
- Gradual Progression: As your child becomes more comfortable and confident, gradually increase the speed of their wheelbarrow walking. However, always prioritize safety and be cautious of any obstacles in the area.
- Supervision and Support: It’s important to closely supervise your child during the activity to ensure proper form and safety. Pay attention to their posture and provide support as needed, especially in the early stages of learning.
- Increasing Difficulty: Once your child has mastered the basic wheelbarrow walking technique, you can introduce additional challenges to further enhance their skills. This can include adding obstacles to the course, increasing the speed, or incorporating walking on uneven surfaces under supervision.
- Variations and Creativity: Explore different variations and exercises related to wheelbarrow walking. You can find additional ideas and exercises from reliable sources or consult with your occupational therapist for more tailored activities.
- Enjoyment and Encouragement: The most important aspect of wheelbarrow walking is to have fun! Encourage your child, provide positive reinforcement, and make the activity enjoyable for them. Celebrate their progress and motivate them to continue improving their coordination, balance, and strength.
Follow the above ideas to support your child enjoy the activity while improving their coordination, balance, and strength.
Other Variations & Tips That Work for Every Child
As we all know that every child is unique and has different needs. So, while playing these games with your child, please keep the following things in mind:
Distance & Speed:
Begin with short distances and then gradually increase it as your child gets better at the activity. Shorter distances will help your child to stay motivated and not get discouraged. For example, move the puzzle board a little further away so that your child has to walk a bit further to reach it.
The speed of the wheelbarrow walk should also be increased gradually. Slow speeds will help your child to focus on their coordination and balance. As they get better at it, you can increase the speed to challenge them further.
Some kids may find it difficult to coordinate their arms and legs while doing this activity. If your child is having difficulty, please help them or provide assistance. For example, you can hold their hands or help them to move their legs.
Make sure your child is breathing properly while doing this activity. They should not hold their breath while walking with the wheelbarrow. It’s crucial to help them to stay relaxed and take deep breaths while doing this activity.
At first, it can be difficult for your kid to turn. So consider walking in a straight line or using a small space such as a hallway. When your child has the core muscles turned on, they will be able to turn more easily and the person holding the child’s legs and feet can provide better support to them.
Some children may need the motivation to walk forward. You can incorporate their favorite toy or activity into the game to help them stay engaged. For example, if your child loves cars, you can put race track or a toy car in front of the wheelbarrow and have them walk to it.
Hold Them in Just the Right Spot
While wheelbarrow walking, you need to hold your kid in just the right spot. If you hold them too high, they will likely fall forward. If you hold them too low, they will likely fall backward.
The best spot is usually somewhere in the middle of their back. You can also try holding them under their arms. The arm pits are a great spot to help kids feel more stable while they are walking.
Involve Core Muscles
When your kid is wheelbarrow walking, they should use their core muscles to help stabilize their body. If they are not using their core muscles, they will likely tire quickly. To help them improve their core strength, have them suck in their stomach and tighten their butt muscles.
Use Proper Footwear
It is important to wear proper footwear while doing this activity. Shoes that have good support and traction will help to prevent slips and falls.
Use Safety Measure:
It’s crucial to ensure the safety of your little one during these activities. Consult an occupational therapist and if they recommend knee pads, elbow pads, or any other safety gear, consider using them to minimize the risk of injury.
Wear Comfortable Clothing
Make sure to wear comfortable clothing that does not restrict movement. Avoid clothing with drawstrings or anything that could get caught on the wheelbarrow.
Number of Repetitions:
Kids tend to naturally build repetition into activities. Consider having your little one carry just one piece back at a time initially. For example, put a puzzle at one end and the pieces at the other end. Now, put one puzzle piece on your little one’s back as if they are a wheelbarrow picking up loads.
As they walk to the other end, have them drop off the piece and pick up another one. They will automatically repeat the activity until all the pieces are replaced without you prompting them.
If you notice that they started feeling tired, it’s better to add more than one piece to the wheelbarrow. Doing so will help them complete the activity without getting too tired.
A wheelbarrow walk is a great activity to boost the arm and the core strength. Additionally, this activity supports young ones’ coordinated activity due to the requirement to walk reciprocally with the support of their hands while keeping their heads up to navigate in the right way.
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