We usually spend a lot of time outside so there is plenty of opportunity for the children to engage in active, gross motor play. During the long winter months our outdoor activity is occasionally limited by extreme weather conditions so I add some indoor physical activities like yoga, resistance band exercises and obstacle courses. I have a a bosu ball, a small balance beam, some balance pods and tunnels that can be used to enhance these activities but outdoors remains the preferred space for gross motor play.
Summer 2021 was a particularly active period as I temporarily used preschool spaces for some additional school age children. Having a group of older children meant our schedule was more flexible – we could go on longer outings and more organized group games/activities were possible. However, in the fall when the older children all returned to school I enrolled three new infants which resulted in a drastic change to our schedule.
We still had some long periods of outdoor time in the fall but I was a little concerned that by winter the two remaining older preschoolers may not be able to get as much outdoor play/exercise as they were accustomed to. It was a bit of an impulse purchase when I stumbled across an ad for this Swedish ladder/stall bar/jungle gym/exercise wall – and I had the perfect space to install it too.
Of course the children’s initial excitement about the ‘indoor play structure’ was anticipation for somewhat reckless behaviours that I wouldn’t let them do indoors – news flash – still can’t. The various activities were introduced gradually so it wasn’t overwhelming and we could discuss the necessary safety rules.
They soon discovered that using the monkey bars, rings, ladder and climbing rope were not easy activities. They needed to develop more skills before they would be able to get far on these. Even the school age children were surprised at how difficult it is to use only strength without the assistance of momentum like they could on a large outdoor play structure.
Luckily the stall bar allows us to do strength and flexibility exercises any time throughout the day without the extra time to set up the fall mats and other equipment. The children and I have done strength training exercises with resistance bands in the past.
However, we’ve had some limitations on which exercises we could do because we had very few anchor points available and the children are different sizes. The stall bar provides various anchor points for the resistance bands so it is easy to switch from one exercise to another and to adapt the exercise to the height of each child.
They are very interested in watching their reflection in the mirror and sometimes have difficulty focusing on the actual exercise because there is so much giggling. The infatuation with the mirror reminds me of some of the guys I’ve seen at the gym – hilarious!
This handstand backwards walk up and down the stall bar is definitely one of their favourite activities – and it is so great for the vestibular and proprioceptive systems 🙂
Another favourite exercise is the leg raises – great for core strength!
There are bars low enough for the toddlers to use if they want to try and high enough for me to use to demonstrate the exercises. The system is strong enough to support my adult son doing pull-ups from the top bar – I can’t reach the top bar without a stool, nor can I do a pull up LOL.
Stretches are popular too. I model stretches often during the day especially after spending prolonged periods sitting on the floor with the children or carrying cranky babies.
We use a minute timer for our stretches. It is so rewarding when after practicing the same stretches every day the children go from ‘It is too hard, I can’t do it’ to ‘What!? That was a minute already?’ when the timer beeps. They also realize that if they stretch on an ‘easy’ bar for a minute first, then they can sometimes reach a higher bar afterwards – one that was not initially possible.
We discuss the importance of choosing the bar height that is an appropriate stretch for you – not competing with others. Someone who is tall may not be as flexible as someone who is shorter so their height does not necessarily determine which bar they use. There are not many of us that can naturally do this;
When I first installed the stall bar I was a little apprehensive that I may need to be constantly redirecting children who tried to climb the wall – and I really prefer indirect guidance so I worried I may be setting them up for failure. I have been pleasantly surprised that it hasn’t been an issue.
Even the babies – who like to climb on the toys shelves – don’t climb the bars. Their favourite activity is rolling things down the ramp.
Sure, we still much prefer playing outdoors but this purchase has provided a lot of indoor fun too – and it doesn’t have a screen.