Most people seemed surprised when I mention Parkour and childcare together. I’m sure that they imagine dangerous stunts and reckless behaviour that is completely inappropriate for a childcare environment.
To be honest, that was my reaction too when my teenage son first engaged in this activity. I warned him never to practice within view of any of the children or even talk about it when they were present.
Then, I spent some time watching him practice and listening to him and researching the topic on my own…and I changed my mind.
Sure it entails running, jumping, climbing and a bit of acrobatics but the focus is on control and precision. Instead of being competitive it involves collaboration, responsibility and play. In fact, the more I learned about it the more I thought – this is a great activity for children!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’d encourage toddlers to jump off buildings but the basic skills training can be adapted for all ages – and they think it is fun to exercise.
All summer my son has been playing in the yard with us and showing the children some of the skills and training he can do in our small space. The children are practicing and learning about spatial awareness, balance and their own physical abilities. They are setting personal goals, problem solving and overcoming obstacles. It’s perfect!
This three-year-old lands like this every time but never falls back — she has learned to lean forward and balance.
Even the two year old can balance on one leg on a log. What fun!
During our outdoor play time one of the children built an interesting structure. When I asked what it was she replied “A fire” The other children had been playing a follow-the-leader/obstacle course game and asked her if they could use her ‘fire’ to set off their ‘fireworks’. She agreed so they built an extension to channel the fire to the fireworks station.
The obstacle course was redesigned — over the balance beam, across the walkway, jump on and off the log, and complete a circle on the stepping stones. One by one they tried the course while the spectators watched from the log seats.
After each successfully completed course the imaginary fireworks were triggered and the audience applauded. They adapted the course for the age and skill level of the participant. The baby didn’t have to complete the whole course without touching the gravel area as the others had to. If the course was too easy for some they had to complete more laps in order to trigger the fireworks. Bonus fireworks were awarded for doing spins or fancy tricks along the way.
This is the power of free play. An independent building project evolved into gross motor activity that enhanced social skills and creativity for the whole group. It was better than anything I could have planned.