Playgrounds are often thought of as a space for kids to play and get energy out. The reality for school therapists and teachers is they can provide an outdoor therapy space and classroom. In addition to this, playgrounds are areas that students feel safe in because they are associated with fun. This helps to lower student anxiety and resistance to talking, working on skills, and more. When weather permits, school counselors, therapists, and special education teachers are working in time on playgrounds to incorporate therapy sessions and lesson plans.
If you have a playground at your school, try to look at it in a different way. How can you utilize it with the students you work with on a given day? Think outside of the box and recognize that a change in scenery will often help kids to be more actively engaged in your session or lesson. Here are some ways to try using a playground for therapy space in your school.
- Speech and language pathologists may use the playground for guided student tours. Leave hidden items in spaces and have them guide you around and explain where they are located. This will work on articulation, self-esteem, use of vocabulary, and more.
- Occupational and physical therapists will focus on fine and gross motor skills. Bring balls and other outdoor equipment to have races that practice what a child is working on. In addition to this, you can practice walking on uneven ground, taking stairs, and things like crouching. This is also a great space to continue work on balancing, jumping, and the like.
- Special education teachers or counselors may also use a playground as a place for children who are upset to decompress. If there is a quiet spot for them to swing, slide, or sit, it can help them to open up and talk about what may be bothering them. This may not work if other classes are already using the space.
- When kids are shy in a classroom, they may open up outside. Act out different social skills in a group lesson on pragmatics using the playground as your stage.
Brainstorm as a school about how to share the playground during the nice weather months. Think about extra resources that may be beneficial for use in the space or close to it. Will you incorporate jump ropes, balls, scooters, or other outdoor play items in outdoor sessions? If you are unable to share equipment used by the physical education department, factor this into upcoming budget requests.