How Monkey Bars Help Your Child’s Brain

Photo Cred: Reader Report File Photo

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I know that core strength and upper body strength and stability is the foundation for building fine motor strength and coordination skills for play, self-care, and academic skills (cutting and handwriting). The most popular question I get asked by parents of primary grade level students is in regards to their child’s poor handwriting. While there are many components that I consider as a therapist as to why a student is having difficulty with handwriting, including body positioning, access to appropriate writing tools and paper, learning abilities, I often find that handwriting legibility issues are related to decreased fine motor strength. The best way for kids to develop their fine motor strength is to develop their core strength and upper body strength through play.

This awesome article is by a teacher who breaks down the science behind building neural pathways of the a child’s brain through myelination. I love how she explains in in simple to understand terms. There is so much research highlighting the neuroplasticity of children’s brains…this is a fancy way of saying how the brain is sooo trainable. However, in order to train the brain, active and repetitive movement is needed, and oftentimes in the case for kids this is frequent engagement in gross motor play. The best quote of the article cites a passage in the book,  “A Moving Child is a Learning Child, ” which states “Climbing, hanging, swinging, and any other high-energy activities that build strength in his upper body and core muscles are vital precursors to fine motor skills”. (McCarthy, C. Connell, G. p.236).  YES!!! MONKEY BARS!!! One of my favorite playground equipment! I always made it a point to make sure both of my kids mastered the monkey bars at our home playset and at their school playground. I can get lost in breaking down an activity analysis of monkey bars, but in short, the benefits include: core strengthening, upper arms strengthening, reciprocal upper body coordination (advancing one arm after the other to the next rung), weight bearing (excellent for joint stability), proprioceptive input, and vestibular input.

Here is the link to the article, and as always, please leave a comment or question below on your thoughts of this article or my post.