The Physical, Emotional and Sensory Developmental Benefits of Jumping Castles
I know, I know. You've read the title of this blog post and you're all like....Whaaaaaaaaat?
As an owner of a Jumping Castle Co, I could quite easily sit here and type a quick, basic blog post about the simple benefits of hiring a jumping castle. Its good for SEO and gets the point across quickly:
“hire a jumping castle, yeah there’s health benefits and its fun for kids – they love it”
And they do!
It’s pretty simple. Kids love them. Even adults love them (don’t lie – you’d totally jump on one). By hiring a jumping castle, you’re able to provide endless entertainment at your party that gives you the ability to actually have a full conversation with other adults. WIN! But did you know the experience is also a learning one too?
As an ex educator, I personally see every moment of play as a development and learning opportunity. It’s just how my brain is wired now and to be honest, I love it! I love seeing curious kids in the middle of the simplest form of play (a toddler pushing cars through sand for example) and linking that back to learning about force, cause and effect, maths, science and fine and gross motor skills. There are so many ways you can extend on simple forms of play to support deeper, more thoughtful and evolved learning moments!
If you quickly Google “benefits of a jumping castle”, the following points are guaranteed to come up in the majority of the search results and articles online:
- They improve balance and coordination
- They improve blood circulation and lymphatic movement
- They promote social interaction and better mental health
- They get kids to go outside
Those points are all totally true…but what I want to share with you in this (MUCH longer than expected) blog post is more in depth and focuses on the sensory and gross motor developmental benefits of playing on a jumping castle as well as the “risky play” benefits.
While this may be aimed more towards the early learning years (0-6), the following definitely applies to children over this age too (and probably even some adults – when was the last time you intentionally went jumping or took some physical risks?).
SENSORY BENEFITS OF JUMPING CASTLES
Jumping, crashing, and returning to the launching spot… over and over… is a great movement based activity. In particular, the linear movement (up/down bouncing) helps to organise the vestibular sensory system. The repetition also provides terrific motor planning practice – organising and sequencing efficient, well-timed movements (climbing, preparing, waiting until the count of 3, waiting for others to have their turn, jumping, landing, recovering).
The landing itself, whether on all fours, or the side, front, or back of the body, provides exceptionally powerful tactile sensory feedback (joint pressure/impact) for improved body awareness.
Re-balancing, crawling or climbing back to the launch spot after each crash landing, (on either hands and knees, feet and hands or however your little one would like!) provides an excellent opportunity for ‘heavy work’ and deep pressure/firm touch (proprioceptive) sensory input and sensory feedback which in turn builds body awareness and motor planning (including balance and coordination).
MOTOR DEVELOPMENTAL BENEFITS OF JUMPING CASTLES
Throughout the course of child development, jumping usually happens right around the age of 3 (sometimes a little earlier, sometimes a little later). Up until this point, children have been grounded – literally! They learn to roll, then sit, then stand, and then walk. Until they learn to jump, their feet haven’t intentionally left the ground at the same time unless an adult has picked them up!
Jumping may not seem like an important developmental milestone for children but it’s one of the activities children need for better gross motor strength, proprioception, motor planning, balance and core muscle development – all which benefits the child’s lower levels of the brain (cerebellum) used for balance, coordination, attention, and rhythm.
Fundamental Movement Skills provide building blocks for the development of nearly every physical skill that kids will need throughout their lives to competently participate in different games, sports and recreational activities. A key component of this foundation is perceptual motor skills (where visual, auditory, and tactile sensory abilities are combined with emerging motor skills to develop perceptual motor skills), which enable children to explore their physical environment with their senses and provide motor output - essentially, visual information in, processing, movement out.
Movement creates a constantly changing centre of gravity. Children learn to sense these gravitational shifts and to respond accordingly by adjusting their positions. As they move up and down, there is a constant flow of messages between both sides of their bodies and brains, which are busy working together to ensure that balance is maintained.
The balance, timing, agility and rhythm developed during jumping movements improves overall coordination and assists the development and acquisition of new motor skills and help to provide solid foundational building blocks for learning and development!
RISKY PLAY BENEFITS OF JUMPING CASTLES
Jumping off logs, climbing trees, sliding, slipping and speeding around were once a natural part of any childhood. But in an increasingly risk-averse society dominated by health and safety, these things aren’t necessarily a given anymore. Everyday life is full of risks and challenges and children need opportunities to develop the skills associated with managing risk and making informed judgements about risks from a very young age.
This is where risky play comes in. Risky play can be defined as a thrilling and exciting activity that involves a risk of physical injury, and play that provides opportunities for challenge, testing limits, exploring boundaries and learning about injury risk.
Risky play helps to develop important life skill learnings such as;
- Building resilience and persistence
- Balance and coordination
- Awareness of the capabilities and limits of their own bodies
- The ability to assess and make judgement about risk
- Handling tools safely and with purpose
- Understanding consequence to action
- Confidence and independence
- Creativity and inventiveness
- Curiosity and wonder
- Problem solving
By providing children with opportunities to participate in risky and challenging play in a safe environment, we provide opportunity for the development of important life skill learnings.
THREE of the six main areas of risky play can be experienced just by jumping on a jumping castle! These are: rapid speeds (running, launching, sliding), rough and tumble (self explanatory – not allowed by our rules but use your own judgement in line with your child’s ability and emotional regulation to help avoid injury) and great heights (launch + jump pads, slides, climbing).
You will still need to think about the hazards of course – and a reminder to supervise, supervise, SUPERVISE! - but don’t focus on the worst-case scenario. If the potential injuries are minor or unlikely then the benefits likely outweigh the risks.
WANT TO INCORPORATE THESE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES BUT DON’T NEED A JUMPING CASTLE RIGHT NOW?
Try these fun DIY jumping play ideas!
Crash Landings — Simply build a soft landing pad using cushions, blankets, yoga mats – anything soft and spongey – get your little one to push, pull and pile things up either in front of their bed, a couch or off their climbing frame. Sit with them while they launch themselves into the pile. Guaranteed fun!
Tape Jumping Game — ask the kids how far they can jump. This surprisingly simple game will actually entertain the kids longer than you think!
Hula Hoop Jump Game — a great activity to center an obstacle course around! Create different variations: jump with two feet, hop through with only one foot, alternate feet, etc!
Shape Hopscotch — a fun way to learn color and shape recognition while still jumping and working on gross motor skills. It’s the perfect activity to do inside if the weather isn’t on your side OR if the weather is nice try this Chalk Shapes Jumping Game from Craftulate.
Puddle Jumping Alphabet Activity — another great one when you’re stuck indoors.
Alphabet Jump Game — I love how gross motor skills and learning phonics come together in this game!
Lily Pad Hop — This activity is awesome because it’s open-ended and leaves room for a lot of creativity from the kids. Although she pictures the game indoors, it would also be tons of funs if you played with it in the backyard.
Any chance you get encourage them to move, play, explore and jump! Let kids be kids!