6th October, 2010 - Posted by - 16 Comments
When you think of pool noodles, you might not think of playing on dry land — but you should! Pool noodles are a great, inexpensive play prop that you can use in home or center/school settings.
In fact, I don’t think I know a more flexible prop! You can cut them into small pieces to make “balls” for kids to throw or kick. Cut them in half (vertically) to get more bang for your buck. (Young children are rather small. ). Children can bend them, roll on them and practice a variety of object control skills with them.
Pick them up at the dollar store or at end of the season close-out sales. You may even be able to get them donated to your center from a local public pool. (Pool noodles loose their buoyancy rather quickly, but they still work perfectly well on dry land!)
I’m sure you can come up with 50 games or play ideas, but here are five to get you started.
1. Tunnel Fun: Line up a few chairs facing each other, a few feet apart. Lay pool noodles across the chairs to make a tunnel. Children can crawl underneath the noodles or through the tunnel. Children develop upper body strength and spatial concepts while having fun!
2. Tug of War: A great partner activity for parent and child. Each person holds onto an end of the noodle and tries to pull it from the other. Vary positions to increase the fun and benefit. Try sitting, kneeling, and then standing. Try kneeling while your child stands. Challenge him/her to pull you over—you will both have fun when you fall over! This activity increases muscular strength and endurance.
3. Rocket Ships: Cut a pool noodles in half or into thirds. Count 1,2,3 Blast Off! And then throw the pool noodle high in the air. Try to catch it. Or, throw the noodle high in the air and call out an action to do before it lands (i.e. jump, touch the ground, turn around).
4. Ride’em Cowboy! Put on your imaginary cowboy hat and spurs. Pretend the noodle is a horse and gallop. Add some fun by giving signals to go fast/slow or start/stop. Get creative. What other animals might you like to ride and how do they move—walk, crawl, run, waddle, etc. Children can experience a variety of locomotor patterns such as sliding from side to side; twisting back and forth; and walking in straight, curved or zig-zag paths.
5. Let’s Go Bowling: Tape 2 pool noodles parallel to each other approximately 1 to 2 feet apart from each other as bumpers in a bowling alley. Line empty water bottles at the end of the two noodles. At the opposite end, encourage children to roll a ball down the “bowling alley” to knock down the pins. To vary the activity, provide different size balls and bottles weighted with water to encourage children to use a variety of speeds and force when rolling the ball.
So, don’t put those pool noodles away until next summer. It’s time to play! We would love to know your ideas, so please share them in the comments section.
Playfully yours, Bethe
Editor’s Note: These fun ideas were inspired by Head Start Body Start Master Trainers Clersida Garcia, Ph.D., Northern Illinois University; Meg Greiner, Independence Elementary School,. OR; Kristi Mally, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-La Crosse; Rae Pica, Moving & Learning, NH; Steve Stork, iHealth Center for Integrated Wellness, TX, and Advisory Board Member Diane Craft, State University of New York at Cortland. For more activities, visit the Head Start Body Start Toolbox at www.headstartbodystart.org.
This post is part of Childhood 101′s We Play initiative.
Bethe Almeras, MS, is the HSBS Education & Outreach Director. A long time educator and play advocate, she is passionate about outdoor play and connecting children with nature. In her free time Bethe writes a blog, The Grass Stain Guru, and can often be found playing outside. She is particularly fond of squirrels. And turtles. And sandpipers. And…