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  • Fitness Benchmarking Games For Children

    The start of a New Year is a great opportunity to being marking your child's progress. Much like marking your child's height against a wall, it can be really fun to monitor their fitness and physical agility, then as they get older, your children can see how much they've improved.

    The fitness measures outlined below are designed to be simple enough for the whole family to participate in. You don't need to complete all the exercises, simply pick which ones your family likes best, but you will need to stick with these selections to monitor the overall improvement. You might want to try each exercise three times, and only record your best result. This is especially useful with younger children who will need a chance to practice and perfect the exercises.

    Store the results somewhere you will be able to find them, and look back over, such as in scrapbook or diary.

    1. Test balance, and muscle strength by timing how long you can stand on your right leg, and then your left leg.

    2. Time how long it takes to sprint a set distance.

    3. Look out for local fun run events you could participate in as a family every year, and track your times.

    4. Measure fitness and endurance by timing How long can you bounce on the trampoline before you get too tired to continue.

    5. Test upper body strength by seeing How quickly can you get across the monkey bars, or how far across can you get before falling off.

    6. Set up an obstacle course in the back garden incorporating the climbing frame, and a jog around the perimeter of the garden, and time how long it takes each person to complete it.

    7. Test lower body and abdominal strength by racing a set distance in a space hopper ball.

    8. Place five soft toys of balls in a box on one side of the garden, with an empty box on the other side of the garden. Time how long it takes to move the toys, one at a time, to the other box. This tests speed, fitness and co-ordination.

    9. How long can you keep a balloon up off the ground? A balloon is much easier to use than a football, making this activity suitable for children of all ages. You can measure the success as the amount of time in seconds, or the number of times the balloon is batted up in the air.

    10. Measure hand-to-eye co-ordination, by counting how many times can you bounce a tennis ball up and down on the ground using a tennis racket.

    11. Sit on the ground and slowly raise your feet into the air, until you are making a V-shape. Time how long you can sit there with your hands out horizontal, and your legs off the ground. This is a great measure of abdominal strength.

    12. Place a ping pong ball on a spoon, and time how long it takes to cross the garden without the ball falling off.

    13. Hold a tin of beans in each hand like weights, and count how many arm curls you can do.

    14. Place a tennis ball, or balloon between your knees, and see how long it takes you to bounce across the garden without it slipping out.

  • Too Cold To Play Outside?

    Here at Wicken Toys we love to promote outdoor play, come rain or shine. Appropriate clothing and a positive attitude is often required when playing outside in the bracing British weather, but this week even gloves, hat and a winter coat won't be enough protection. It's currently 5 degrees with 40mph gusts outside, and with children throughout the UK enjoying the start of the Christmas holidays, and bouncing off the walls with excitement, parents are starting to get desperate for play ideas.

    So here's our top ten energy burning games for playing indoors.

    1. Build A Fort

    For maximum energy burning, encourage the children to fetch as many chairs, and cushions and blankets as their little arms and legs can manage. You may help with the construction, but the children must do all the hard work.

    2. Bring The Outside In

    If you have a freestanding slide, seesaw, or 6ft trampoline, bring it inside for the day. You might want to put down some old sheets to save the carpet from any mud stuck to the bottom.

    3. Balloon Ball

    Keepy uppy with a balloon. Simple, cheap, but very effective. Up the tempo by adding extra balloons, and increase the skill level with make-shift bats, such as an empty kitchen roll tube, or soda bottle.

    4. Dance Party

    Use YouTube to track down your children's favourite tunes and dance around the living room like a crazy person.

    5. Bubble Buster

    Blow bubbles all around the room, and ask the children to run around popping them.

    6. Hide And Seek Toys

    It can be difficult to find good hiding places inside the home, so instead of trying to hide your adult-sized body, nominate a toy to be the treasure and take turns hiding it.

    7. Sumo Mum

    Put down a large towel or rug to act as the 'in-zone'. Your job is to stand stock-still like a statue while your children try to push you out of the 'in-zone'.

    8. Greyhound Racing

    Running races inside the house can be tricky, so take it down to all-fours and crawl around the house like a dog. There's less chance of falling over when you are on your hands and knees, and the races will last longer and burn more energy.

    9. Timed Obstacle Course

    Set up an obstacle course with a blanket to crawl under, ball to toss into a bucket, bricks to stack, and any other indoor activities you can squeeze in. Run time trials all day to see who can complete the course the quickest.

    10. Indoor Bowling

    Get them pacing the full length of your living room or hallway by placing the skittles at one end, and standing at the other.

    Be Still, Be Calm

    After exciting, energetic play, children often need help calming down, especially at this time of year. Set up a craft activity to be completed at the table that requires deep concentration, such as LEGO or play-dough.

    Children often find sensory play very calming and therapeutic. Make up a sensory bin by filling a water play table with a natural material like sand, porridge oats or even dry pearl barley, and adding small toys, cups, bottles and other pouring vessels.

  • More Than Monkeying Around | Developmental Benefits Of Monkey Bars

    If you're choosing a new climbing frame for your back garden, you're probably wondering which features you want your play equipment to have. Monkey bars are a relatively inexpensive option available on most climbing frame systems, that can add hours of entertainment and educational value to your new frame.

    Physical Benefits

    Exercising on the monkey bars provides a number of benefits for your child's body: * Gripping the bars develops hand strength which is useful for fine motor activities such as using a pen and manipulating LEGO pieces. * Exercising the muscles in the arms builds strength and tone. * Raising the heart rate improves overall fitness levels. * Gentle exercise helps relieve stress and tension. * Tucking legs up, and swinging the body to build momentum helps strengthen core abdominal muscles, essential for good posture, and protecting the spine.

    Encouraging A Positive Mental Attitude

    The monkey bars offer a different type of challenge to your child. Sure they needed to climb a ladder for the first time, or be brave enough to whizz down the slide. But these accomplishments were pretty much inevitable from the day you erected a play frame in your back garden. The monkey bars are not like learning to walk, a milestone of childhood development that every child passes through. Mastering the monkey bars is more like learning to ride a bike, or climb a rock wall: lots of children do achieve it, it's great fun, but not everyone can do it. The monkey bars offer a high degree of challenge for children of all ages, and if you've ever seen adults swinging off a climbing frame in the park, you'll know its a challenge they never grow out of. While learning to swing from rung to rung is difficult and can be a source of frustration, it also provides the opportunity to develop perseverance and feel a great sense of accomplishment once your child has made it from one side to the other.

    When you're child is learning to swing across the monkey bars, here's a few tips to help keep them motivated: * Make it clear that completing a monkey bars ladder is not something that everyone can do. Feel free to demonstrate this by struggling across as far as you can. * Break the overall goal down into smaller, more manageable targets, so your child doesn't get disheartened. Aim to make it across two rungs, then three, and so on. * Show your child how alternating between pieces of play equipment gives their arm muscles an opportunity to rest, and try again later.

    Science Lesson Opportunities

    There are also a number of science lessons offered by the humble monkey bars.

    Encourage your child to look at the tension in their muscles while they are gripping onto the bars. Later you could use the Internet or a biology book to look at the muscles present in the arm and talk about how they work to grip and swing.

    You can also talk about momentum, and how swinging their body makes it easier to move from one rung to the other than if they were hanging in a static position.

    You child may also notice heat developing in the palm of their hands. This is generated by the friction between their skin and the metal on the bars, and provides a good opportunity to learn about energy transfer.

    Browse our collection of metal and wooden climbing frames, available to buy online for delivery to your home.

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