Children deserve equal access to all activities. Sitting a differently abled child on the sidelines during gym class or a school field trip is not only illegal but also devalues human life. Whether children experience physical limitations or developmental delays, they need access to a variety of activities. Changes in thinking and accessibility open four activities to children and provide both physical and mental exercise.
Nearly any sport, including hockey, skiing and cycling, can be adapted for children with different abilities. In fact, entire sporting events like the Paralympics and Victory Games center around athletes with physical challenges.
While learning teamwork, children learn sportsmanship, motor skills and dexterity from participation in sports. Rules can also be modified in order to accommodate children with special needs. Caregivers can use larger balls and bats to play golf or allow the ball to bounce twice during tennis matches. These and other adaptations allow children of all abilities to benefit from sporting events that strengthen their characters and their bodies.
Water equalizes children of all abilities. Whether they or their parents drive a van equipped with a wheelchair lift to a swim meet or simply hang out at the beach with friends, water activities provide pleasure and exercise. Swimming builds physical endurance and strength. It also increases mental confidence as children participate in an enjoyable activity. In a community pool or at the beach, water sports provide pleasure and strength training to children of all abilities.
Animals often use a sixth sense to reach out to people in need. Children of nearly any physical or mental ability can learn to ride horses, care for a service animal or spend time swimming with dolphins. Likewise, trips to the zoo or aquarium offer children a chance to explore other climates and cultures. The experience broadens their perspective and enlarges their worldview while providing opportunities to socialize with other children and adults. In addition to providing entertainment, pets teach children responsibility. As children groom their pet dog or clean a hamster’s cage, they learn to appreciate hard work.
Therapeutic and relaxing, gardening provides kids with an adventure in nature. Children can work together to create a beautiful flower bed or care for individual vegetable plots. The required planting, weeding and watering improves hand-eye coordination, builds muscle strength and increases pride in a job well done. Raised beds or containers enable children who use wheelchairs to reach the dirt and observe the fruits of their labor with more ease.
With these four activities, a child’s daily routine includes fun, movement and pleasure. Children also receive important strength and endurance training, flexibility practice and cardiovascular workouts that promote overall health. Additionally, children report feeling more positive and less depressed when they remain active. Social interaction, school performance and behavior also improve with regular activity.
Children may be hesitant to try new things, but parents and caregivers can emphasize the element of fun and the chance to make friends. By including children of all ability levels, leaders promote community, tear down stereotypes and teach compassion. With increased access, offering a variety of activities to children of all abilities is easier than ever and gives everyone a chance to succeed in and enjoy life.