Keeping children healthy indoors, part 5: Using tables


Activity ideas that need only a table, in part 5 of our parent's guides to keeping children physically active indoors during the coronavirus lockdown.

It’s very understandable to try to keep everything calm and quiet during this time, but children really do need opportunities to let off steam and use up some of that enviable energy. If they are stuck inside, it is even more important that you provide ways for them to move that are both safe and effective.

Using your table as a resource (it can be any shape or size) children can practice a range of movement skills and maintain their levels of strength, co-ordination, balance and agility.

Remember you don’t have to attempt all the activities in one go, or do them in this particular order. What you have here are lots of ideas to play with that children will no doubt amend and adapt to suit their particular interests and abilities. Shoes and socks off if possible.

What you need A table – any size or shape will do – but if you have very small children, please choose an appropriate resource that works for them. You should ensure there is adequate clear/clean/safe space around the table so children can move freely.

What to do

  • Invite your child to face the table and place their hands flat on the top.
  • Ask them to keep their hands on the table, drop down on their heels and look underneath, then come up quickly to look over the top. Repeat a few times.
  • Try this on tiptoes – it's much harder!
  • Now ask children to keep their hands on the table and lift one leg as high as possible behind them. Change legs and repeat.
  • Try taking one hand off the table and balancing for a few moments. Then try both sides.
  • Being sure to keep both hands on the table, suggest your child does a big hop from one foot to the other. Make this movement as high as possible, then try doing it a bit faster.
  • Now ask them to keep their feet together and jump on the spot. Start with flat feet, then try on tiptoes. They can also try going from side to side, and backwards and forwards
  • Now ask your child to practise star jumps but with only their legs are going out and in.
  • Try to do ‘spotty dogs’, where one foot is forward and one back, then change legs. Also try this on tiptoes.
  • Invite your child to put their right hand only on the table and stand facing forwards.
  • Decide on a signal for ‘stop’ – for example, a loud clap or say ‘freeze/stop’. You can always add music for this activity and say they must stop immediately you turn the music off.
  • Now ask your child to run around the table keeping one hand on it at all times.
  • When you clap or say ‘stop/freeze’, suggest changing hands and going the other way. You can keep changing direction until they are a bit puffed!
  • Finally, invite your child to lie on the table on their tummies and practise some swimming strokes – whatever ones they know.
  • To end, lie very still with the backs of their hands on their forehead, and breathe.

What’s in it for children

Using the table is a very safe and simple way for children to build and maintain essential strength in the big muscle groups. By pushing, jumping, hopping, running and balancing, all the muscles in their arms, legs and around the core of the body are working very hard. They will feel themselves getting stronger and more competent as they go higher and faster and their movement skills become more precise. Most of these movements can be practised independently but it’s also a good opportunity for you to join in if possible.

Taking it forwards

You can ask your child to create short sequences of movements that they can remember and perform to music – for example, with their hands on the table, do eight big hops from their right to left foot, eight jumps with feet together and eight jumps with their feet wide then together.

There are lots of games you can explore using the table top – for example, roll a small ball or marble from one person to another, keeping it moving and not letting it fall off! Or blow a plastic cup across the table and keep it moving for as long as possible.

Next time, we will explore some of the movement possibilities offered by an ordinary chair.

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