Growing up with cerebral palsy can have many unique challenges, but that doesn’t mean children can’t enjoy a full and fun-filled life. There are many different activities parents and caregivers can do with kids outdoors to help them with their treatment of cerebral palsy symptoms and to keep them active, well and happy.
Importance of Physical Activity for Kids With Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused when the child’s developing brain is damaged in specific locations that control muscle movement. There is no cure for cerebral palsy. However, the symptoms can be managed, which is why it is essential for children with cerebral palsy to continue to stay physically active.
Even though the damage to the brain can’t be reversed, physical activity can help reduce cerebral palsy symptoms. Activity can relax and stretch their muscles, improve their mobility, prevent joint deformities and increase their independence.
While your child will likely do many different activities with a physical therapist in controlled settings like a gym or your home, there is no reason why you cannot combine physical therapy with the outdoors. There are many different therapeutic and fun methods that you can do with your child outside.
Top Outdoor Activities for Cerebral Palsy
Parents play a huge role in supporting the development of children with cerebral palsy, including ensuring they stay active.
If you are excited to explore the great outdoors, here are some outdoor activities for cerebral palsy therapy:
- Horseback Riding
- Nature Walks
- Bike Riding
- Sports and Games
Swimming is an excellent activity for children with cerebral palsy. The water provides resistance for your child, helping them improve their muscle tone, core strength, endurance and flexibility. Playing in the water can also relieve joint stress and pain while strengthening your child’s heart and improving their circulation.
2. Horseback Riding
If you live near some stables, your child might enjoy exploring hippotherapy or horseback riding. The repetitive and rhythmic motion of the horse walking around can help improve your child’s muscle tone and posture. This can help make it easier for your child to walk, run or jump.
Horseback riding can also help children with cerebral palsy build up their self-confidence and become more independent.
3. Nature Walks
Getting out in nature for kids is not only physically healthy, but it can also provide emotional and psychological healing for kids facing agitation or anxiety due to their disorder. The calm, peaceful setting of a natural park can prevent overstimulation.
The National Park Service is committed to helping people with disabilities enjoy the parks. Its goal is to allow everyone to participate in the same programs and activities, and they are working towards meeting this goal by speaking with individuals in the disability community.
At this time, some of the top parks for people with disabilities are:
- Acadia National Park in Maine
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina
- Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona
- Yosemite National Park in California
- Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
- Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
If the idea of going to a National Park is overwhelming, you can also enjoy nature by going to a local garden, zoo or even a community park where you spend time playing on the swings.
4. Bike Riding
Riding a bicycle or tricycle can be a lot of fun, and for most people with cerebral palsy, there is a bicycle or tricycle out there to meet their specific needs. Some of the options are hand cycles, adaptive trikes, or a slightly modified standard bike.
A physical therapist or an occupational therapist may be able to connect you with funding to purchase your child their modified cycle. Then you can watch them beam as they zip around your neighborhood and local parks.
5. Sports and Games
There are so many different ways sports and games can be modified to meet your child’s specific needs. If your child is interested in football, surfing or rock climbing, they don’t have to be just a spectator. They can participate and experience the thrill of running down the field, catching a wave or reaching the summit.
For ideas about adaptive sports as outdoor activities for cerebral palsy, check out Disabled Sports US for a directory of adaptive sports near you.