Astronauts in Outer Space

Guest Authored by Katie Massey, PT, DPT

Pretend play is an important area within a child’s development. It encourages imagination, peer interactions, and flexibility. At Blue Bird Day, the curriculum incorporates a variety of topics to promote pretend play, one of which is learning about outer space. Each discipline collaborates to ensure fluidity of learning during each rotation during a child’s day. Throughout these different rotations at Blue Bird, we learn and talk about space, create space crafts, and engage in pretend play as astronauts in outer space. 

In occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT) rotation, children are encouraged to be astronauts in outer space, and engage in a multitude of activities! OTs and PTs collaborate within the same multi-sensory environment to promote motor and sensory development. When exploring the idea of space, OTs may engage a child in tactile play — including slime or floam — and pretend it is from outer space or take a ride on a dynamic piece of equipment (I.e. a swing) as if the child is in a rocket ship flying to the moon! Multiple children may be engaging in tactile play or swinging, which encourages peer interactions and turn-taking during play. Each child may have a different idea of how to play with the tactile activity, which can help promote flexibility.  

Tactile play and swinging can help regulate a child to promote improved ability to participate with PTs for gross motor activities. PTs may engage a child to explore outer space through the use of an obstacle course. A child can pretend to be an astronaut jumping through outer space between planets or maintain single leg balance to launch a stomp rocket into outer space! Different pieces of equipment can be utilized by the PT to promote balance and jumping activities, which helps to promote flexibility, gross motor development, and imagination. Children must also wait and take-turns when engaging in an obstacle course in order to maintain safety. If a child has difficulty jumping or maintaining balance, the appropriate level of assistance is provided, and the PT works to decrease the amount of assistance as the child progresses with each skill.  

OT and PT rotation is one example of how pretend play and collaboration work together to ensure fluidity of learning and skill development. Space is only one example of a topic utilized to promote pretend play with children. Each child is encouraged to utilize his/her own imagination to expand upon pretend play of astronauts in space and incorporate the idea into each session (rotation or individual), further promoting skill development across a variety of disciplines!