Playing During Pandemic – Part Two – Innertubes

Good Touble
Good Trouble!

If you have tried to buy a backyard pool, trampoline, bike, or swing set over the last couple of months, you know that this sort of stuff is scarce as hen’s teeth. While annoying, we’re going to turn this disappointment into a win for you by coming up with fun solutions that are better and cheaper than anything you would have purchased.

In part one of this series, I said we wouldn’t start the proposed projects as equipment, but we will with developmental benefits. From that point of view,t his project is about proprioception. This is the sense of our position in space that we get from our muscles and joints. Here’s a good introduction to this concept explained. You already know about how much kids love to play with this sense from jumpy houses and trampolines. You could rent a trampoline or inflatable, but that is a short-term answer. Our goal is in this project to give you solutions for everyday use over the long-term.

Fun with Inner Tubes

The experience we are looking for is physical impact, like jumping out of a swing. To get the maximum benefit of that force applied to muscles and joints, we need daily repetition. The solution? Inner tubes. Sure, you can buy cheap plastic floater for pool use, but we want something durable that can take constant bouncing, and inner tubes are perfect. While most tires these days are tubeless, you can still buy inner tubes. Better yet, you may be able to get them from a tire store for free or at very little cost.

Old tires are a ubiquitous feature on adventure and many preschool play spaces. In the backyard, these seem less useful as they are heavy and hard to store. Other than not having the benefit of lifting the weight of a tire, innertubes can be played with as well as tires and have the added fun of bounce.

Once you’ve got a bunch of tubes, here’s where you will see the kids use them. They will become soft landing targets for jumping onto or “crashing” into. If you can find a hill or slope, they will become central to rolling games, especially if you tie them together to make a cylinder. Tubes can be stacked to make a hide-out. They may even make it into costumes. Tubes will be used with water play, which we will get to in a subsequent post.

What Size and How Many?

You almost can’t have too many, so get a bunch. Remember that you can take the air out of them for storage, and an air pump is pretty cheap to refill them quickly. Don’t forget bicycle tubes as these add an extra dimension, so get several of these. Even tubes that can no longer be inflated are great because you can cut them to make rubber ropes and bands, which are great for rubber-band guns.

What? You want us to arm our kids? Of course, this is up to you, but there are terrific benefits to rubber-band guns. First, unless you are inches away, the wide bands made from tubes can’t hurt because they have a lot of wind resistance. Also, these end up having a large role in games and contests. Best of all, they are total kid magnets. Think of this as a softer and cleaner version of paintball. Your biggest problem will be the parents of your kid’s friends that question your sanity.

On the serious side, either bands or water toy guns, allow the subject of guns and gun safety to come up. You can count on your kids having questions that will surprise you.

At the Play First Summit, Teacher Tom said, “The best use of power is to Empower.” Coming as it did from Tom Hobson, I thought about this idea in the context of children and Tom’s passion for standing back and empowering children to find their solutions. Over the past week, with the passing of John Lewis, I’ve been thinking about Tom’s dictum from the perspective of politics. Allowing kids to play with guns may be a perfect example of what John Lewis meant by “making good trouble, necessary trouble.”

The image above is from Different Drum and is a great read.


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