Kids love to play and it’s a great way for them to learn too, without actually realising. Getting to know your child and what they like, don’t like and everything in between can be tough for an adoptive parent. Our children come to us with their own personalities, routine, trauma and so much more. In the early days as we try and understand them, finding something that’s quick and easy to do that will also help to develop a connection and trust is win win.

This article is written by Claire Carney about the benefits of balloon games for helping children develop physical and cognitive as well as emotional skills. The games are a great way of connecting with your child. Claire asked my family and I to review her book “50 Fun Balloon Activities” and kindly gifted us a copy of it and a balloon kit so we could try out the games. My review will be published very soon.

Balloons in the sky. Balloon games to help you connect
Photo by Ankush Minda on Unsplash

Why balloon games are far more than just a bit of fun!

The adoption process creates a minefield of emotions including anxiety, trepidation, excitement, hope, and worry. It’s is a big step for everyone involved so any resources and activities that can help to make the path a little smoother are worth exploring.

A simple, fun, and inexpensive option is to play balloon games together. For many, especially children, balloons have a tactile, magnetic quality which makes them a perfect choice for activities that a child is likely to be happy to engage in.  The games are fun to play and can help develop or retain a range of emotional, physical, and cognitive skills, which the players won’t even realise they are doing.

Before you start, check that there are no latex allergies. If there are, latex balloons can be substituted for something light like a sponge ball or beach ball, depending on the activities you will be playing. If any players are nervous about balloons bursting or the bang may act as a trigger, don’t blow them up fully. Instead, inflate them a little bit less so the latex isn’t as taut making them less likely to burst.

Balloon games to help you connect

Activities involving balloons are suitable for most environments and can be played with any number of players. The games can be non-competitive to ensure that there is no pressure on the players to win, helping to keep the atmosphere as relaxed as possible (unless all the players enjoy and thrive on a bit of competition!).  

They are also great as an icebreaker activity as most games can be adapted to suit a range of abilities. This can help make introductions between family members or bridging generations a fun, enjoyable event, offering the opportunity to use the activity as a conversation starter.

When choosing the best games to play, try to find a balance between being enough of a challenge to bring a sense of achievement without making it so hard that the player gives up trying.

Balloon games to help you connect. Children playing a balloon game

Emotional skills

Balloon games can help to unlock our inner child, and seeing others enjoying playing a game can be infectious. It can almost give permission to take part for others who may feel nervous or worried about joining in.  

Being part of an activity can help encourage eye contact and verbal exchanges, leading to a sense of belonging and feeling more secure. This social interaction can then enable relationships to begin to form and develop. Adults show they can be trusted by doing what they say they’ll do or helping the child(ren) to complete the objective of the game (for example, consistently returning the balloon to them in a balloon rally).

Balloon games can create a safe environment in which to learn many different emotional skills, such as how to handle situations where things go wrong (e.g., a burst balloon) or ways to cope when things don’t go the way they want (e.g., their team loses a game). These skills build over time to create resilience, develop an awareness of others’ emotions and learn how to work with others.

Physical skills

Sometimes just a basic release of energy is required, and balloon games can certainly be energetic! Physical activity develops gross motor skills such as running, jumping, and catching, and encourages the release of happy hormones. These are important contributors to a positive mood and mental well-being.

As many games have variations to suit a range of physical limitations, the level of complexity can be increased as the player’s ability to complete the task develops. With repeated attempts, the player is likely to improve how well they complete the task and this will help to build their confidence.   

Most children love to get wet or play with water so games involving water can provide an incentive to get active without them even realising it.

Some games are much more calming and meditative, helping to diffuse any tension that has built up from stressful situations. Even activities as simple as throwing a balloon in the air, catching it, and counting how many catches are made can be very mindful, requiring complete focus on the activity at hand. This can be done as a single-person activity if some time out is required. It will help provide some processing space for the brain, allowing heightened emotions to settle.

Cognitive skills

There are ways to help children with homework and revision using balloons to make it more fun. Balloons with letters written on them can be placed in a pile so that the correct letters need to be selected for spelling practise. Writing numbers on balloons can be used to help make sums more engaging, and can be adapted to be as complex (or simple) as is appropriate.

Balloon games to help you connect. Children playing balloon games.
Richard Jarmy Photography – @richardjarmy

Balloon games are inexpensive, quick to organise and can be played multiple times if the children are enjoying themselves. Once you have bought your balloons and a hand pump (much easier than inflating by mouth!) you can use what you want as you need it. Why not try some balloon games and experience the magic of seeing how they help people to connect!

Claire Carney is the author of ’50 Fun Balloon Activities’ which is available to buy from Amazon. Please note, this is an affiliate link which means if you click on it and buy the book, I get paid a fee from Amazon. A kit containing a selection of large, small, and water balloons with a hand pump is available to buy with or without the book from Claire’s website.

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