Reaching new heights: Clamber Club

| October 30, 2013 | 1 Comment

By Liz Senior

Children seem to be doing less and less physical activity these days, and the focus on gross motor development in the preschool years is often neglected. The Clamber Club was born in 1990 out of a passion for getting children moving and learning effectively.

As an occupational therapist (OT), I wanted to do something to promote gross motor development – which, in turn, would promote perceptual and sensory motor learning. The programmes have been developed over many years and we are constantly updating and refining them. I usually start by working out what the aim of each lesson is and what skills we want to work on, and from that perspective work on how to present the skills in a fun and engaging way so that the children enjoy the lessons. The lessons are also age-appropriate and are tested and refined where necessary, so that the children get the most out of the lesson.

Examples all teachers can use
For example, if you want to develop eye–hand coordination in children, you need to teach good visual skills, the two sides of the body need to work well as a team, and you need to develop good body awareness and tactile discrimination in children. How do we develop those skills? For the visual sense, we will play games that require the eyes to focus near and far, such as rolling a ball and then running after it to catch it, or play visual tracking exercises, where the child swings a ball on a string and has to follow it with his eyes.

Body awareness is developed by naming body parts and what they can do, and we have many Clamber Club action songs that teach this. Body awareness is also promoted when the body moves against gravity, and so pushing and pulling games, or games that require tumbling, jumping and rolling are played. The tactile sense is stimulated through the use of different textures and weights, and by playing with different shape and size objects. Then we practise eye/hand coordination and combine it with equipment that is varied so that the child’s enthusiasm is maintained and we keep his interest. We do catching and throwing using scarves, objects that have different weights and shapes (such as rubber frogs or monkeys); we use bean bags, bubbles, balloons, beach balls, ping pong balls and tennis balls.

The variety here is key. We include stories and imaginary play, as this motivates children to participate. I also present teacher training workshops, and we are involved in some community outreach projects. Our head office team teaches at Bokamoso Day Care Centre in Rosebank, Johannesburg, as part of our Lead SA2 commitment.

Training and outreach stimulate growth Clamber Club now has 53 franchises in South Africa, and many of the franchisees employ teachers and assistants to help them. Our Clamber Club franchisees are not all qualified teachers or OTs, and so they do not diagnose problems. However, the programmes we run are designed to cover all the basic skills such as body awareness, spatial awareness, eye–hand and eye–foot coordination, laterality and directionality, coordination of body sides, balance and motor planning. It is tremendously rewarding to see how the children progress through the year, as they become more confident and their skills improve.

Our franchisees come for a week of initial training, where they receive theoretical and developmental training as well as practical training. They also learn how to run their own businesses, and we have regional as well as national training during the year. For the last eight years, we ran our Clamber Club Sports programme with Nurturing Orphans of Aids for Humanity (NOAH).3

The biggest challenges were getting the equipment sponsored and making sure that the training was effective so that when teachers went back to their communities, they were able to fully implement what we had taught. It took us a good few years to really get our training materials right, but we now have a great programme that is easy to implement in schools which have very limited resources. Although NOAH recently closed down, many of the communities we worked with have continued with the programme. We are presently working on a project where we hope to train young teachers in the Eastern Cape to run Clamber Club Sports at underprivileged schools.

Upward and onward I would like to expand our franchise footprint both in South Africa and Australia. We have a product range of action song CDs and a DVD, puzzles and books, which I aim to expand. Our sports programme has been extremely well received by the schools, and I hope that we can reach more children in this way. I would also like to increase our community outreach work, and I am writing a book, which is taking me far too long to complete! 

References: 1. Gross motor development refers to the development of the big muscle groups. See, for example, http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/gi/p/grossmotorskill.htm.

2. Lead SA is a personal call to every person to make a difference. We all have a responsibility to make the world a better place. Lead SA is a Primedia Broadcasting initiative, supported by Independent Newspapers.
See, for example, http://www.primedia.co.za/our_businesses/companies/leadsa.htm.

3. See http://www.noahcommunity.org/.

 

Category: Summer 2013

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  1. Larita Gulnick says:

    I would like to get in touch with someone in your organization to talk about the work I have been doing in the area of loss, grief and continuous trauma with women in the townships around Cape Town. Please contact me via e mail.

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