Where did the summer go? Can you believe it is already almost over? Now is the time to fit in the last of those summer activities while the weather is still warm (at least for us in the northern climates). Water balloon activities can be fun and therapeutic when used with the participants’ strengths and needs in mind.
Here are some ideas for incorporating water balloons into your Recreation Therapy programming. Also included are tips for making these activities successful. If you’re looking for last minute Labor Day picnic ideas or just something to do during the remaining hot days, check these activities out.
Water Balloon Activities
Many of these activities are adaptable to most populations. Before starting any water balloon activities, you want to be sure your participants are willing and able to try these activities. Some populations may not be as tolerant to a water balloon breaking on them. Know if your participants have any sensory issues or other reasons water balloon activities wouldn’t be appropriate.
You’ve probably lead or at least played some form of water balloon toss in your life. One of the more common versions involves the group pairing up. A participant will throw a water balloon to his or her partner. If the partner catches it without the balloon breaking, they take a step back and throw again. When the balloon breaks–by hitting the ground or even exploding in a participant’s hand–that pair is out. The pair with the last remaining water balloon wins.
Create variations of this game based on your participants abilities. You could even do with toss where the participant throws the balloon up and must catch it him or her self.
For a quick icebreaker or “getting to know you” game, let your participants get in a circle or line. Have the first person say their name and toss the balloon to the next person. Continue on until the balloon breaks. Whoever touched the balloon last must then recite all the names already said. The person will then go to the front of the line or start the next round of tossing. You could do just about any “getting to know you” subject such as favorite color, leisure activity, etc.
Water balloon tossing games are great for coordination, gross motor skills, social interaction, and teamwork.
Relays can be a great therapeutic group activity. They are completely customizable based on your participants’ strengths and challenges. Also, you can create a relay with whatever supplies or space you have available.
So when you have a bunch of water balloons, why not try a relay? Here are a couple ideas for adding water balloons into your relays:
- Passing water balloons like a baton during a race
- See which team could carry the most water balloons to the finish line
- Tossing water balloons to each other through an obstacle such as a hula hoop.
- Fill a cup or bucket by having the participants pass balloons to each other then break them over the bucket.
- Make water balloons an obstacle. As participants race, put several water balloons on the ground. If they break one during the race add seconds to their time or make them start over.
Relays can help with team building, physical activity, motor skills, coordination, communication, and more. Be creative!
Water Balloon Painting
If you’re looking for a more creative activity, consider adding some paints to your water balloons. From there you could have participants throw balloons at a canvas–or whatever else you want painted–or pop the balloons over a large sheet of paper. This is a great, potentially messy activity with almost unlimited design possibilities.
Through there are various ways you could do this activity, I found a great step-by-step guide for this activity at the Living a Sunshine Life blog.
Water balloon painting can address gross and fine motor skills, creative expression, color recognition, and decision-making skills.
Launching Water Balloons
For a great team building activity, you could purchase a water balloon launcher. These are found in many stores (probably in the clearance aisles right now!) for under ten dollars. Most of them require three people. Two hold each side of the launcher, while the person in the middle puts a water balloon in the pouch, pulls it back, and lets go.
Set your group up in teams of three and see who could work together to launch the farthest water balloon. If you want to make things more challenging, set up targets the team could hit. You could use just about anything. For example, putting several hula hoops on the ground, and a each team gets a points based on the balloon landing in a hula hoop.
Water balloon launching activities promote teamwork, coordination, and effective communication, and decision making.
Water Balloon Minefield
Use water balloons to add a wet twist to this fairly common team building game. Blindfold one participant and ask him or her to walk through a minefield of water balloons using the directions of his team.
Other options could include: find out which team can break the most water balloons while blindfolded or yell out a color and have the team direct the blindfolded participant to each balloon of that color.
Water balloon minefield works on teamwork, communication, following directions, and dealing with frustration.
Tips for Successful Water Balloon Activities
Depending on your population, a water balloon activity could quickly become a wet mess. Some participants see a big bucket of water balloons as an open invitation for a water fight. A water balloon fight certainly has its time and place for some populations. Other populations, however, may lack the coping, sensory, or emotional regulation skills to deal with a water balloon fight. After all, not everyone likes being pelted with a water balloon. A few balloons hitting unwanted targets can turn the therapeutic activity into a therapeutic wreck.
Here are some tips for keeping your water balloon activities on task and focused:
- Set clear expectations at the beginning of the activity. Explain the activity, the objective, and if there is any word or signal that means stop the group. If necessary, have the participants repeat the expectations.
- Put someone in charge of the water balloon supply. A staff or reliable participant can be in charge of handing out water balloons or making sure participants only grab what they need depending on the activity.
- Give continued encouragement to keep the group focused on task.
- Store your water balloons properly. All that time spent getting water balloons ready for an activity will be wasted if they aren’t stored properly. If possible, store in a cooler, bucket, or other container partially filled with water. This prevents the balloons from popping while in storage. Also, try to keep your water balloon supply out of direct sunlight. If they get too hot, they can pop.
- Make sure you have towels and a change of clothes handy for those who get cold or don’t want to stay wet.
Hopefully these water balloon activities will help you and your participants enjoy the fleeting days of summer.
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