This particular camp* invitation was whole-cloth taken from Denita over at Listen to the Children. She’s been collecting clips, towel clips, and clothespins for a toy zipline for years and I only had about a month, but I managed to find a few that worked like I hoped they would!
I should clarify here that I don’t know the best word to use other than “zipline”, but I am not talking about a zipline that people can slide down. I am talking about a clothesline that clips can zoom down, with or without small lightweight objects attached!
Denita’s wholly child-led preschool has a zipline in their classroom all the time and a small ladder for children to climb up. It’s a really excellent risky play invitation, trusting kids to be able to know where to put their bodies on the small ladder to safely clip clips onto the line and watch them sail down.
I did not have a ladder that could be safely used, and since mine was outside and on uneven ground, I wasn’t 100% sure about having them climb anything at all…but I decided to put a chair out and put the clothesline on a very steep incline from high up in one tree down to the base of another tree.
Also, because my camp had attendees from age 0-13, I thought that I would add a facet to the play invitation that might make it more interesting for slightly older kids too. I set out some paper airplanes that I had already personally made, and added a stack of paper. That way, the clips could just be clipped on by themselves, or they could be used to clip a paper airplane to the line and watch it fly.
Manipulating the clips and clothespins takes hand strength and it takes motor coordination to line it up with the clothesline too. Watching the clip or the paper airplane sail down the line is important visual tracking work. All of these things — visual perception, tracking, visual-motor integration, hand strength, finger strength, hand-eye coordination, targeting skills — all of these are hugely important skills that children have to develop before they can write, and that they keep developing throughout childhood for complex fine motor tasks.
This wasn’t one of the play invitations that ended up with 25 kids at it at the same time (which is a good thing) but it was one of the ones that ended up with one super interested kid for 30 minutes at a time, or a little group of 3-5 kids hanging out and trying variations on it for long periods of time! Most of the little kids either eschewed the paper airplane altogether or just used one of my paper airplanes, although I liked how forgiving this activity was if they did in fact want to make their own paper airplane and made one poorly because they were too young to know how to make a good one. It didn’t matter at all how good the airplane was because it was the zipline making it fly. Some of the little kids just lined up all the clips and watched like 10-12 clips fall down the line all at the same time. Big kids enjoyed making super complex paper airplanes and then sailing them down the line (and then sometimes sailing them through the air separately too).
When the school year starts again, I’m putting a zipline/clip line in my Action Room permanently!
Two pictures which are very similar, showing a red line strung from the top of one tree to the base of another tree. In the first picture, there is a pink paper airplane clipped by a big towel clip that’s decorated to look like a dolphin. It’s up at the top of the clip line. In the second image, everything is the same except the paper airplane has sailed down to the bottom of the line.
*I recently ran a week-long, sensory-rich, arts-and-crafts, child-led play day camp for 30 kids and their parents! I’ll be talking about it for awhile. You can read all my posts about it under the Camp Creativity tag.