This month's Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators celebrates summer in the Northern Hemisphere. Bringing in a beach ball can offer an opportunity to tie in with the beach season and offer engaging learning opportunities at the same time. This activity can be easily modified to meet your learning objectives and is a very inexpensive teaching tool addition to your classroom. To read all the fun learning activities in our Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators series, follow this link.
An activity in a childbirth class that gets people out of their seats, working together and engaged will always be a hit during class time. The inexpensive beach ball offers a multitude of learning opportunities that are easy to set up, fun to do, and bring about lots of smiles and laughs. Tossing a beach ball to another student is a hoot and people find it easy to engage while they learn. Each color, (there are usually six colors on the standard ball) represents a different situation, and with an easily made "cue card," families are randomly asked to practice a position or solve a problem while throwing a ball around in class.
- One inflatable beach ball with different colors - the bigger the better
- A laminated "cheat sheet" (one for each family) or the same image on a slide projected onto a screen.
Note: You might be able to find inflatable beach balls at your local dollar store. In the past, I have ordered them from Amazon. I have found that they run considerably smaller than the listed size. For example, the 12-inch diameter ball is often around seven or eight inches wide. I suggest ordering up, larger than you would anticipate needing, to account for this. Since they are inflatable, storing even the larger sizes is really no problem. If you have larger classes, you may want more than one, and break the families into smaller groups.
I have included a template for you to use with some of the most effective activities and a blank template for you to make your own. Access them here.
How to do the activity
Decide in advance what your learning objective is. Will you be reinforcing pushing positions? Good things to eat in labor? Things to do for back labor? Explain to the group that they are going to have some fun with a beach ball. Share the "guidelines" that you have prepared in advance on a large screen available to all or by handing out laminated sheets to each family. Instruct the families to toss the ball from one person to any other person in the group. As they catch the ball, note what color their left thumb has landed on. Turn to the guidelines to see what the task is. Ask the group to do that task. If it is a question, have the person who caught the ball answer it. After the group completes the task, the ball gets tossed to another person and the activity is repeated.
For example, if we were covering pushing positions, the person who catches the ball finds their left thumb has landed on the white area. The entire group would then do something that involves pushing with the help of a support person. Each family may very well be doing something different, or several may choose the same thing. Either way, they are solving a problem and getting a chance to practice it.
This activity can be done as a review at the beginning or end of class, or during a learning segment as you are covering the material for the first time.
There are many different variations that can be used. Some topics that can be covered would include:
- Pushing positions
- Back labor solutions
- Things to eat and drink in labor
- Things to do for comfort and coping during the stages and phases of labor
- What to do with a crying newborn?
- Breastfeeding positions
- Postpartum survival skills
- Nutritious foods to eat in pregnancy (ie, something rich in iron, something high in calcium)
The reality is that you can use many different topics that you feel would fit in well with this activity. It is fun and energizing to toss a ball around and be creative on the spot to try a position or answer a question.
How this activity is received by families
The families love this activity. They laugh and smile while tossing the ball around the room. They are eager and engaged in doing what is asked, depending on the color selected and everyone gets a chance to show off their knowledge and skills. It is a fun way to present new material or offer a review that is quick, energizing and fun.
Beach ball practice is a simple, low-cost, high-engagement activity that can be done anywhere, at any time. New content or review topics work equally well. The set up is simple, instructions are easy and families enjoy this learning method. There is simply no reason not to give this activity a try as you help families to prepare for a safe and healthy birth.
Have you done something like this in your classes? Do you have other ideas of topics that would work well in this format? Share your ideas in the comments section below.