Let's Get Moving!
As soon as they saw me bring out the rope they knew the game that was about to unfold. A rope and our large tree at the end of our playground is all we needed.
It is a tricky task for our three and four year olds – to time the movement of the rope and run under it without getting hit. It’s always the very brave that go first as the other children stand and watch. Sure enough one of the four year old boys took on the role of the ‘brave one’ and hurtled under the rope as I swung it around and around. “Yahooo” the group cheered, as the boy made it through untouched. His smile told the story of his success.
The next boy, a bit younger, perhaps inspired by the older boy, decided that he would go next. He barrelled through, but tripped, landing on the deck on his hands and knees, the rope getting the better of him. The group held their breath, waiting for his reaction. He stood, smiled and then the group chanted “Again again”. Sure enough he brushed himself off, took a breath or two and had another go. Again he tripped, yet he wasn’t ready to give up. “You can do it” said an older girl “Try again”. He did, and this time it was like magic. He flew through untouched, exclaiming “I DID IT GUYS!”
From the outside this may look like a simply game of rope. But as educators here at New Shoots we appreciate the magnitude of the learning happening here. A community of children encouraging each other to be brave, to be resilient and to take on challenges.
As educators and parents/whanau we have a major role in developing healthy habits and promoting positive life-long attitudes towards being active and healthy.
Why movement matters?
Watch your child for a while and you will realise that they just simply need to move! Movement increases the interconnections within your child’s brain. Simply put, when a child moves, connections are formed within their brain.
“The most powerful tool for fostering the growth and development of neural connections in your child’s brain is physical movement. That’s right, MOVEMENT” - Gill Connell
Gross motor development provides the basis of all other forms of development. These are the large motor skills and actions your child acquires over time. Crawling, walking, running, throwing, hopping, skipping to name a few. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood.
The Balance System (vestibular system)
Never heard of it? You are not alone! Often overlooked and forgotten, it is sometimes referred to as our 6th sense (after seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling). The vestibular system basically means our sense of balance and movement. The vestibular system is complicated! It is composed of receptors located in the inner ear, as well as our visual system, our auditory system and the proprioceptive system.
As adults, we take our balance system for granted (being able to sit upright, adjusting the way we walk if the road is slippery, adjusting our walking speed based on the speed of a travelling car). Our years of experience have afforded us an automatic ability to adapt, orientate and adjust our bodies depending on the sensory input we receive.
However for children, these responses are not automatic. Our children need lots of practise and repetition with a wide range of movements and experiences in order to understand being in ‘balance’.
Without good balance and stability children may struggle with later formal learning such as reading and writing, because they are still trying to keep their body in balance. There is simply no energy left over for them to focus on writing and reading!
Balance is developed through the process of movement. Here are some activities that encourage the activation of the balance system in your child:
- Riding a bike and other straight-line motions can be calming for your child’s balance system (remember those car rides to get your baby to sleep!)
- Moving fast
- Being upside down
- Bouncing up and down
- Brain gym activities
- Swinging (upside down, side to side)
- Placing your child’s head in as many different positions and movements as possible
Working together to help promote physical movement
At New Shoots we understand and advocate for play as being the best way to learn. We offer a wide choice of play based physical activities and learning experiences that link with your child’s interests, abilities and prior knowledge. Whether structured, unstructured or spontaneous, there are always opportunities to move, play and learn alongside a responsive and interested adult.
Here are some practical ideas that we incorporate at New Shoots that you can include at home:
- Allow plenty of time for outside unstructured play and exploration.
- PLAY with your child! Let them take the lead and roll with it. It may seem trivial from an adult’s perspective, but for your child play is the most primal way for them to understand their world.
- Be an active role model. Model being active and healthy (remember children download us).
- Use directional language “over, under, through, beside, inside” whilst playing.
- Use language to describe their movements “oh that is a fast walk. I wonder if you can you walk slowly?”
- Introduce words such as “stomp, stalk, slither, pounce” or descriptive words such as “smooth, gentle, rough, enormous, flat” in relation to their body movements/positions……emergent literacy and a love of language are being fostered before our eyes!
- For older children, movement games with rules “duck, duck, goose”, “doggy, doggy whose got your bone?” or “What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”
- Try doing some yoga together. There are some wonderful videos online to get you started.
- Encourage physical risk taking (children need practise taking calculated risks in order to learn how to do things safely)
- Crawl, hop, run, skip - backwards, forwards, sideways, loudly, quietly
- Movement games that require self-regulation i.e: statues, “Simon says”
- Climbing (find a tree!)
- Hanging (monkey bars are simply the BEST!)
- Turning, spinning, Pushing, tugging and pulling (tug-of-war anyone?)
- Lifting their own body weight
- Tactile play (playdough, sand, water, messy play)
- Wheelbarrow rides (hold on to your child’s hips rather than feet and get them to walk on their hands)
- Crab walk (walk on hands and feet with bottom raised up)
- Bear walk (walk on hands and feet with tummy raised up)
- Duck walk (squat right down low and walk like a duck)
- Dancing and singing incorporating body movements.
“A moving child is a learning child” - Gill Connell
Observing these children I realised that the process of learning to love to learn is already embedded in our children here. My time with the rope, a tree and a group of children made my day today. It made day because I can’t help but admire these children (at age three and four) who are already comfortable with challenges and confident to take on physical risks (rather than avoiding them). Check out this fantastic website for more information.
When you’re ready to find the Centre that best fits your family, there are New Shoots Children's Centres around Auckland, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. We would love to meet you and your child!
Our website is a great place to start to get to know us. You can:
- Find the centre nearest you
- Contact us to organise a visit
- Check out our 'A Day in the Life' scale, where you can see what your child might get up to during the day with us.
We love what we do, and we look forward to welcoming you into our community!