U P D A T E
Volume 3 Issue 4
Watch Us Move!
When you think about it, it's amazing! From birth through age five, most children learn to lift their heads, roll over, crawl, walk, run and hop. They learn to grasp, sit, climb, balance, and ride a trike. And, not stopping there, most children learn to catch and throw a ball, walk backward, dance and leap. As their bodies develop, children acquire attitudes toward healthy activities and their own physical abilities-concepts that will stay with them throughout their entire lives.
Parents and caregivers can help children feel good about their abilities as well as help them challenge themselves as they extend, practice and enjoy physical activities.
Toddler and Twos
Busy, crawling toddlers need large spaces free of danger. When children start to stand up they need firm objects-including adult hands-to grab onto. Children who are trying to walk need soft surfaces to fall on. As you can see, the environment you create is very important.
Children who can walk, even clumsily, usually like to push steady toys in front of them. They also love to practice sitting, standing and, of course, walking. Slight inclines and declines help toddlers work out challenges of balance, and rolling large balls helps them develop muscles and coordination.
Many children this age love to stack objects. You might offer them foam blocks to begin with, then move onto cardboard and later, wooden unit locks. Activities such as stacking object inside each other, putting them into a container and rolling large foam cylinders are additional fun ways for children to build coordination skills.
Most children between the ages of two and three love to climb. Ramps, small stairs, safe slides and wide low balance beams offer perfect opportunities to build and exercise growing muscles. Foam wedge shapes, mats for tumbling and doll wagons to push also help children gain coordination skills. Just remember to make sure children this age have plenty of time outdoors to run, climb, hop, and feel free to express themselves through physical movement.
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Lively Picture Books
Flips! by Marc Brown
Three to Five Year Olds
Children this age require many opportunities to practice and develop newfound skills, to feel physically challenged (though not overwhelmed) and to integrate all of their abilities. Then, at the same time all of this is happening, children can develop a secure sense of their physical abilities and a positive attitude about healthy exercise. You may need to keep in mind that physical activities can be loud, may be messy, and often require space!
There are many materials that foster indoor activities. If at all possible, find a way to provide an open indoor space in which your child can roll balls, skip rope, and tumble. You might put out a small wastebasket and beanbags for your child to use for tossing and aiming practice. You might also make an obstacle course using large cardboard boxes, rope (to make a narrow pathway or an area to crawl under), and pillows of sofa cushions. Show your child how to go under, over and around, to balance on a line made with tape or to jump into a marked area on the floor. Put on some lively music and ask your child to move however she chooses. Each time the music stops, she has to freeze in position.
Creative movement, lively activities to singing or records, stretching exercises and yoga are all great physical indoor activities. While they may initially require your introduction, many will happen spontaneously to the cue of music or song.
Setting aside time every day is critical to physical development. Even when you have perfect weather, remember that children need to be active indoors as well.
Space enough to run, pathways to explore, jungle gyms to climb - all these are integral to your child's physical development. However, an outdoor play space should also provide children with opportunities to ride bikes and scooters, pull wagons, and practice balancing, swinging, and sliding.
Look for a playground in your neighborhood or town. Is there equipment to help develop muscles in children's hands, arms, legs, and backs? Things for children to grasp? Jump on and through? Tunnels and low structures to develop crawling and bending? Do you have a large open area-preferable grass-where children can play games with balls, to move, run and try safe outdoor physical risk taking? Even small hills add challenges and exertion to trike riding and walking.
Most three to five year olds love playing outside, especially on a playground. Generally they are very self-directed, moving around on various pieces of equipment and constantly challenging themselves physically. Your role on the playground may be an indirect one. You can introduce mew materials - balls, wagons, skip ropes, building blocks, etc. You can also participate - throwing a ball back forth with the children, pushing swings, or running together on a pathway.
Remember, three to five year olds need extended time outdoors every day (weather permitting). They also need a playground rich in physical challenges, variety, choices, materials and equipment. The novelty of a new park provides great motivation for trying out physical skills. New swings, a different slide to climb, an outdoor tunnel to crawl through or a nature hike will expand a child's opportunities.
Children are naturally energetic, active physical risk takers. Not only do children develop skills through these activities but they also develop healthy physical self-concepts as they learn a fundamental memory process - by running up hills, riding a bike, dancing, skipping, hopping, aiming a ball and climbing. The memory becomes the foundation for later school-age memory systems. As important adults in our children's lives, we need to support this natural learning process.
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