Get our children moving!
A recent post on the Neurochild Community Facebook page flashed red lights for the healthy development of our young children. While the report concerns observations in primary schools in the USA, it is possible that the situation here might be tending the same way. Here’s the slightly amended post:
Ask anyone who works in a primary school or elementary school and you’ll hear about children dropping out of their chairs. This seems to be the new norm. But why? What’s going on that’s making simply sitting in a chair a physical challenge for our youth?
A highly respected director of a progressive preschool who has been teaching preschoolers for about 40 years says she has seen major changes in the social and physical development of children in the past few generations. “Kids are just different,” she said. “They are more easily frustrated – often crying at the drop of a hat.” She has also observed that children were frequently falling out of their seats “at least three times a day,” less attentive, and running into each other and even the walls. “It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past.”
She went on to complain that even though her school was considered highly progressive, they were still feeling the pressure to limit free play more than she would like in order to meet the growing demands for academic readiness that was expected before children entered kindergarten.
It is through active free play outdoors where children start to build many of the foundational life skills they need in order to be successful for years to come. It is before the age of 7 years – ages traditionally known as “pre-academic” – when children desperately need to have a multitude of whole-body sensory experiences on a daily basis in order to develop strong bodies and minds. This is best done outside where the senses are fully ignited and young bodies are challenged by the uneven and unpredictable, every-changing terrain.
Preschool years are a critical developmental period. If children are not given enough natural movement and play experiences, they start their academic careers with a disadvantage. They are more likely to be clumsy, have difficulty paying attention, trouble controlling their emotions, utilize poor problem-solving methods and demonstrate difficulties with social interactions. We are consistently seeing sensory, motor and cognitive issues pop up more and more in later childhood, partly because of inadequate opportunities to move and play at an early age.
Lack of play opportunities lead to weaker core and postural muscles and an underdeveloped sense of balance. Too many consecutive hours spent at a desk without a break for physical activity all add up. Once we put these factors together, we can start to understand why a child might fall out of their seat at school. Education needs to transition towards play-based learning rather than away from it, for the sake of our current and upcoming generations.