Has your child developed the basic movement skills?
Movement in the earliest years helps brain development as well as future physical abilities. Keeping up a healthy level of physical activity is very important for health and wellbeing, which is why young people (aged 5-17 years) are encouraged to keep a balance of high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary time (and sufficient sleep) each day.
In order to enjoy physical activities, children need to develop several fundamental movement skills. These are: balancing, running, jumping, catching, hopping, throwing, galloping, skipping, leaping and kicking. Having these skills means that children can coordinate their bodily movements and engage in games, sports, gymnastics, dancing and other physical recreations. Without them, they are more likely to seek out non-physical pastimes.
Encourage your children to play games that involve these forms of movements – be alert to their ability to master each. Amanda Morin (https://www.understood.org/articles/en/8-gross-motor-skills-activities-for-kids) suggests the following that might help:
Using a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance. If an outdoor trampoline is not possible, there are also mini-trampolines for supervised indoor use. Keep in mind that it’s important to follow safety rules.
Hopping and jumping require strong gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. Hopscotch is a simple way to practice those skills. (As a bonus, it can help practice number skills, too!) If you don’t have a paved area to draw on or a playground nearby, you can set up an indoor hopscotch grid on the floor, using tape.
- Martial arts classes
Mаrtіаl аrtѕ trаіnіng is a good way to help children develop strength in their arms and legs. Actions like kicking, punching, and grappling work to develop those core muscle groups. It can help kids with balance and knowing where their body is in space.
- Playground play
Playing on park playgrounds can be very beneficial. Swinging on a swing set can help kids develop balance. It also helps them learn how to coordinate shifting their weight and moving their legs back and forth. You may also want to encourage your child to use “unstable” playground equipment like rope ladders and wobble bridges. While they can be scary before kids get used to them, they help work trunk muscles.
- Balloon and bubble play
Balloons and bubbles are a unique way to build gross motor skills because you can’t predict where they’re going to go. Children can chase bubbles and try to pop as many as possible. While chasing them, they have to run, jump, zigzag, and move in ways that require sudden shifts in balance and weight. The same goes for throwing and trying to catch or kick balloons. For more structured play, you can set up a game of balloon volleyball.
- Tricycles, scooters, and pedal cars
Some children who struggle with gross motor skills may learn to ride a tricycle or bike later than their peers. But there are alternatives they can use to practice balance. Some tricycles come with handles so you can push while your child practices pedalling. Or you could invest in a sturdy scooter or a pedal car. They’re all stepping stones to riding a bicycle. Once your child gets the hang of it, you can even set up an obstacle course or draw a track with chalk.
Whether it’s a dance class or merely dancing around inside, dancing is good gross motor practice. It helps children develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. It also helps build children’s awareness of rhythm. For little ones, try using songs with lyrics that add movement, like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “The Hokey Pokey.”
- Obstacle courses
Obstacle courses get kids moving and give them a goal to accomplish. For an indoor course, use furniture, pillows, and blankets to create areas to crawl on, under, and through. Outdoors, you can use things like hula-hoops to jump in and out of, jumping jacks, belly crawling, bear walking, and other creative movements that challenge your child to balance, crawl, jump, and run.
Use these winter holidays to ensure that your children are moving well and moving enough. School time should include plenty of opportunity to develop these skills as well.