“…movement experiences involve children in creating, representing, and expressing their interpretations of events, ideas, and feelings” (The Head Start Leaders Guide to positive Outcomes pg. 80).
The US Government estimates that 25% of children under the age of 20 years is obese. Symptoms of obesity include heart murmurs, chest pain, acid reflux, high cloistral, type 2 diabetes, trouble sleeping, and trouble breathing. Over the past decade SPARK (Sport, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids) has studied the effects of physically active children and has found that they have fewer chronic illness and generally preform better in school. Young children developmentally NEED to move around. Too much sitting actually decreases their concentration. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education state that preschoolers should have at least 2 hours per day of physical activity. 60-minutes of it should be planned physical activity and 60 minutes should be free play. Early Childhood Educators can disperse movement activities throughout the day to keep the brain alert and receptive to learning. Stretching and bending can help revitalize sleepy children as it helps get the air flowing in the lungs causing more wakefulness.
From the first day of life babies are learning how to move their bodies. “Physical Development is the foundation of learning. Without balance and coordination, we could not sit or stand, have free use of our hands to carry out fine motor tasks, or control the eye movements needed for reading, writing, and mathematics” (Angelique Felix). Young children are not developmentally ready to sit for long periods of time. We know that exercise stimulates the brain. And the more we stimulate the brain, the more neurons that are activated. And the more activated the neurons, the more the brain grows. By combing movement with cognitive concepts children are learning to move and moving to learn. It makes learning fun.
Movement activities help children learn to control their bodies by staying in own space, standing still, and moving body in various positions and locomotion.
Playing games like Freeze or Stop and Start with music helps develop listening skills. It also helps children understand pauses, stops, and starts that are part of the rhythm of speech. Doing simple yoga with preschoolers helps them to focus and learn spatial awareness and balance. Obstacle courses are a great way to teach vocabulary and concepts (under, over, behind). And activities that teach bilateral movements (crossing over the mid-line) are needed in order to ride a bicycle and reinforce memory, as well as prepare children later for reading and writing. Children who develop good spatial awareness are able to better problem-solve and have a good sense of direction. A child who understands his/her body boundaries tends to have more self-control. Movement activities allow children to take risks helping develop self-esteem. And movement and dance is creative. Preschool children are developing their creativity. And creativity is important in both work and play as children and adults.
Movement and music go hand in hand, find music that you like and make a cd for classroom. Dance teaches self-regulation (stop and start on time, follow the movements in order, following multiple-step directions) Children need to be taught how to dance. It is important for teachers to model simple steps to children. Movement and dance should be presented in a non-competitive way so that all children will want to actively participate. Make sure to start simple and build or children who are not risk takers will tend to back off. It is not about accuracy as much as it is about learning to move their bodies in different ways. Learning to move to a beat helps children develop the rhythm of language and reading.
Learning simple dance moves is like learning a new song or the name of a story. It will need repeating but you will begin to notice that the children quickly learn what moves come next.
Movement requires thoughts of safety. Balance is an important part of children’s physical development. It is needed to grow their large muscle control and reflexes.
Jumping is good for the heart. Although most preschool children are not developed enough to jump rope, there are jumping activities that you can do to help foster endurance and cardio. Children benefit from movement activities as they provide ways for children to not only learn about how their body moves but to internalize vocabulary by acting words out. Act out Movement Words such as; soar, zoom, float, flutter, wiggle walk, hunched over, fold in half, spin, creep, twist, shake, stretch,
Try broad jumping, jumping over blocks (jack be nimble), jumping to hit a hanging object, jumping down off something, jumping over, hopscotch but with jumping, jumping up onto something. Children should be given many opportunities to engage in movement activities.
Some Ideas to Stimulate Movement Activities
Pick an animal cracker, eat it, and then become that animal
Be the wind, a storm cloud,
Blow a pretend bubble gum balloon bigger and bigger until it pops
Put on music and when it stops everybody must freeze and hold their muscles still.
Pretend to be a fish swimming in the ocean around seaweed and shark
Out on Hap Palmer CD’s or look up favorite songs on YouTube to move and dance with.
Be a jack in the box
Arch your back like a cat or a table
Pretend to be horses on a merry-go-round
Wave good-bye with different parts of our body
Put tape on the floor and follow it while listening to music (zigzag design, ladder design, angle design)
Balancing a beanbag on different parts of our body and walking, stooping, dancing.
Be a snowman melting
Act out poems-Growing Up…Growing High, Let me please, touch the sky.
Lie on your back and pretend to peddle bike up a hill and down the other side.
Use rectangle blocks as ice skates and slide to music
Follow the Leader
Move scarves, crepe paper lengths, or ribbons to music
Move to drum beats Al-i-son, Ry-an, Mark, E-liz-a-beth
Can you be fat? Can you be tall? Can you be thin? Can you be small?
Can you be narrow? Can you be wide? Now take your body and try to hide.
Learn dance move to songs like The Mexican Hat Dance or Flicking Flies
Music to dance to