Have you ever hung upside down in a tree to watch the clouds pass through leaves? Do you remember the pure joy of running full pelt down a hill with an umbrella to try and fly? Did you ride your bike as fast as you could to slide over a homemade ramp and skid to a grinding halt, because you were the lone ranger and your trusty steed was like the wind? I did. And as I look at my kids today, I’m wondering…. are they ‘city kids’? Do they know the feeling of grass under their backs or gravel under their feet?
The Early Years is well documented to be such an amazing time of growth and learning for children. Research shows that play based learning is the best approach – harnessing what children do naturally, and nurturing them within that framework towards critical learning goals. But hang around the pickup zone and you will hear many parents voice concerns that the kids just don’t get enough independent physical activity in the day. The restraints of small courtyards in ELC’s mean children are seldom allowed the freedom to run, roll, screech, spin and all the myriad of things kids do! They come home to small yards and plenty of screen time.
When do they get to ‘let loose’ without someone cautioning their every move?
Get children moving through sport and play. It is an inalienable right of Childhood!
Research supports that children exposed to physical activity and organised play based activities at an early age are better off cognitively, socially, physically and emotionally. It is not only a research item, it is a Right!
“Play is not only a child’s inalienable right – it also influences physical, socio-emotional and cognitive development. The right to play is protected in Article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the right to sport, which is specifically contained in other international treaties. For these reasons and the many reasons below, UNICEF continues to champion this right as fundamental to the health and growth of children everywhere” UNICEF (http://www.unicef.org/sports/index_23624.html)
This is why many early learning centres offer independent sports programs. Unpressured sporting activities for kids build confidence, increase fitness, helps bone density and does a lot for the brain. It gives children the opportunity to fail, try again, practice, get it wrong, succeed, be disappointed, be triumphant. Is this not the stuff of life?
What I absolutely LOVE to see when I teach sport to young children, is they learn what it feels like to run fast, to hit hard, to do their best and to be physically tired. The satisfaction of your body moving at your command and achieving its end goal is exhilarating. It is ‘freedom’ in my opinion.
Children need to learn the consequences of moving, the strength in their arms, the speed in their legs. They need to know the weight of their body as it crashes into something, or the consequence of falling. All of these things are essential in a child’s mental assessment of risk. It impacts their decision making throughout their lives. So parents, I urge you to encourage those times when children want to kick a ball, throw a stick, ride a bike. It’s good for them!
Here are 15 ideas to get children moving…. anywhere!
- create an impromptu obstacle course where children are crawling through dining room chairs, over cushions, hopping over brooms etc.
- pillow/cushion fights are great for core and arm strength and a lot of fun too!
- chase each others shadows on a beach
- handstands on the grass
- dance like no-one is watching
- make some homemade skittles and bowl them over with a large ball
- balloon tennis is a great game for indoors (hit the balloon to each other with your hand)
- blow bubbles and challenge your kids to pop them before they hit the ground
- juggle beanbags or soft balls
- skipping with a rope is an excellent sporting activity
- find a hill and let them roll down it
- take them to some rock pools and let them clamber over rocks
- encourage aim by playing ‘splat’ – throwing bean bags towards an object on the floor
- skim stones across a pool of water
- use pillows or cushions as stepping stones across imaginary river and children have to walk across them to get to the other side!
Guest Post by Bryn Jones, SmallSports Pty Ltd. Smallsports is an Early Childhood Physical Education Company. Teaching children aged as young as 2 the fundamental movement patterns vital to playing organised sport. For more information click here.