Tag Archives: physical development

Beat the Winter Wiggles!

winter-play

Colder weather can sometimes limit the amount of time children spend outside playing, but it is important to continue to make time for physical activity! Children need opportunities to release energy throughout the day and your indoor classroom can still be the perfect place for this to happen. Here are some ways to keep your children moving inside when it’s too cold to head outside:

Dance—An easy favorite for any age! Put on some tunes and let the children show off their moves! Some different variations of the activity can mix things up. Freeze Dance (children dance while the music plays and then freeze when the music stops) and songs with motions (Tooty Ta by Dr. Jean, Shake Your Sillies Out by the Wiggles, the Hokey Pokey to name a few) are quick, easy, and so much fun!

Activity Dice—Using any small square boxes, create two activity dice by adding some paper to the outside. Have the children come up with six ways to move around (jump, skip, frog hop, jumping jacks, stomp, crawl etc.) and write these on one box. On the second box, write the numbers 1-6. Children can take turns rolling the two dice to see how many times they have to perform an activity (3 jumping jacks, or 6 stomps)!

Act out stories—Let the children become the story by acting out their favorite books! Practice positional words by going on an adventurous bear hunt (“We’re Going On a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen). Grab a large white sheet and watch your students turn into forest animals looking for warmth in a giant mitten while you read aloud “The Mitten” by Jan Brett. A great way to work on reading comprehension while having a blast!

Obstacle Course—Use items in your classroom to create a safe and active obstacle course. Whether students are crawling under tables, balancing on a beam of masking tape on the floor, or tossing beanbags through a hula hoop, they are using many different muscles throughout the course.

Balloon ball—Blow up a single balloon and have the children work together to see how long they can keep the balloon from falling and hitting the floor! If team work is tough for your age group, give each student their own balloon for the same activity.

Scavenger hunt—Give clues for children to find specific objects around the classroom. For a simpler version, give everyone a color or shape and have children find items throughout the room that fit the category.

Follow the Leader—Quack like a duck, put your hands on top of your head, or spin around three times, the choice is yours! Lead your students through a series of actions to keep them moving. Let your students take turns leading their classmates and see what they come up with!

Pretend sports—Who needs actual sports equipment when we have our imagination? Pretend to dribble a ball down the court for the winning shot or throw a baseball for a friend to catch. We can still work on the moves even without the materials!

Freedom of movement

What does it feel like for an infant to be in a high chair, exersaucer or Bumbo seat for long periods of time? What is the intent behind using this type of equipment? Is it helpful, beneficial, or—goodness forbid—harmful?

Confining equipment is furniture that, in any way, limits the way an infant can move their body. Some of these types of equipment can be helpful. For instance, a high chair can be used for meal times or for a sensory experience. Caregivers may find a swing helpful when they do not have enough hands to rock a baby that likes it and hold another child while she takes a bottle at the same time. Sometimes these pieces of equipment are used just because they are there or because they are thought to provide entertainment to infants. Why else would they exist? They are made for infants, right?

Lay a blanket on the carpet and place toys within an infant’s reach to encourage movement.

Lay an infant on a blanket on the floor and place toys within her reach to encourage movement.

Marketing has led us to believe that certain products can “promote” development. Bumbo seats are supposed to help “aide” children in learning how to sit up but they can have a negative effect on children’s posture. Exersaucers are thought to help a child learn how to stand but this standing position is unnatural for infants and can cause misalignment to their spine. If you are looking to promote an infant’s motor development, they will benefit most if they are given freedom of movement.

The floor is your best free resource! That, with some classic tummy time can greatly impact a child’s ability to learn all they need to know about how to move their bodies. As infants become more aware of the world around them, they naturally become curious about how to get to the people and objects that are around them. They begin by finding their own hands and feet. They suck on them and watch as they move their fingers and hands. They eventually learn that they can hold a finger, a rattle, their bottle. Eventually, infants find a way to roll, scoot and wiggle to get around, which leads to crawling, cruising and walking.

The truth is infants need very little help from us to learn how to achieve these milestones. Infants are hardwired to move! But—there are some things that caregivers can do. You can prop a book next to an infant on the floor or place a toy just out of reach for an infant that is beginning to reach, roll or scoot. You can also refrain from rescuing an infant when they are stuck in a “compromising situation.” Instead, let them know that you are there for them when they are ready for your help and encourage them to figure out a way to solve the problem. You will not only be promoting their motor development, but also their cognitive and social/emotional development.

In my perfect world, programs would get rid of confining equipment like swings, bouncy seats, exersaucers and Bumbos, or at least limit their use. Until then, I encourage caregivers to think about these questions: What is the intention behind using confining equipment? What research is out there that can help you determine if any one type of equipment has any long lasting effects on a child’s development? How long are infants spending time in confining equipment? How can you support an infant’s freedom of movement?