TEACHING YOUNG CHILDREN | VOL. 6, NO. 1 Download PDF
JOYE NEWMAN AND CAROL KRANOWITZ
Between birth and about age 6, children learn about their world by feeling and moving their bodies through it. The more children move, the more they will feel comfortable in their bodies and in sync with the world. As a result, they are more likely to be engaged in classroom activities and less likely to experience behavior challenges.
When children are in sync, their movements are easy and smooth. They feel comfortable in their bodies, and, being comfortable in their bodies, they feel good. We all function better when we feel good. Everything works.
Children who are out of sync do not share the ease and comfort of in sync children. They may be clumsy, trip over themselves, avoid using playground equipment, exhibit behavior problems, and have especially low self-esteem. They often develop into adults who are equally uncomfortable in their own bodies.
Teachers must consider how much time children spend at sedentary or
technology-based activities. Children should spend equal or more time actively moving. Two-dimensional activities on computer screens do little to develop and enhance preschoolers’ sensory, perceptual, and visual-motor skills. When children experience the three-dimensional world by moving within it, they can build a solid foundation for developing skills in all domains. Active children tend to find it easier to stay motivated and focused on play and learning.
How can teachers help preschoolers become in sync? Here are some fun suggestions.
1. Introduce novel ways of moving throughout the day. For instance, instead of walking, invite the children to
Jump, slide, or gallop to get their coats from their cubbies.
Scoot on their bottoms or wriggle on their tummies to join circle time.
Creep on hands and knees during clean-up time.
These large locomotor activities strengthen muscle tone and prepare young bodies for small, distinct movements, such as using scissors and drawing with crayons.
2. Encourage outdoor adventures. Children can
Go barefoot to feel differences between sand, grass, and blacktop.
Step in puddles.
Make mudpies and snowballs.
Jump in leaf piles and snow mounds.
These “messy” activities promote neurological growth that will prepare young brains for future reading and handwriting tasks.
3. Help children become aware of the space around them. The young eye is designed to look at things far and wide, rather than near and narrow. Have children
Clap bubbles between their hands.
Track a flashlight’s beam with their fingers, noses, and feet as it moves across the ceiling.
Catch falling feathers on their elbows, knees, or the backs of their hands.
Watching slow-moving targets trains the eyes to move smoothly, which is a precursor to reading.
4. Plan movements that give children the confidence to handle life’s challenges successfully.
Set up a large cardboard box in the classroom or outdoors. As children maneuver in and out of the box—or around a hoop, under a table, or through a tunnel—they are in charge of their bodies.
Where Am I?*
To play this game, children must move in small spaces and figure out how to position their bodies. As a result, children can develop and enhance their body awareness, spatial awareness, and motor planning. These skills will be applied when children are older and learning to write, organize their desks and papers, and play sports.
What you need
Several large cartons big enough for children to hide in,
at least one for every two children.
What you do
Say “Hide inside these boxes.” Make sure everyone is hidden.
Say “Can you put just your two hands outside the box?”
Ask the children to put only the following body parts outside their boxes:
Feet and head
Use more complex parts or combinations of body parts, such as
One foot and one hand
Both elbows and one foot
Reverse the directions and have the children put their body parts into the box while they are outside the box.
Heads Up, Toes Down
When children have trouble concentrating or getting involved, try this quick stretching activity. It will liven up the drowsy and calm the restless. As children listen and move, they develop and enhance
bilateral coordination (being able to use both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner). This allows children to get dressed.
auditory processing (being able to notice, compare, and distinguish the distinct and separate sounds in words). Children use this skill for holding conversations.
directionality (being able to know right from left, up from down, forward from backward, and so on). This skill helps children move across the playground.
What you need
Xylophone and mallet, or keyboard
What you do
Show the xylophone (or keyboard) and say “A musical scale is like a ladder. You can climb up, step by step. Watch and listen as I play up the musical scale.” Hit the lowest, largest tone on the xylophone (or middle C on the keyboard) and slowly play and sing, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.” If you can’t carry a tune, just say the numbers in a gradually rising voice: “1” is in your lowest voice; “8” is in your highest.
Say “Now sing the numbers with me.” Play up the scale again.
Play down the scale, singing in reverse from “8” to “1.”
Say “Put your hands on the floor or on your knees, and move your hands little by little as we sing up and then down the scale.”
Ask children to crouch and place their hands on the floor or their knees. As you sing the numbers, ask them to rise to standing, gradually stretching their hands overhead.
Have children reverse direction. They can move their bodies down instead of rising up.
Suggest that children lie on their backs on the floor, then repeat the variations. This time they can raise their legs instead of their arms.
Reprinted from Growing an In-Sync Child by Carol Kranowitz and Joye Newman, by arrangement with Perigee, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Copyright © 2010 by Out-of-Sync Child Inc. and Joye Newman.
Joye Newman and Carol Kranowitz are the coauthors of Growing an In-Sync Child: Simple, Fun Activities to Help Every Child Develop, Learn, and Grow (Perigee 2010) and its sequel, In-Sync Acitivity Cards (Sensory World 2012).
*Based on In-Sync Activity Cards, reprinted with permissions of Sensory World, www.sensoryworld.com.