Pre-school children can be very active and busy, yet there are increasing numbers of children starting school who have not had the opportunity to develop fundamental movement and coordination skills. This can affect their confidence in physical activities and their ability to carry out more complex movements as they develop. It may also put them at risk of obesity and other health problems as they grow older.
How CBeebies can help
There are lots of programmes on CBeebies that can help with movement and coordination, e.g. you could choose an exercise and work out with Sportacus in LazyTown or you could try some Waybuloo ‘yogo’ poses (similar to yoga). Or why not join in with a Boogie Beebies dance routine – take a look at their web pages. There are lots of really fun routines to choose from!
How to make a magic moment
The best way for you to help your child’s physical development is to spend time playing actively together. If it is a wet day, why not make an indoor obstacle course? Use chairs, cushions, pillows, blankets and boxes to crawl under, climb over and move around. You could also put some ribbon or string on the floor and practice ‘balancing’ as your child walks along the line. Add to the fun by dotting items of clothing (e.g. a hat and scarf) along the route for your child to put on as they make their way around the course.
The term ‘gross motor skills’ refers to the movements of the large muscles of the body. Gross motor control starts developing from birth and typically develops from the middle of the body outwards so that a baby first gains control of their head and trunk before mastering control of their limbs. This provides them with the foundation skills necessary for sitting, crawling, standing and eventually walking. Without good gross motor skills children will struggle to develop the fine motor skills that they need for more complex activities such as writing and using cutlery.
It’s often assumed that children will develop motor skills and coordination just through their everyday play. Yet in order to develop skilled and efficient movements, children need the opportunity to practise. Parents can play an important role in providing opportunities for children to develop their gross motor skills and offering encouragement and feedback to help them refine their skills.
To help your child develop good movement skills, it is helpful to focus on one skill at a time and to break the activity down to ensure success and build confidence.
For example, to develop your child’s skill in accurate throwing, gather together a selection of beanbags or bean-filled soft toys. Start by aiming at a large, flat target such as a towel. Encourage your child to look at the target before they throw and give them hints such as ‘You need to throw softer next time’. As your child’s accuracy improves, make the target smaller by folding the towel in half, then introduce a target with sides such as a box or bucket. Join in the fun by having a throwing competition and involve your child in deciding how things should be made more difficult for you, e.g. by standing further away from the target or throwing with your eyes shut.
Regular physical activity will help your child to develop their sense of body awareness and therefore increase their confidence when moving around. Activities such as marching, rolling, balancing, swinging and jumping all provide sensory feedback that will help your child to learn where their body is in space. Including directional language - such as up/down and under/over - in your physical play will also help your child to develop their spatial awareness.