If you’re a Kinedu advocate and have seen our activity videos, you’re most likely aware of the profound importance and link between physical activity and brain development. In this article we’ll explore the concept of movement play, analyze how this type of play impacts all four areas of early childhood development and what you can do to encourage it at home.
First things first, what is movement play?
One of your baby’s first ways of communicating with you is through movement. The idea behind this theory is that, through free play-movement, your baby is working on all of his or her developmental areas, not just the physical one. Movement play is when children move in specific ways as they go about their development and repeat these motions. From early reflexes, senses and movement, your baby is learning and stimulating his or her neurological system in many ways. Some examples considered movement play include floor play (tummy and back), belly crawling, crawling, spinning, rocking, rolling, etc.
The use of scissors requires and enhances many developmental skills. Cutting allows children to build the tiny muscles in their hands since they have to continuously open and close their fingers. Cutting also enhances the use of eye-hand coordination, which means children must be able to move their hands, while looking at something. Since the brain is required to work with two systems, cutting might be a difficult task. But don´t worry, little hands can develop fine motor skills by learning the proper way to use scissors. Keep reading to learn more!
Babies and toddlers explore and learn about the world that surrounds them by playing with objects. By doing this not only do they have fun, but they learn essential problem-solving skills and practice having social interactions. Play is a must in childhood and understanding which activities and toys best suit your baby and toddler are key for the development of skills and milestones.
At first, babies don’t understand the difference between toys and regular household objects. Everything they see, touch, taste and feel is new and exciting. They will explore the object by mouthing, shaking, banging and even throwing, to see what happens. With time, babies learn to differentiate between toys and regular objects but will use them in the way that is most enjoyable to them. If a rattle makes a fun noise when thrown, then they will do this repeatedly.
Okay, so we’ve been through this topic before and we all know how important it is for our little ones to strengthen their neck muscles and achieve total head control. By now, you’ve probably heard that, as your baby girl develops and grows stronger, she will eventually master this skill, yay! But as a parent with tons of resources at your disposal (such as, Kinedu), you’re probably wondering what YOU can do at home to help your daughter reach this milestone and gain yet another skill in the ever-growing repertoire.
First off, a recap. The acquisition of this skill (head control, that is) is crucial since it will lay the foundation for many more physical skills such as rolling-over, sitting, crawling and walking. If you want to read more about what can be expected for this skill at each stage in your baby’s development you can do so in this article (http://blog.kinedu.com/motor-milestones-head-control/).
Now, unto the fun part. Tummy time is actually a secret tool you can use to help your daughter make tremendous leaps in head control. So, what exactly is tummy time? It’s all that time she spends on her stomach awake and most importantly: under your supervision. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if a baby lays on her back for prolonged periods of time her head can flatten and, even though there’s no developmental problems related to this, if there’s anything you can do to prevent it, go for it!
Every minute your baby is face-down encourages her to lift the head and boost her motor skills! It’s completely normal if your little one is no fan of tummy time at first, hardly any baby is! Which is why it’s important to introduce it gradually and increase tummy time little by little. Continue reading →
When babies are born, they are not capable of associating what they see with what they touch. You’ll notice that your baby seems to be looking in one direction, but moves his hands towards another. This is because babies younger than two months old don’t understand that their hands are a part of them. But don’t worry, there are many ways to stimulate your baby’s hand coordination. Keep reading to learn more!
How do babies discover their hands?
Hand coordination in infants is vital for the development of physical and cognitive skills. Since birth, babies start to learn about their bodies through sucking and grasping.
In babies, the discovery of one’s hands is something that can be stimulated through the senses and it works like a domino effect. Practice this with your baby by showing him and making noise with a rattle. First, its sound will get his attention and then he will focus on the object. As he sees the rattle, he will follow its movement and try to reach it with his hands. Once your baby gets the toy, he will begin to notice his own hands. Continue reading →
When you watch a baby girl try her wobbly first steps it’s cute how completely uncoordinated she looks. It seems as if she is still unsure of where every part of her body is or of all the different movements she needs to coordinate just to take one step. Also, have you ever sat cross-legged only to find that one leg has gone momentarily numb, and then you have to spend a few minutes trying to wake it without being able to correctly calculate how much weight you can put on it or exactly where does your foot end? These experiences prove the impressive connection that exists of how our brain processes sensation and movement. That sense is called proprioception.
The term proprioception is used in medicine and in psychology to describe how a person knows where his or her body is in any given space, and therefore is the basis with which we can safely and carelessly move around our environment. Special receptors in our skeletal muscles allow us to be aware of our own posture, position and balance.
Our brain has to be continuously aware of where each limb is and what it’s doing so that we can move accurately and coordinately. Although, as adults, this complex process is so fast and fluid that it usually goes unnoticed, coordinated movements are no small feat for a developing child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 25 and 48 months of age children develop many fine and gross motor skills such as walking, grasping, jumping, running, throwing and catching objects. While she is working at these skills, your daughter consolidates how she processes the internal information about how to move.
If you want to read more about what you can do to provide proprioceptive input for your developing child, you can check out the following link: https://nspt4kids.com/parenting/what-is-proprioception-and-why-is-it-important/
The preschool years are crucial for a child’s gross and fine motor skills development. The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that most children can catch a large ball with their arms and without falling over at around 36 months of age, while by 48 months they have gained enough motor control and balance to start developing the ability to catch a bounced ball or catch a ball using only their hands.
Although it might seem intuitive for an older person, catching demands plenty of cognitive and physical skills, such as motor planning, hand-eye coordination, sequencing and bilateral skills. Therefore, it is an ability that develops progressively from 2 years of age until well into elementary school. Around 24 months, your child might anticipate catching a ball by standing straight, maintaining balanced and holding his arms in front of him. However, the task is still very tricky and he might occasionally catch the ball against his chest but then fall over. When your kid reaches 36 months of age, he should be able to actually catch a ball thrown from about 5 feet away using only his hands, without engaging the arms or chest in receiving it. At 48 months, he will start bending his arms when catching an object, and you’ll notice he engages more when preparing movements and positions to catch something.
When trying to encourage your son to put his coordination skills into action, you can play catch with him, bounce a big and soft ball at the wall and then trying to catch it, or, depending on your child’s age, you can try some of the activities featured here: https://nspt4kids.com/therapy/the-developmental-benefits-of-practicing-ball-skills-with-your-child/
As the American Academy of Pediatrics states, at around 48 months of age, preschool children are developing the gross motor control needed to throw a ball over their heads using both hands and using their whole body to propel it and give it momentum. A child’s ability to throw an object might not seem as developmentally important as walking or mastering the pincer grasp. However, it’s actually a good indicator of muscle strength and development, and of how well a kid can balance and control his body while moving, of how much he engages with the environment, and how well he coordinates different limbs doing opposite actions at the same time.
Let’s do an overview of how your daughter develops the necessary capacities to throw a ball. By 24 months of age, she is able to throw forward small and light objects (like a tennis ball) using an overhand or underhand technique. While at 2 years she’ll throw objects farther than 3 feet, by 30 months of age she will develop the muscular strength needed to throw the same object at least 6 feet. At 42 months, your little girl will be able to throw a tennis ball up to 10 feet using a more complex set of movements, like moving arms up and back to propel the throw and rotate the torso accordingly. By 48 months, she’ll be able to move her arms and legs to prepare the movement and then throw an object.
You can help your daughter tackle complicated physical skills by providing plenty of opportunities to try and do a task. Breaking down the movement into independent steps, like lifting a ball over her head, maintaining balance, holding the ball in the different positions of arms and legs needed to do the “throwing” sequence, and, finally, praise and encouraging her effort.
To learn how to write, a child has to develop his fine and gross motor skills in a consistent and predictable pattern through infancy and all the way to elementary school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a critical moment for the development of skills needed for mastering writing comes between 36 and 48 months of age.
Here are some of the things you can do to boost your child’s writing skills before starting kindergarten:
• Play A-B-C bingo by either making your own or choosing from the ones available online.
• When your child draws a person, ask and notice different body parts like the hair, arms and legs.
• Write a big and clearly traced letter on cardboard, put it inside a Ziploc bag and have your child trace over it with a dry erase marker that you can wipe afterwards.
• Notice letters in signs and texts your son sees every day.
• Play I Spy drawing games by asking him to draw something he is seeing.
• Make a game out of copying shapes and figures.
• When in the playground, invite your little one to make letter and shapes in the sand using his finger.
• Have your kid make strings of playdough and then help him to make the vowels. Spend some time making the sounds of each letter.
• Think of rhyming words and make funny sentences with them, noticing how they sound similar because they share some letters.
• Give him plenty of opportunities to interact with writing tools and hold them appropriately using his middle finger, index and thumb.
Children around 3 and 4 years of age still have a very limited vocabulary, so their explanations and other cognitive features can’t be really understood by what they say. The question of whether young children comprehend more than what they can express with words, is one that has both intrigued cognitive scientist and perplexed parents. Because of this, today we have vast literature on how children’s gestures provide insight into their cognitive state, their process of learning and how they represent things beyond words.
In 1986, Susan Goldin-Meadow and her colleagues from the Department of Psychology of the University of Chicago discovered that the gestures and movements that preschoolers do in problem-solving situations or while understanding mathematical, abstract or conceptual thinking are correlated with their efficacy and skill at the task. In other words, children use body moments to understand better new things. Drawing from numerous studies and experiments, they state that children’s spontaneous gestures help them work through something they haven’t mastered yet, and are the mechanism they use to point out to adults and caregivers of the things they are understanding without relying only on their vocabulary. This allows the adults to better communicate with a kid at a given moment of a task, and also helps the child to avoid the frustration of not being able to convey something.
More recently, Karen Pine and researchers from the University of Hertford discovered that children know more things than what they can actually express in words, especially regarding knowledge that is implicit or coded in spatial or visual formats. For example, how to solve problems, or the physical skills or concepts of balance and speed. Research has shown that experienced coders can reliably “translate” the meaning of the gestures that children produce naturally when they express something they learned or when they’re solving a problem.
Next time you watch your daughter playing or doing a task, try to notice the hand gestures and body movements that she does knowing that she is in the middle of learning something new or consolidating something by herself.
To read Goldin-Meadow’s fascinating paper published in 1993 in the journal Psychological Review, follow this link: