Updated: Oct 26, 2019
Kaytlin Riendeau, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Young children are learning so much from their environment, their daily routine, and the adults in their lives. If you know a young child, preschool age (2-4 yrs), this is for you. Maybe you are a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent, or a childcare provider, however the connection, it is our responsibility to help build the minds of the young children in our lives. It's vital to make sure your child sleeps enough, eats nutritious food, exercises, is learning, and using their imagination. All of which are the foundation of physical growth, especially brain development. Parents-I know you are busy, so I'm going to give you a little trick to help you out. Keep reading to learn how you can help develop a child's motor programming through everyday routine and tasks.
We know the brain and body work together as a unit, and using that connection can help increase the ability to learn. A great example is that the same part of the brain that processes movement also processes information for learning. The vestibular system (or inner ear) helps with balance and coordination; this is a feedback loop that travels to the cerebellum (thought processing) and the rest of the brain. The system assists in sensory and visual input. Stimulating the vestibular system in the brain has significant connections to attention and reading. How cool? We can help our brain read and stay on task, by doing a stimulating exercise like balancing before hand.
Taking this information into account, there is a reason we want your young athletes to be able to perform certain tasks. There is a correlation between movement tasks and brain development. There is a reason children are given recess, a time to play, to move their body. This is why songs like “A, B, C’s” help children learn, why making a fun dance to go along with a song helps them retain the information. The more you stimulate the systems in the body, the more the brain is stimulated.
Its starts with even our preschool and toddler age children. Stimulating their body and brain very early on will help them to achieve the “30 Skills Every Young Athlete Should Have”. If you have not read this blog yet, you should. Set your children up for a healthier life and successful learning in school by stimulating them physically as much as possible. As the parent you can make it fun, connect with them, making everyday tasks more enjoyable for the both of you, all while setting your child up for successful brain development. Here are some great examples of what we do in our home!
1. Putting on your shoes/ socks
Challenge your child to stand while you assist them. Have them stand and balance on 1 leg while you put on their sock. If they need to, they can rest a hand on your shoulder and work up to no assistance.
NOTE: Parent WIN! This sometimes hectic task of getting your toddler to slow down and stuff their wiggly little toes into a sock, has now become a fun activity. As he or she gets older and you say “it’s time to get your socks and shoes on,'' there is an imprint in their mind of this being a fun task, that they are more likely to want to do on their own!
2. Picking Up Toys
Lets work on colors and speed. Instruct your child to pick up all the red toys first, you may say do it as fast as you can, or complete the task with a countdown or timer. You could say, slow like a snail, lets pick up the green toys. Changing the command and the movement of the body will be really fun.
NOTE: Parent WIN! Ok, we all know this daunting task of pick up your toys. However, making this a game is fun for both parent and child. Just take 2 minutes and interact with them. It's way better than “go pick up your toys” because you have empowered them to do tasks on their own. In the future they are more likely to put effort into these tasks.
3. Putting on your jacket/shirt
I do this with both my kids. “Time to get dressed,'' they look at you, giggle and run. So shake the shirt a bit, maybe look through the head hole and challenge them to run through it quickly (and safely).
NOTE: Parent WIN! Yes it takes time out of your already busy schedule to play a game (but does it really). When your child runs away, they are just trying to play a game. They will be so happy to play your new game!
4. Just for fun/ on a rainy day
Follow the leader around your house, pretending to do movements like certain animals. Crawl like a bear, sneak like a cat, jump like a kangaroo, slither like a snake. My toddlers (husband) will play this game until they are sweaty and thirsty. We often do a game like this just before reading a story or eating dinner, just to “get the wiggles out”.
NOTE: Another parent win!
Here at XIP we understand and value how important it is to get our young kids moving. We understand that teaching young children new tasks can be hard, but this is because their system has not perfected it yet. Repeating a task, failing, or making corrections is how the brain retains information to make adjustments in the future. Making the activities fun for them will also make it fun for you and hey, now you are really enjoying your time together.