In our world of technology and lifestyles that are more sedentary, children need to have opportunities to take part in physical activity from a young age. Although health reasons are so important, there are many other reasons why physical activity is a great resource in a preschool daily routine.
Preschoolers are often full of energy and they should be able to use up some of this energy throughout their day at school. Of course, there are times when it is more pertinent than others, but physical activity needn’t be saved for P.E lessons or extracurricular activities.
In circle time, for example, physical activity and movement help children to stay focused and engaged. Rather than just sitting and listening (and probably zoning out), moving and different physical activities can really help children concentrate.
For example, in a toddler classroom, simple things like songs and fingerplays – hand movements that go along with songs and rhymes – keep children engaged and involved in the activity.
By just singing a quick song or playing an active game with bubbles or balloons can keep them interested and more willing to listen once refocused on the activity.
In an older classroom, when identifying letters or numbers, games like racing to the board make learning much more fun and topics easier for children to remember.
Writing on the board, calling out, and having the children race to identify the letters (like in the picture above) can be much more effective tools when learning these early literacy skills than merely repeating the letter over to commit it to memory.
Practicing fine motor skills
Children are more engaged and interested when the practice of fine motor skills is aided by physical activity. Fine motor skill practice needn’t be limited to sitting down and learning to write.
Varying activities to produce similar or complementary results is a great way to help preschoolers develop skills.
Practicing gross motor skills
To practice gross motor skills as part of the daily routine, a preschool teacher can include activities like throwing into their lessons and daily activities.
If the theme is “at the zoo”, for example, physical activities for this topic could include “feeding animal” games where children have to throw balls into boxes or circles, to “feed” the animals at the zoo.
Yes, we’re not in a P.E lesson, but rather than sitting and talking about seals eating fish, giraffes eating leaves, etc. children will remember more about the topic because their brains connect it with a fun physical activity rather than a sedentary retelling and recalling of information.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “how can physical activity or movement help with relaxation?”. I’ve actually had a lot of success with helping children relax and calm down by using exercise, yoga, stretching, or silly songs and fingerplays.
One example that comes to mind takes me back to a couple of years ago where I had a child who had difficulties with anger and overstimulation.
For him, something I found very effective when he was getting angry and becoming aggressive towards another child or teacher, was to ask him for help with a task – a physical task. Don’t worry: there was no forced child labour here!
When situations, where this child was overstimulated, occurred, I’d come up with a job for him to help me with: “my friend, the lunch lady will come soon. Can you please help me move the chairs in the dining room?”.
This partly worked because of the distraction but his anger was, more often than not, calmed by him having a healthy and positive outlet for it. He was able to utilise his strength (of which he had a lot), to do something productive through physical activity and this really helped him relax.
Preparing for nap time
I’ve also had success with children who aren’t very happy to go to sleep at nap time. If you’ve not had or don’t have a child who resists sleep then I am very happy for you! They don’t come around very often, in my experience!
In situations where children didn’t want to sleep, a good activity was to exercise and get their heart rates up. This may sound counterproductive because this can get children excited again.
Our focus was getting heart rates up, breathing rates up, and then slowly bringing them down through deep breathing and, eventually, leading to rest.
Let me know!
Do you have any experience using physical activities in the classroom or at home to teach skills? What worked well for you? If you try those relaxation methods, please let me know how they work out!
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