Movement is for ALL children and sometimes they just need a little extra assistance, and their goals and level will vary/ and that’s OK!
So, with this in mind here is your super-fast, 3-minute guide
Let’s get back to basics
Before children can sit upright and move, they need to develop their core muscles.
What is the core?
The core is made up of the muscles in the trunk of the body. These muscles act like a corset protecting the lumbar spine, and it is the function of the muscular system to protect the articular structures in the body. The core includes the deep stabilisers in the spine which wrap all the way around to the anterior abdominal wall. The anterior abdominal wall includes three layers of flat muscle, the transversus abdominis, internal and external obliques. Everything you need to be upright, twist the body, bend sideways, forwards and backwards.
What can I do to help?
For the little ones
One of the first things to help little ones develop these muscles is to ensure they have enough tummy time. Tummy time is vital as it helps develop the muscles in the back, neck, arms, and legs and allows them to practice their reaching (stretching) and pivoting skills. All of this is a precursor to crawling and walking. Research shows that a lack of tummy time can delay children from reaching their physical developmental milestones.
For the older ones
Include as many activities as possible, that encourage children to use large body movements (gross motor skills) which in turn will help them build their core strength and improve fitness levels.
Why are some children more physically able than others?
Physical literacy (movements) is a combination of the strength of the bodies core and myelin development. The connections in the brain need to be there, as the core continues to develop, for the child to be able to progress and develop their physical literacy.
Core stability is vital for all activities, and we need to do all we can to help them. Don’t forget they need that core strength to help get them ready to write as it’s all about the strength and control of the motor skills both ‘gross’ and ‘fine’.
Movement of the month: Jumping
Have you ever thought about how much strength it takes a little body to be able to jump off the ground?
Try this: Bend over so you are looking at your knees. Relax your muscles, without falling over, so you are nice, floppy, and very relaxed. Now try to jump. What did it feel like?
Did you know there are 4 types of jumps for little ones to master?
2 to 2 (jumping from two feet to two feet)
2 to 1 (jumping from two feet to one foot)
1 to 2 (jumping from one foot to two feet)
1 to 1 (jumping from one foot to one foot)
What to think about when they are ready to jump?
Remember they need to go down before they can go up!
Using the knees: All jumps start and end with a bend in the knees. This protects the spine as the knees are working as a shock absorber.
Using the feet: As you land from any jump you go through your feet, from your toes distributing weight evenly through the foot all the way to the heel.
NOTE: Don’t land on your heels and especially with straight legs as this will jar delicate knees and spine including yours and you will end up on your bottom!
Scaffold their learning: see what they can achieve alone and what they can achieve with adult and peer support.
Model correctly: Children will copy you and when you model correctly, you are helping them build the right pathways as they lay down the myelin on the connections in the brain. Do take a peek at the article “Meeting myelin” in the August issue of Parenta Magazine to see how important this is.
Your pathway to success
When they are showing interest in leaving the ground, with two feet, it means they are ready to jump. This is such a fun and exciting time to enjoy together. Encourage them to actively jump by:
- Blowing bubbles for them to reach up and catch and on the ground to stomp on.
- Sing fun action songs together that practises bending and stretching the knees.
- Lift them off the ground so they can feel the movement of going up and down to see how much fun it is. When it’s fun they will want to do it themselves. Note: Don’t forget to bend your own knees and mind your back!
- Hold their hands as they start to jump as it is all about support and confidence.
NOTE: If they fall over don’t worry, make it fun and fall with them so they know it’s OK not to get it right to start with. Falling is a part of the learning process as this is how the body and the brain learns. With every new movement, the body and brain are assessing what is happening and how to keep you upright, while creating new pathways for the action. To give you an example when a child is trying to stand and balance on one leg, and they are wobbling around, that is the core trying to adapt to keep them upright. The body is learning how stabilise by finding its centre to remain upright.
For a little extra assistance:
Let them push down on the palms of your hands to get off the floor – mind your heads!
Holding your fingertips with both hands, and then one hand, so they are doing all the work but feel supported by you.
It takes confidence to jump as there is a lot going on in the body to defy gravity and get off the ground. It can be scary for some children, so be patient and they will jump when they are ready.
Make it fun
Be creative and imaginative in revisiting the movements by being different animals. Find your inner child and use props to encourage and engage by using chalk lines or spots on the floor to jump on, over or across. Blow bubbles, as who doesn’t love reaching, jumping, and catching bubbles?
Animal ideas for the 4 different types of jumps
2 to 2: Take a trip to Australia and jump with a kangaroo.
1 to 1: You have taken a rocket to space and leap from star to star looking for aliens.
2 to 1: Trying to cross the Amazon river and standing on one side ready to jump across as the jaguar is waking up. Don’t fall in - the piranhas are hungry!
1 to 2: Join a polar bear as he balances on the top of an iceberg looking for somewhere safe to land.
Please share your ideas and experiences with me as would love to know what works for you. Find me on Facebook or Instagram
@Littlemagictrain as would love to connect.
Gina’s background was originally ballet, but she has spent the last 27 years teaching movement and dance in mainstream, early years and SEND settings as well as dance schools.
Whilst teaching, Gina found the time to has create the ‘Hi-5’ dance programme to run alongside the Australian Children’s TV series and the Angelina Ballerina Dance Academy for Hit Entertainment.
Her proudest achievement to date is her baby Littlemagictrain. She created this specifically to help children learn through make-believe, music and movement. One of the highlights has been seeing Littlemagictrain delivered by Butlin’s famous Redcoats with the gorgeous ‘Bonnie Bear’ on the Skyline stage.
Gina has qualifications of teaching movement and dance from the Royal Ballet School, Trinity College and Royal Academy of Dance.