A key piece of physical literacy is that is a cradle to grave concept. It’s not just the responsibility of physical education curriculum and schools to develop physical literacy in individuals. Parents, child care providers, and educators must all understand the importance of promoting physical activity in preschool aged children - as well as school aged individuals, and adults (including senior citizens) for that matter. The local public school district in my area has an early childhood program. It’s great! A parent educator comes to my home four times a year to play, along with me, with my children. She gives me feedback and makes suggestions for how I can help them learn. It’s a free program. No complaints! Although some motor skill milestones are assessed, the physical domain information shared stops there. I am one of the believers that early childhood education is critical.
I find myself worried that some early childhood programs forget just how important physical activity (through play) is for kids’ health (physical, social, emotional). These thoughts, along with the long list of cold weather Facebook rants, inspired this post. You see, growing up in Canada, I don’t equate cold with blah. I equate cold with fun. I get it, some days it’s not safe to be outside. But, I don’t think this is a good reason to give a preschool aged individual an iPad for the day. That’s just scary...
We were back in my native Nova Scotia for the holiday. It was cold. There was snow. We returned for two days of skateboarding weather in St. Louis, only to be followed by an incredible bout of both snow and cold temperatures. My babysitter couldn’t make it so I chose to work the “night shift” after MacGyver got home. I have to say, I’ve had a blast. After reading some comments from frustrated moms and dads wishing preschools would re-open, I thought I would share some ways that kids can let off some steam while on their watch. Feel free to share with friends and child care providers so that they understand the importance of helping kids to develop competence and confidence in a wide variety of environments.
Don’t forget about you!
While this post is about pre-schoolers and physical activity, it’s just as critical that you let off some steam on weeks like this one, too. Physical activity is (in my humble opinion) far too often equated with weight loss and far too seldom talked about in terms of its ability to increase patience, decrease stress, and leave one feeling empowered to take on the world (or, to survive the day with some preschoolers). This will prepare you to better deal with the shack wacky kids if you don’t feel so shack wacky yourself. But, that’s a whole other post (embracing the treadmill - coming soon).
Ideas to Promote Movement in PreSchool Aged Children
1. Check out your community offerings
- Allow the kids to make a “physical activity” or “sports” kit and go to a gym. I gave my kids a bag and they could choose what they wanted to bring to promote physical activity. Some great things to have on hand include: juggling scarves, yarn balls, bean bags, light/different textured/and different size balls. I am not associated with Gopher Sports but I recommend them because they donate equipment at physical education conferences and then have it donated to local schools in need. Here is what they chose to enjoy.
Be mindful of not forcing a particular game on them. Often, they will find ways to make the game most appropriate for them. For example, they lined up their indoor bowling pins…
I thought, cool, the underhand roll is usually a skill taught to the young ones. I thought I was going to put on my physical educator hat and do my thing. Wasn’t happening.
My big kid told my small kid that the goal was to throw (overhand) to knock down the pins. I went with it. I tried my best to teach arm in opposition and actually was impressed with how quickly she caught on. I left the instruction at that. They were having fun, I didn’t want to mess it up by giving too many pointers. I especially loved when they decided to crab walk in to pick up the pins (can you guess how they move from the toys to the dinner table?). :)
FYI: Balance beams are everywhere. Trust me...
You don’t need fancy equipment. But, while we are on this topic....Wouldn’t it be epic if planners would resist the gum ball and candy machines - and the video games - at arenas and community fitness complexes? Let’s replace them with indoor play structures so that when younger siblings come to support older ones in their games and pursuits, their health can be promoted, too. Not just hindered. Ahhh...love this thought.
- People laugh at how often people say that St. Louis is a great place to raise kids. However, the reality is, it appears to be true. Yesterday, we ventured out to the Magic House where there are ample opportunities for kids to let off some steam.
Climbing, crawling, and learning fun. It’s not the kids that need to get out when it’s freezing cold outside. We all do. Changing the scene and allowing them to do what they are built to do...move....makes us all happier.
2. Invest in warm clothing so kids can learn to enjoy the outside.
- Shop the clearance racks this spring for next year.
Remember, you don’t need a ton of stuff - but you do need quality stuff. Patagonia has lifetime guarantee and encourages passing clothes around. Bog boots are the bomb. Ideally, community recreation leaders and youth sport organizations invest in equipment (snowshoes, cross country skis) that can be rented (for free or minimal charge) to increase the amount of youth with access to a variety of physical activity pursuits.
A few days this week were cold...so cold. But, it warmed up today and we got to put our gear to good use (special shout out to my niece Sara for passing on her warm snow suits to my girls!)
I shoveled the driveway and they had an “ice castle” to play Elsa and Anna. (As an aside, if I hear the song ‘Let It Go’ one more time I might move into said “ice castle.”)
If you are a youth recreation leader, physical educator, early childhood development educator, or youth sport coach - include this topic of promoting physical activity at home in your newsletter/on your website. On the days that it simply is too cold to be outside, it doesn’t mean it’s too cold to find something fun to do to help kids create memories and gain confidence in their rapidly developing bodies. The reality is - when all else fails - swimming on a skateboard or vacuuming (she wasn’t supposed to take her cereal into the toy room - two-years old is plenty old to earn one’s keep anyway) are also viable options.
I had an awesome week (and, it’s still Thursday). Tomorrow we are going skating. We are the opposite of “shack wacky”. We are having fun and all falling into our beds at night! Remember, health promotion sometimes takes a little creativity but it’s so worth it - everyone is happier. So, embrace it. Physical literacy includes confidence and competence in a wide variety of environments - don’t be afraid of the ice and snow - enjoy them. And, enjoy these rosy cheeks.
Okay - I have to stop. My arms are almost dead from shoveling.
How about you....
Did you build any snowmen this week?
Did you build any snow forts this week?
Did you go skating?