Children need to move all the time. As a parent, you might be saying “Don’t I know it!” Unless they are sleeping or involved in a screen, they are nonstop balls of energy. While it may be exhausting for us to watch or facilitate, for children, movement is a mode through which they learn and grow.
Big body play includes activities like climbing, running, dancing, jumping, heavy lifting and even rough housing. All these activities help children develop not only physically, but also cognitively and socially.
Children develop strong core muscles, balance, control and even form the building blocks for fine motor skills when they participate in big body play. They also learn about turn taking, fairness, problem solving, and cooperation as they play a game of tag or hide and seek. Big body play with peers gives kids a chance to read social cues and develop negotiation skills. When kids get lots of opportunities to move, it stimulates the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, language, attention, etc. Recently, there have been several news stories about elementary schools in North Texas increasing the number of short recesses throughout the day. They had remarkable results and teachers reported that kids were able to focus and problem solve better.
So, the next question is how much activity do kids need during the day? Some experts say that preschoolers need at least one hour of structured activity and at least an hour (up to several hours) of unstructured activity and that children should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time unless sleeping. Structured activities are activities you do with your child and would include things like kicking the ball around in the back yard, playing chase, going for a walk or bike ride, swinging, going to a playground, and even play wrestling. Classes and activities that are led by an adult would also fall under this category. Unstructured activities are things your child does on his or her own or with peers without much parental involvement. They may include activities like playing with blocks, dolls, or cars, putting together puzzles, playing with pets, etc. It is amazing how much children move as they play independently. The challenge for parents is to make sure we carve out sufficient time to give our children enough opportunities for all this play time.
During these long winter days, it can be especially hard to get in all of the movement your child needs to meet his or her needs. Here are a few links to fun activities to do with your child that are easy to prep.
https://frugalfun4boys.com/indoor-active-games-preschoolers/ These are some activities that use things around the house to create fun activities that focus on gross motor skills.
http://thinkgreenparentin.wixsite.com/home/single-post/2015/12/15/50-indoor-physical-activities-for-kids This is a list of 50 activities that you can play indoors with little or no prep. Write some down on small sheets of paper and let your child pick the activities from a jar. That way they are part of the “what am I going to do next” process.
https://frugalfun4boys.com/indoor-ball-games-kids/ Another list of activities from frugalfun4boys.com, but girls would love these activities too!
Pinterest offers an almost endless list of things you can do with your children to not only up their activity level and burn off some energy, but to build relationships and have lots of fun!
So remember, shoot for at least an hour of structured activity and an hour (up to several hours) of unstructured activity to help your child grow in all areas of their development.