That being said, physical play is not only good for physical health but also for stress reduction and as an outlet for the relief of overwhelming emotions, those which often children don’t know how to otherwise express. Learning to master a new physical skill, such as climbing up a tree, provides children with awareness of their bodies and developing physical abilities, their own strength, and also the ability to assess risk. Conquering physical skills provides children with feelings of accomplishment, positive self esteem and a sense of power and freedom. All of these are important skills for life and health.
Children generally follow a standard sequence when it comes to developing physical skills. This is most obvious with babies as we watch them learn to roll before they crawl, or stand and balance holding onto the furniture before they take their first steps towards walking independently.
As babies – rolls over, sits unsupported, crawls, takes own weight and balances when standing.
As toddlers and preschoolers – walks well, runs steadily, dances, gallops, kicks ball forward, balances on one foot, tip toes, pedals trike, hops on one foot, catches bounced ball, jumps down from low height, jumps over things, turns somersault.
In helping children to develop physical skills, it is primarily a matter of setting up play experiences and equipment, or engaging them in fun games which allow for practice of a given skill. And whilst I advocate outdoor play everyday, many physical activities can be easily adapted for inside play during the cooler months.
Here are a few ideas to get your started;
- Pop on some music and dance.
- Balloons are great for chasing, hitting and kicking.
- Try moving around like different animals. Why not jump like a frog to the bath or scuttle like a crab to the dining table? It’s more fun than walking and is more likely to engage the cooperation of your toddler 🙂
- Provide opportunities to crawl through, climb up or over, balance on and hang from. Simple obstacle courses, inside or out, are great for encouraging a range of skills from the one playful experience.
- Draw chalk lines on the bricks or concrete (or use masking tape indoors) to move along (crawl, walk, balance heel to toe, skip) and jump over.
- Encouraging children to dig in the sandpit or garden, rake up leaves or sweep up sand; all useful activities involving the development of physical skills.
- Get hula hooping.
- Introduce bean bags and balls for throwing, catching and kicking. Sometimes, provide a simple target to aim for such as a chalk shape on a wall or a large box or washing basket.
- Add a lightweight plastic bat (a larger surface area makes it easier for children to achieve success with).
- Look for opportunities for your child to lift, haul and shove as they learn to test their own strength.
- Explore a range of outdoor environments. Roll down sand dunes. Chase seagulls along the beach. Play hide and seek or tag in a grove of trees.
- For preschoolers, teach them old fashioned outdoor games like hopscotch, elastics and how to jump rope.
- There are many books now which introduce children to simple, fun, age appropriate yoga poses. Children aged 4+ often love imitating yoga moves from pictures.
By turning off the television, getting off the couch and being more physically active ourselves as we go about our daily lives, we are modelling positive lifestyle habits to our children.
What are your favourite physical play games?