When our kids are in constant motion, it hardly seems that we need to give more than glancing thought to their physical development and level of activity. If anything, we might sometimes wish for slightly less activity around the house. But young children's need to keep challenging themselves physically cannot be wished away, even for a day. They are working hard to train those little bodies of theirs to move and respond in all of the ways we adults take for granted, and it's more or less a full time job.
The experts call this amazing process the development of "gross motor skills," a cumbersome phrase for the control and movement of the large muscles in the body (as opposed to the "fine motor skills" that refer to ways in which children learn to perform delicate tasks with their hands). Parents tend to focus intently on these skills in the first years of babyhood when we can hardly believe our eyes as our cozy little bundles go from waving and kicking to scooting across the floor to crawling and (finally!) those eagerly awaited first steps.
Yet once our kids are off and running, it is still important to keep up with (if at all possible) and encourage their ever more daring and independent physical feats.
If you are asking yourself what kinds of physical tasks your kids are working on these days, taking Savvy's Developmental Quiz can be a great way to figure it out and will also find specific ideas on how to encourage them. Skills your preschoolers might be practicing include:
Balance - Standing on one foot, riding a bike, maintaining equilibrium)
Major-muscle coordination - Stopping and starting motion, doing somersaults, mastering the monkey bars, pumping a swing, ascending and descending stairs and ladders
Spatial orientation - Playing group games, fitting into different sized spaces
Eye-hand/foot coordination - Catching and throwing, kicking
Using the body expressively - Dancing, imitating, acting things out
Laterality - Learning right and left
If all of this sounds like a more complex breakdown of your child's playtime than your ever really cared to understand, no need to worry. All that this should tell you is that the hours upon hours you spend at the playground or in the yard or anywhere out in nature or even just dancing in the living room with your little ones are indeed hours very well spent.
Children have wonderful fun as they run and jump and play, growing their bodies and developing all of the vital connections between their bodies and minds in ways we can only begin to comprehend. But comprehend we need not. We only need to take them outside as much as possible, and feel a measure of their delight as they learn to swing themselves high high in the sky all by themselves.
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