Your child’s energy seems endless. Take his speed of growth for example, it was probably not too long ago that you remember him crawling everywhere but a few months later he’s walking, followed by jumping, running and testing his balancing skills. So long as health and safety issues are not compromised, parents should encourage their children to be active. After all, your junior is only working on developing his gross motor skills.
Children start to refine their gross motor skills between the ages of two to five. Gross motor skills refer to the ability to control and coordinate large muscle movements involving arms, legs and the entire body. Sitting, hopping, bending, climbing for example, are all part of one’s gross motor skills. In order for children to develop a particular set of such skills, they need to practice a certain activity or movement until they get the hang of the skill. For example, playing hopscotch regularly will enable a preschooler to improve his balancing skills.
Help your child work on his gross motor skills by providing ample opportunities for him to do so. You’ll need safe, open spaces like a park or playground (so your little one has freedom to move), imagination, patience and some basic equipment. Adult supervision is a must, of course, while having other children of similar age to interact and play with only increases the fun factor.
Kids at play
The best way for children to build movement skills is for them to do something they enjoy. Playing catching, hopscotch and ball are some classic children’s activities that are easy to manage and organise. The following are more ideas you can adapt to suit your child’s interests and capabilities. Remember that every child develops at his own pace. Abilities of toddlers and preschoolers vary, so don’t push a child to take on a task or activity he is not ready for. Instead, offer encouragement so your child will feel positive about his growing abilities.
Make use of your setting to plan a simple obstacle course. For instance, if you’re in a playground, you can tell your child to run around a park bench, crawl under a piece of playground equipment, hop three times on a coloured square, climb up the ladder on a slide and slide down. Vary the ‘obstacles’ depending on capability and what’s available. You can bring beanbags, hoops and ball from home to use as markers or as part of your game. For instance, jumping over a beanbag or into a hoop can be one of the ‘obstacles'.
Recommended in the book 50 Fantastic Ideas for Physical Activity Outdoors by Alistair Bryce-Clegg, this is a great activity for developing coordination and gross motor skills. Line up a row of empty cereal boxes. Get your child to stand at a start line two metres away from the boxes. With a large ball in hand, he has to try and knock the boxes down by rolling the ball forward. Award points for every box knocked down.
Skipping rope jump
Mum and Dad each hold one end of the skipping rope. Start by placing the skipping rope on the ground and asking your child to jump over it. Next, raise the rope a little and ask him to jump over. Keep raising the rope bit by bit to increase the level of challenge but remember maintain safety at all times.
Pick and drop
In The Wiggle & Giggle Busy Book, author Trish Kuffner recommends this shuttle-run activity that can be played by two or more children. Designate a starting line and place baskets next to it. Have the children stand beside each basket. Place groups of objects at various distances from the start line: for example, Lego bricks 100m away from the start line; toy cars 150m away; building blocks 200m away. At your signal, get the children to run to the closest group of objects, pick one up, run and place it in his basket, run to the next group of objects, pick one up and place it in his basket and so on. The child who completes putting all three objects in his basket sits down next to it. The first child to sit wins the game. If there is only one child playing, you can time him and encourage him to better his timing with each try.
Burst that bubble
With bubble solution and wand in hand, have fun with your child bursting a stream of bubbles. While you blow the bubbles, get your child to burst them by clapping his hands over it. He could also play chase the bubble, all the while getting a good arm and leg workout.