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A is for activities! Getting students moving is more than encouraging them to exercise or otherwise expend their energy. Movement can increase their learning too. Jam and jive with this month’s Upbeat News and help children of all ages get active. You’ll find:
  • tips to help babies’ motor development, strength, and growth
  • information on the social-emotional benefits of movement
  • how jumping, hopping, leaping, and skipping can support self-regulation
In this issue, you’ll also find a free activity from Move, Play, and Learn with Smart Steps by Gill Connell, Wendy Pirie, and Cheryl McCarthy that helps young children practice coordination. We’re also pleased to introduce our new title From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play by Connie Bergstein Dow. This imaginative alphabet book encourages children to be active, live a healthy lifestyle, and, most importantly, have fun.

Movement Tips for Parents and Caregivers

Adapted from Move by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis

Move Cover ImageMovement is essential for your baby’s motor development, strength, and growth. As babies move, they discover what they can do with their bodies. This builds networks of brain cells that eventually help baby think and learn.
Starting from infancy, offer lots of supervised tummy time—which helps strengthen baby’s arms, shoulders, and back (essential for learning to crawl). Place favorite toys a short distance away so he’ll need to reach or move toward them.
Babies enjoy being able to move even during “quiet” times. Hang a mobile above the crib. In front of baby’s car seat, provide a small playboard with lots of things to grab, turn, and move. Encourage splashing and kicking during bathtime.
Also be sure to get your baby out of the crib, car seat, and infant seat and onto the floor for stretching, rolling, and pushing up. Have a babyproofed room that includes tunnels to crawl through, toys on the floor that your child can reach for, and objects that move (like balls or trucks).
As an older baby shifts to becoming upright and walking, make sure there is sturdy furniture she can use for “cruising” (grabbing hold, pulling up, and motoring around).
Engage with your child in movement. This lets him know you love him and enjoy spending time with him. Plus, it’s good for you. Get down on the floor to play at baby’s level. Toss a soft ball back and forth. Spend time together in the baby pool on hot days. Move, move, move!

For 30% off and free shipping on our movement and learning materialsuse code APR30 at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2019.

Social-Emotional Benefits of Movement

Adapted from From A to Z with Energy! 26 Ways to Move and Play by Connie Bergstein Dow

From A to Z with Energy cover imageBeyond its physical benefits, structured movement for children can have a positive impact on their social-emotional learning. Activities like taking turns, solving problems in a group or individually, delaying gratifi­cation, and listening to and following instructions can help foster social-emotional development. Group move­ment activities can also familiarize children with concepts such as:
  • Personal space. Children learn about personal space and respecting others’ space as everyone moves together in a shared space. To practice the idea of personal space with your child, imagine you are each in a bubble the size of the reach of your arms and legs in all directions while you are standing in one spot. First, explore your bubble to get familiar with its dimensions, then practice walking in a relatively small space together, trying not to “touch” each other’s imaginary bubbles. Start moving slowly at first, then progressively move faster and closer to each other. Add music and try other ways to move, such as turning, stopping and starting, and walking in different directions. After this activity, reinforce that in group movement situ­ations, it is helpful to think of everyone as having a bubble of space around them.
  • Emotional self-awareness and self-expression. Some children are more comfortable expressing themselves physically. For example, a child might not be able to state verbally how she is feeling, but she might be able to show her feelings using move­ment. Ask children to make a wide range of faces (happy, sad, angry, silly, afraid, shy, surprised, and so on), and ask them to express these emotions using their bodies as well. Ask children: “Which of these emotions are you feeling right now?” Play some music and let children dance their emotions or any of the emotions corresponding to the facial expressions they explored. Exercises such as these not only validate children’s feelings, but also help them express and understand those feelings in a safe, controlled environment.
  • Empathy and kindness. Using books and stories can help teach empathy and kindness. After reading a book or telling a story, guide children to “dance the story.” Children can choose to dance about a certain character or characters as you give simple movement prompts, with or without music. Prompts can include asking children how they might feel if they were in different circumstances within the story. By putting themselves in the characters’ situations, dancing about the situations, and retelling the stories using movement, children can gain a whole new understanding of the characters’ feelings and the lessons of the story.
The ten additional activities in the back of From A to Z with Energy! can nurture creativity, reinforce body control and spatial awareness, and encourage further understanding of the letters of the alphabet. These activities also support the development of social-emotional skills such as reasoning, problem-solving, self-awareness, self-expression, and listening and responding to instructions.

For 30% off and free shipping on our movement and learning materialsuse code APR30 at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2019.

Jumping, Hopping, Leaping, and Skipping: Self-Regulation

Adapted from A Moving Child Is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think (Birth to Age 7)  by Gill Connell and Cheryl McCarthy

A Moving Child Is a Learning Child Cover Image

Why Kids Play This Way

Adults often think of “jumping for joy” metaphorically. But think about the last time you were truly excited—for example, when your hometown team won a big game. Chances are you actually did jump (or at least wiggle or dance around) for joy.
It’s natural to move our bodies in accordance with our emotions. When we’re sad, we curl up and make ourselves small. When we’re happy, we defy gravity to make ourselves bigger.
Children jump when they’re feeling good—and because jumping feels good. The bigger the leap, the bigger the feeling. We might interpret this as an outburst of uncontrolled emotion. But in fact, jumping, hopping, leaping, skipping, and other gravity-defying movements are actually powerful demonstrations of physical control and emotional self-regulation. 

Moving Through Play

Humans aren’t meant to fly like birds, but that doesn’t stop children from trying. When they do, they use whole-body effort and coordinated control, particularly in the following areas:
  • Jumping is a whole-body movement. While the legs provide the power, the arms play a key role in upward momentum.
  • Jumping requires balance. Anytime one or both feet leave the ground, they challenge the vestibular system to maintain balance.
  • Jumping develops the midlines. One- or two-footed jumping, hopping, and leaping all require refined midlines. That means children must be able to do things bilaterally (move both sides of the body in mirrored fashion) or homolaterally (move one side while keeping the other still). Skipping takes it a step further, requiring a lateral movement pattern (moving both sides in opposite ways). In fact, skipping is one of the most complex midline movements and a sign that physical coordination is reaching maturity.
  • Hopping and skipping require body rhythm and timing because of their repetitive nature. Body rhythm creates a regular pattern of hops or jumps, which helps balance and control the body and develop timing.

Developmental Benefits

  • Jumping, hopping, leaping, and skipping—whether outdoors, indoors, or even in the water—provide great aerobic fitness training for anyone at any age. But they’re particularly helpful for strengthening young bones and muscles.
  • There’s something contagious about jumping. When one child starts, the others jump in too, and before you know it, they’re jumping in unison. When children mirror one another’s movements like this, they are making unspoken emotional connections and forming the bonds of community.
  • Jumping helps children live large. A child who jumps with excitement is a child who feels deeply. When children feel safe to express their emotions—happy, sad, or mad—they are more likely to develop the ability to manage their emotions. Being reassured that their emotions are true and legitimate is the first step toward self-regulation.
  • Brain development is greatly enhanced by the whole-body activity of these kinds of movements. When the body works both sides, the brain does too, integrating and speeding up the processing between the left and right hemispheres.

What You Can Do

Let ’em jump. The first rule of jumping is to let it happen. Often adults worry that children will get too worked up or get hurt while jumping around. Instead, this kind of physical energy releases emotions that need to be freely expressed.
Encourage jumping games. Challenge children to use their jumping energy to push themselves to new heights and distances. Don’t set this up as a competition against one another, but rather challenge children to beat their own best effort if they can.
Add rhymes. Encourage repetitive jumping by adding rhymes or songs. Jumping to the beat of a rhyme or song sustains the play while helping children refine their body rhythm and temporal awareness.
Jump rope. Introduce the idea of jumping over a rope by laying one on the ground and challenging children to jump over it. When children are ready, lift the rope a couple of inches off the ground so they have to jump higher. Children might trip once or twice, but they’ll learn to jump higher eventually. As children’s skills and coordination develop, introduce the idea of skipping rope.
Introduce jumping toys. Hopping balls, pogo sticks, and other jumping toys offer great bouncing fun as children refine their balance.

A Word About Bouncing on Furniture, Trampolines, and the Like

Safety must be your first concern here. Young children should never jump on a bouncy surface without holding onto steady support, such as an adult’s hands, a railing, a handle, or some other safety device.
Beyond safety, the unpredictable trajectory children get from a bouncy surface does not provide the consistent experience they need to practice, refine, and master jumping skills, develop balance and intuition, and strengthen muscles. When the surface boosts the bounce, the muscles actually do less work. It may give children more air, but it doesn’t do more for their development.

For 30% off and free shipping on our movement and learning materialsuse code APR30 at checkout. Sale ends April 30, 2019.


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