Physical competence is fundamental to cognitive development during early childhood. -Maria Montessori-
How physical activity encourages cognitive development.
From the first days of life, children begin using their bodies to learn about the world around them. Developing and mastering certain motor skills allows children greater mastery of themselves and their surrounding, and allows them to interact in ever expanding ways with this world.
There are various developmental stages that children pass through, as they grow and develop. Play is an important aspect of moving through these stages successfully, as various play activities help children with particular and necessary stages in this development. Initially, children need stimulation and play that facilitates gross motor skills, which means big movements such as jumping or running. Once this has been mastered, children need to develop fine motor skills, that enable them to pick up and manipulate small objects with their hands and fingers. In order to learn to write or draw, for example, a child’s hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time, and for this they need good fine motor skills.
Interaction with the environment also encourages sensory integration and allows for successful social and emotional growth and interaction with peers through play and group activities.
Are you helping your child develop their motor skills?
Children need to be able to play freely in order to develop gross motor skills, so encouraging outdoor activity, and giving them access to playgrounds is really all that is needed. Children are born to play, we just need to give them the time to do so.
Fine motor skills, which develop from 5 months onwards, can be encouraged by the use of building blocks and stackable toys. Playdough is also a good choice for all ages, as it encourages the use of both hands and can be beneficial for children who are tactile defensive. Lego blocks are of course also a favourite, and as they start with the Duplo blocks for little fingers, can be used by children for a number of years.
Support gross motor development as follows:
- Place a sprinkler under the trampoline in summer so that children keep cool while jumping.
- Get kids to play communal games like leapfrog & Ring ‘o Rosies.
- On rainy days, make an obstacle course on the floor, and get kids to crawl under and over furniture.
- Good old-fashioned hopscotch encourages co-ordination.
- Throw a ball to and fro, or ask kids to throw bean bags into a circle or hoop on the floor.
Support fine motor development as follows:
- Explore nature and collect and touch pine cones, flowers, acorns, snails, leaves.
- In summer, put toddlers outside with a jug of water and various plastic cups, and allow them to pour water into cups.
- Encourage toddlers to feed themselves as much as possible once they have the coordination to pick up a pea with their fingers and put it in their mouth.
- Provide toys that stack or need to be fitted into each other, such as Lego.
- Provide paper and crayons, and encourage scribbling
Xander Apps were designed to encourage fine motor development, and the drag and drop and tracing function of our apps are ideal for encouraging both hand eye co ordination and fine motor skills development. Try the Shapes and Colours app today.
Remember that children develop at their own pace, so give them space to grow and play – and don’t panic if they do not reach each development milestone exactly on time.
Top image from Wikimedia Commons.