In the eight years that I have had my kids fitness business, I have taught and trained countless children. In the preschool sport program our emphasis is not on teaching individual sports, but teaching basic skills which can be transferred onto any sport.
What I have found is that those kids who have the basic physical skills known as gross motor skills, have an easier time joining in with games in the playground and as a result making friends. It is about giving your child the confidence to join in with whatever is going on in the playground – soccer, tip, jumping on the painted ladders, running on an oval, climbing the play equipment.
Sport or active games, have the power to overcome all barriers and can be a great way of making friends that you might not have before. In this article, I am not suggesting every child should want to achieve huge sporting success, I am investigating the importance of those all important gross motor skills (see definition at bottom of article), that kids used to learn whilst playing out on the street with other kids, or going off to the park on their own.
In the age we now live, children are learning to push buttons before they are learning how to crawl, and then enjoying more sedentary activities rather than wanting to play active games. We no longer feel happy just to leave our kids to play, probably a lot to do with what we hear and see in the media, and this is having a really serious impact on our kids.
Take my eldest son for example, he is more of an academic than craving outdoors, so I made sure that he developed really good gross motor skills, so at school he was able to join in whatever games were going on, making it far easier for him to blend in.
So how can you help your child at home:
- give your child as much access and exposure to equipment – balls, bats and racquets
- play throw and catch games – start with larger balls and move onto smaller balls (a pair of rolled socks or home made bean bag are a great way to start)
- play chase games, where your child needs to change direction and learn agility
- teach your child to throw – overarm and underarm start with tennis ball. Make up games that involve chasing the ball and throwing it back to you from different distances. This will help them work out which throw is appropriate for which occasion.
- suspend a tennis ball in a stocking from a tree and provide tennis racquets or bats to hit it with. Vary height depending on which bat or racquet. This is great for hand eye co-ordination and builds the muscles from repeatedly holding and swinging bat/racquet
- find something safe for your children to climb, a suitable tree, climbing frames at the park, walking along low brick fences, balance on a rope – all great for core muscles and builds balance
- teach your child to jump, for height and distance – feet together, bend knees and swing arms – go to a beach and jump off sand dunes, jump on a trampoline, put pieces of material, plastic or sacks around a space and jump from cloud to cloud or lily pad to lily pad.
- suspend a soccer ball in a pair or tights so it is just touching the ground. Great for eye-foot co-ordination and because it comes back, your younger child will not get frustrated.
What are gross motor skills?
A dicitonary definition – Gross motor skills are the abilities usually acquired during infancy and early childhood as part of a child’s motor development. By the time they reach two years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood, and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual’s years of development into adulthood. These gross movements come from large muscle groups and whole body movement.
I hope that you have found this information useful. Physical skills are one of the keys to confidence and once learnt will be developed and useful for life.