During the first few years the human body changes rapidly and dramatically. Children’s physical well-being, health, and motor development are cornerstones of early development and learning. These are all key dimensions of school readiness.
Physical and motor development occurs along a relatively predictable sequence from simple to more complex. Children may learn new skills at different ages but typically children all learn the skills in the same order. In other words most children crawl, then walk, then run. Crawling is actually a really important skill that builds a variety of brain and body muscles.
Set Your Children Up for Healthy Success
We all want our children to grow up healthy and strong. Although the mental picture of this may be different for many parents, there are many principles that lead your child in the right direction. VBgrowSmart.com visited with Andy Ballard, regional director of youth services and creator of the Sports Stars Academy at the new Virginia Beach Field House. He uses four basic principles to help parents grow their 18-month to 6-year-old children physically, mentally and socially:
The staff at the Sports Stars Academy understands that the children come to have fun. They are trained to incorporate gross and fine motor skills, stability and balance, as well as social growth and comfort zones into their programs.
Consistency and Repetition
After speaking with Ballard, you can tell how important consistency and repetition are. He suggests getting to the child’s eye level, listening to the child’s thoughts completely, and responding like you would to one of your peers.
“It is way easier to be consistent when talking to children, if you talk to them as if they are any other adult,” says Ballard. This way, a child knows what to expect and what is expected of them.
Have you ever watched somebody try to talk to somebody that does not speak English? They slow down their speed of speech. They use little words. They over annunciate words with their mouth. It is pretty funny to watch from a distance. Often times, the same holds true when you watch an adult trying to communicate with a child. So many times we do not give children the credit they deserve. Children are learning machines. Challenge them. They will perform to your expectations.
Be a supporter. Make sure you’re available to help your child, but let them experience things on their own. Coping with struggles or stressors helps children become independent. Supporting a child allows them to be challenged, and allows them to stretch their comfort zone.
“Stretching a child’s comfort zone is a very healthy exercise and is a vital element in the Sports Stars Academy,” Ballard explains. “Children have a natural call to adventure. Harnessing that in a supportive environment causes great teachable moments.”
Learning is an All Day Activity
Although most children have a 45 to 50 minute attention span, learning for a child is an all-day activity.
“These principles are lifestyle habits for raising children. Raising a child is a team effort and we love being a part of that team, but seeing a child once a week is simply not enough,” explains Ballard.
At the Sports Stars Academy, building relationships with parents is essential. Class does not end after 50 minutes.
“The parent take over the teaching, but our tools are effective with their child and give them an acute idea of where their child is in the development process,” says Ballard.
The Virginia Beach Field House is one of Virginia’s premier indoor sports facilities. With more than 175,000 square feet, the Field House offers leagues, camps, clinics, and tournaments for youth and adults in lacrosse, soccer, flag football, volleyball, basketball, arena (indoor) baseball and softball, field hockey, dodge ball, and other social sports. The facility also hosts birthday and team parties, corporate events, and other organized activities. It has six turf fields, eight regulation volleyball courts, four basketball courts, multiple party rooms, an arcade, and an indoor Fun Zone. Everyone is encouraged to visit our fully stocked food court.
If you would like to talk to Ballard or another staff member about strategies for helping your child, visit the Virginia Beach Field House website , send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Virginia Beach Field House at 757-427-3955.
Children who are involved in physical activity on a daily basis are more likely to be physically active throughout their lives. As a parent, you can be a role model and create regular routines and family activities that include gross motor skill development. What does this mean? It means children need time to frequently and routinely run, jump, hop, skip swing and much more. Physical activity has many benefits:
Do you remember playing these games and activities as a child? Try them today with your children and their friends. For younger children, adapt the rules and be more flexible. You know your child. The important thing is to have fun and get moving.
Don’t forget to play with balls of all sizes. You can roll, toss, throw and catch balls with children of any age.
Fine motor skills involve movements using the smaller muscles in fingers, hands, and arms. They include grasping items, cutting with scissors, fastening buttons and zipping zippers. Are you interested in fun activities that help your child practice and improve these skills?
Knead to Know
Recent research shows that using your fingers and hands actually stimulates your brain and increases the number of neural connections it makes. So when your child digs into play dough, he’s not only building little figures and shapes, he’s building his brain! For some mind-molding fun, start by making your own homemade play dough. Then, try a few activities.
Talk About It
While making the dough, have your child be a play-dough scientist by asking him questions like, “What will happen to the ingredients when they’re mixed together? What will happen when you add the water? What will the dough look like when it’s cooked?”
Make An Impression
With a rolling pin, help your child roll out a handful of play dough. When the dough is smooth and flat, she can press small objects with different shapes and textures (fork, buttons, dried pasta, seashells) into the dough to make imprints and create an interesting pattern. Poke a hole in the dough near the edge, then allow it to dry and paint it. Tie a ribbon through the hole and hang it up.
Roll out the dough to about a quarter-inch thick. Then have your child pick her favorite cookie cutters and show her how to lean on them with both hands to cut out her shapes. Next, help her use a spatula to lift the cut-outs onto a piece of cardboard or a tray to dry. When the cut-outs are fully hardened, glue blank magnets to the backs and decorate the refrigerator.
Snip and Cut
Learning to use scissors can be a challenge for many kids because it’s difficult for them to hold and cut floppy paper. Try cutting play dough! Roll out half-inch thick sheets, pass out the child-safe scissors, and watch your child become a super snipper. Play dough is a good learning material because its rigidity provides resistance so your child can feel what he’s doing with the scissors.
Homemade Play Doh
Research shows that using your fingers and hands actually stimulates your brain by increasing the number of connections made. So when your child digs into play dough, he’s not only building little figures and shapes, he’s building his brain!
For some mind-molding fun, start by making your own homemade play dough. Then try a few activities that include sculpting, making impressions and building vocabulary. Learn More…
Play Dough Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar (optional)
Food coloring and extracts as desired (for color and smell)
In a saucepan, mix flour, salt and oil. Slowly add the water (include any food coloring or extracts for scent in the water). Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff. Turn out on waxed paper and let cool. Knead the dough with your hands until soft and smooth. Add additional flour, if needed, so it is not too sticky. Store in an airtight container.
By simply making art materials, music and dress up clothes available, you allow your children the freedom to explore and create. The arts connect all areas of learning and are fundamental to healthy growth. Sometimes you can create your own fine arts experiences at home, and other times, community events are the perfect setting for exploring new topics and sparking an interest.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Did you know that singing songs and listening to nursery rhymes builds vocabulary and comprehension skills?
Children are listening, improving their memory and learning how sounds and rhymes work together for language and reading skills. Try acting out a nursery rhyme and doing movements together.
Would you like a new game idea?
Play “If I were a …” and start a sentence for your child to finish, this builds vocabulary, uses imagination and creativity and critical thinking skills. For example, “If I were an elephant wandering in Africa I would …” Let your child finish the sentence.
Have fun and do not forget to play along. Allow your child to make some suggestions that you act out or complete.
Teaching children daily personal care and hygiene habits should start early. In the beginning, you do everything for your baby, and as your child grows, you begin to encourage them to help and then do things independently.
Part of a healthy self includes eating a variety of foods that have healthy nutrition and obtaining regular medical and dental care to ensure your children are growing strong minds and bodies. It is simple to help your children learn positive habits from the beginning.
Routines are the first place to start. Begin early with family meals, bathing, brushing teeth, and bedtime. Whatever your routine - be consistent. Your children actually thrive on routines and want and need structure and rules. As they get older, it may not sound like they want rules, but they really benefit from them and secretly feel safer and more secure when they know and understand your expectations.
Looking for ideas? Try some of these:
Let Them Move!
Children have a very important job. Their job is to play -- to explore the world around them on their terms, allowing them to collect as much information as they can.
Play is more than just a way to release pent up energy and get physical exercise, although that is very important too. Play is a natural way for children to exercise their imaginations, interact with other children, and to build motor coordination. Through play, children develop physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively. Their brains are making connections that they will keep for their entire lives.
Very young children are learning how to coordinate and move their bodies. Learning how to move without consciously thinking about it is a priority in development. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, so once a child can crawl, walk, or grab, their brains are then free to explore and learn, and THINK. This is just one phase in a multitude of progressions that are based on movement.
Throughout the day, children should be engaged in their learning in a physical way. A good chunk of a child's day should include free, unstructured play in a stimulating environment. Children should be offered a variety of props for manipulating, role playing, building, and for interacting with both peers and caregivers.
Engaging children with all the senses and physical interaction should be applied to structured learning time as well. The younger a child, the more interactive activities should be. There is no end to the variety of ways to invite participation of children in reading, writing, and math –- in all areas of the curriculum! Get them up and moving, using their senses as much as possible.
Of course, the single most important activity for building early literacy skills is to read to children as much as possible. To get the most out of reading aloud, choose stories that invite and encourage participation through movement and "helping" to read. Add simple motions to the repeated lines, and children (as well as the reader) will thoroughly enjoy themselves. Some great books for this include:
Singing or chanting songs, nursery rhymes and finger plays is not only extremely motivating for children, but also very important for hearing the smaller sounds in words and introducing new vocabulary. Why not bump it up a notch by including more physical movement and visual cues? Let a puppet or stuffed animal "lead" the group while singing and dancing to a favorite song. Act out Little Miss Muffet using mats as "tuffets" and a spider puppet. Don't hesitate to get up and move yourself. You'll find it's much more interesting and engaging for the adults too!
There comes a point when the Alphabet Song needs a facelift. Many children have been able to sing the song by rote since they learned to speak, but that doesn't mean that they've learned the individual letters. We've all heard children recite "LMNOP" as one long letter! When children are working on letter knowledge, try these alternatives to the classic song.
These are just a few ideas that you can use to give your lessons a boost and to engage your students. For more great activity ideas and book suggestions stop into one of our libraries or ask a youth librarian.
The Public Library Association (PLA), and Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Every Child Ready to Read® @ Your Library®. 2011. "Every Child Ready to Read® @ your library® (ECRR) is a parent education initiative. It stresses early literacy begins with the primary adults in a child's life. The ECRR toolkit empowers public libraries to assume an essential role in supporting early literacy within a community."
Connell, Gill, and Cheryl McCarthy. A Moving Child Is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think (birth to Age 7). N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
McNeil, Heather. Read, Rhyme, and Romp: Early Literacy Skills and Activities for Librarians, Teachers, and Parents. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
Dietzel-Glair, Julie. Books in Motion: Connecting Preschoolers with Books through Art, Games, Movement, Music, Playacting, and Props. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
: Bringing together City, Schools, and the Community for
a common mission.
GrowSmart’s mission is to promote and improve the
healthy development, school readiness, and reading
proficiency of young children, ages 0-8, in Virginia
This site was designed to provide information and resources for Virginia Beach parents, caregivers,and teachers of young children, ages 0-8.
The site is also intended for our community stakeholders who wish to find out more about the City of Virginia Beach’s early learning efforts and how you can get involved.
Address: 4525 Main Street Suite 700 Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 385-0144
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| The City of Virginia Beach