Want To Build Your Child’s Brain? Get Them Moving

Why does it seem that your toddler or preschooler never stays still? They crawl, roll, walk, run, climb and explore.  One minute they are right beside you and the next they are across the room.  As a parent, the busy toddler and preschooler ages can feel frustrating.

But, what if I told you that all this movement was a good thing?  Here’s why: A young child’s brain is rapidly growing. In fact, by age 3 a child has developed 75 percent of his or her adult brain.

Each new action they do, each item they learn, helps to grow their brain. So, when children move, they are in fact creating building blocks for their brain. Movement is the best way for a young child to learn – it makes all the other learning stick!  So, if you want them to learn colors, have them jump to each red cushion, roll to the blue ones, and crawl towards the yellow.   Movement puts all that learning into action.

Build a strong foundation

Have you ever noticed that there are some school aged children that seem to almost instinctively know how to move?

What if I told you that it probably isn’t just a natural ability!  In most cases, the difference is that these children were provided the opportunity to learn these skills early.

The best time to learn the basic gross motor skills is before age 5.   Children learn to crawl, walk, run, kick, throw and jump, more easily, if those skills are introduced at an early age.  This is more than just having an early start. Our brain is better equipped to learn these skills at an early age. It doesn’t mean that we can’t build the foundation, later, it will just be a little more challenging.

But that’s not all! Did you know that the primary motor circuits that control posture and co-ordination are shaped before age 2?  Children develop the basics of posture and co-ordination just shortly after they learn how to walk.

What does that mean for parents?  It means that we need to create an environment that encourages lots of movement.  We want to get our children crawling, jumping, running, walking, rolling- really anything that get’s that body moving and that brain building.

Encourage crawling even after your child has learned how to walk

Have you ever noticed that your preschooler still loves to get on all fours and crawl around?  The crawling action encourages both sides of the brain and body to work together.   This cross lateral movement encourages diverse thinking that not only helps with eye-hand coordination, but reading, writing and even abstract thinking.  So, even after your child is comfortably walking, encourage them to play on all fours.

Be an OWL (observe wait and listen)

One of the best ways to get your child moving more is to follow their lead!  Adopt the early child professional’s style OWL, which involves watching a child to find those moments to play with them.

Watch what your child is doing and think of ways to encourage movement into everyday play.

For example: If they are playing with a toy lion, begin to roar and start crawling around the room.  See if your child follows your movement.  If not, go back to watching your child play and find another opportunity to get them active.

Think outside of the box.  Even reading a book can provide a chance to get your child moving.  Act out the story line with your child, pretend to climb mountains, sway like a tree or be a caterpillar on a journey for their next snack.

Give them a ball

Would you like sports to be a part of your child’s future? Then, give them a ball and see what they do. Encourage your child to move the ball in a variety of ways.  The foundations for kicking, throwing, and hitting the ball should be established at an early age.

When you’re playing with the ball, don’t think of the rules of the game but the skills that the game encourages.  Then practice these skills in a variety of ways.  My Tiny Tot program is all about encouraging movement and developing the basics in ball play.  It’s about exposing children to a variety of skills early so that they can get off to the right start in sports.

Keep it Fun

Remember, your child naturally wants to be active.  Your role, as a parent, is to create the opportunity and space that encourages them to do so.  Watch your child to determine the best time to start and stop an activity.  Use your child’s interests to guide the activities that you choose and above all keep it fun.   This is not about moving a certain way for a pre-determined length of time. It is about exploring, climbing, jumping, leaping and learning all the wonderful ways that your child’s body can move.

About Raymond Wright

Director of Premier Soccer Institute, Raymond Wright has a built a career on developing successful community athletic programs for players aged 18 months to teens. A licensed coach for 30 years, Coach Developer for Ontario Soccer, and newly appointed/trained NCCP Movement Preparation instructor, Raymond is an advocate for long term athletic development and a strong believer in the importance of introducing fundamental physical literacy skills in early childhood.

For more on Premier Soccer Institute, visit www.premiersoccerinstitute.com