The Importance of Movement to the Active Child
Many of us are aware that the mind and the body are different spokes of the same wheel and in the child’s body this is so much more the case. As one spoke turns it activates the other creating a cycle of enrichment. With exercise our bodies pull in the air we need to satisfy the physical self while at the same time allowing the brain to use this oxygen to activate cognition in the mental state.
Our bodies were designed to move. Without thinking our hearts are pumping blood, our lungs suck in air while the muscles in our legs constantly fight the forces of gravity to keep us standing up. With the young mind growing at such a fast pace the body is trying to keep up by feeding it with stimuli from the physical world. Before our language skills have been developed we learn far more through our bodies than through words.
Some have described an active child’s energy to be like a fire hose. When given direction it can be enormously effective and can achieve goals that nothing else can accomplish. However without this guidance the pressure darts everywhere and you can end up with a bit of a mess and wet feet.
As parents, we always try to find what works best for our kids. Some will need a book before bed, others regular snacks to avoid a blood sugar drop but almost all kids need movement to become their best selves.
The active child has much to gain from a yoga session but may be disengaged with the therapeutic aesthetic of yoga. They may find more connections through trucks and action. My son, who inspired a board book I made that is coming out in August connecting yoga and construction trucks, is a completely different person when his body has settled the springs in his step compared to when he is containing the bounce.
After a focused yoga session, a playground run around, or a team sport his body is calm and his mind is ready to take on challenges that would otherwise be unfeasible. Then there are the happy chemicals of endorphins and dopamine that our brains release with exercise. To me, this is more important than achieving challenges as it reminds our children to seek enjoyment rather than results in their play.
Toddlers and preschoolers rely heavily on active learning which is evident in early play schema. You may notice your child likes lining up all their toy cars in order and connects with the positioning schema. Or, as one of mine did, they may find great joy in launching their spoon across the room suggesting their schema might be the trajectory. Whether a child plays using connection, enclosure, enveloping, orientation, positioning, rotation, trajectory, transforming or transporting it will likely be the active movement that is at the foundation for many of these play schemas.
When children reach school age a whole new level of expectations arrive that can sometimes lead them away from their physical play learning styles. Teachers are working hard to support our kinesthetic learners (active or tactile learners) during the school day but with the limitations of classroom space and academic focus, this can be a challenging stretch. Giving children the tools and the confidence to regulate their bodies by satisfying their need to move empowers them with self-awareness and self-regulation skills for life.
When we provide suitable opportunities to cater for learning through movement we are providing the ground for these wheels to gain traction and pave the road towards that child’s future. That’s a better solution than a wheel that spins out. So encourage them to build, dig, launch, twirl, jump, lift and get active as that will satisfy the body, feed the mind and please the soul with the goal to build their best self.
Peter Forde is a Vancouver-based teacher, author/illustrator and parent. His board book Big Truck Yoga will be in stores from August 2023 and available at www.familius.com