I have written many times about the importance of movement (Kidz Newz numbers 62, 71, 72, 112, 139, 148 and especially 154 – go to the archive to access any of these. Nevertheless, it is worth defining it more closely. It is often assumed that when children do daily fitness or dance or sport and especially playing in the playground that they are getting plenty of essential physical stimulation. It often comes as a surprise to some when children with learning difficulties who get sent to a paediatric OT get given really basic movement activities to perform. So, what’s the link? As the Move to Learn team show, if there was a milestone missing in a child’s development such as no crawling or insufficient crawling (this is the most common but there are plenty of others) that the cross-patterning that was missed or insufficiently stimulated has caused insufficient neural connections, hence the child may have learning difficulties. This is a simple overview for something that is more complex but I am simplifying the concept deliberately. It is assumed that ‘all children can roll, crawl, balance, run, jump, gallop and skip’. No, they can’t ALL do any such thing. This is where some of our fitness programs at school fail the children. It is assumed the Fundamental Movement Programs are fundamental but they are not. All some of these fitness programs do for some children is to make them feel more inadequate than they already do. It is certainly true that with practice, most children will improve their skills. I have seen that myself with children whose skills develop immeasurably in only ten weeks at one session per week. Those who still can’t manage the basics after two terms get referred to a paediatric OT (if the parent will take them!). When the teacher has 30 or so children to observe, and especially given they are not aware, in most cases, of what to look for, it is easy to see how these children ‘slip through the cracks’. For example, you need to be aware of how significant it is that a child can’t maintain a gallop or a skip for a short distance without doing their own variation of it or can’t do straddle jumps with both feet taking off and landing parallel for just a few metres, or can’t jump up and down on the spot with both feet taking off and landing simultaneously. These physical skills do matter. They are significant. They indicate a co-ordination problem that is neurological in origin and this is likely to have an effect on their ability to concentrate and learn. Far from criticising teachers, instead I am suggesting that they pay more attention to movement. It is an important part of a child’s day but often its significance isn’t recognized. It is not just about fitness.
If you observe children in your midst who can’t concentrate, can’t sit still without fidgeting, can’t sit up straight but have to slump across the desk or lean on a hand, can’t do any activity involving sequence, for example, then take a closer look when they are doing specific physical activities, especially music and movement. Music will certainly help them to be more fluid and rhythmic but they may still need more ‘fundamental’ skills development such as those promoted by Move to Learn.
If you would like to know more about the exercises in Move to Learn, specifically the book 10 Gems for the Brain, go here.
If you are in Perth, you can be introduced to the program on Saturday 21st October. Access the flyer here.
Meantime, have fun with your kids and get them moving!
Remember that these neural pathways don’t magically fix themselves but are often present throughout the person’s life if there’s no intervention. A sedentary adult becomes an even more sedentary senior citizen, with disastrous consequences. Get them moving!