Movement must be mandatory

| September 5, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Glynis Courtney

Research literature continues to point towards the importance of movement to optimise development and learning in the very young child, as indicated in the following three extracts from the book Advances in Motor Development Research: Volume 3 by authors Jane Clark and James Humphrey.1

The first extract reads as follows: “Adults use perceptual information to make accurate affordances offered by objects in their environment, such as whether they can climb onto an object or pass between two objects without turning their shoulders. Results suggest in the research done on young children that they make distinctions among the affordances offered by objects in their environment and that their motor abilities and experiences are related to their perceptions.” Second, “Newell (1986) suggested that organismic, task and environmental factors all may influence developmental change in motor performance.” Last, “Movement is so fundamental to all living beings that it pervades almost every aspect of functioning.” Clark and Humphrey also present evidence of a link between crawling and creeping in the early motor development stages and later intellectual development.2

Early movement pivotal

Movement, therefore, plays a pivotal role in how children develop and learn. I would, however, suggest that over the past number of years the understanding of the importance of movement activities, as well as the implementation of appropriate movement activities in the early childhood development (ECD) phase, has been eroded. There are many reasons for this, including lack of understanding of the concept of teaching through the kinesthetic approach. In other words, people do not grasp the importance of what it means for children to experience and learn the meaning of a new concept using their bodies. Therefore, adults tend to approach the teaching of new concepts from a paper and pencil approach. Children should only be introduced to paper and pencil activities after they have mastered the concrete.3

Movement as an important aspect of development Jerome Hartigan says “physical, motor learning” forms the basis for all learning, including reading, writing, arithmetic and music. “Without motor learning,” he says, “the brain will simply not develop.”4 Gordon says specific movement patterns “wire up” the whole brain.5 What a child physically does during the first few years of life plays a major part in how well he or she will develop other abilities. The following table by Hartigan, Dryden and Rose,6 should be of great interest to ECD practitioners and parents:

An inner drive to move

A child is born with an inner drive for movement, and most children spontaneously discover this drive and use it to explore the environment around them, and in this way learn. The act of moving, which involves the whole body, leads to exercising of the muscles and, at the same time, develops perceptual skills needed for learning. Knowledge of space is obtained as the child moves through, around, over and under objects in the environment. She also learns the concepts of height, depth, width and distance. She develops a concept of time and tempo; she learns how fast or slow she must move through or around various objects. Through movement a child learns to react according to the demands of her environment, so as not to harm herself and to meet the challenges made on balance, posture and coordination.

Movement develops a positive self-awareness and a sense of well-being, as well as promoting good health. A programme that includes the development of gross motor skills can develop perseverance, creativity, attention span, concentration and many other psychological, emotional and perceptual aspects important for learning.

Provide a movement-filled environment

In our world of electronics, children tend to spend too much time participating in activities that require mental skills rather than physical skills of large muscles in their bodies. Very little demand is made of total body movement and locomotion in activities such as video games, playstations or watching television, to mention but a few. Without interaction with the physical environment, learning is very difficult. Most of our learning must occur first through the integration of our sensory systems. So it can be said that physical activity does more than simply build muscles – it also provides sensations and requires responses that organise the nervous system. If a child seeks and enjoys movement activities, it is important to provide an environment that offers such.7

References:

1. Clark, J.E. and Humphrey, J.H. (1991) Advances in Motor Development Research: Volume 3. New York: AMS Press Inc.

2. Ibid.

3. Davin, R & Van Staden, C. (2004) The Reception Year: Learning through Play. Johannesburg: Heinemann.

4. See http://www.jumpingbeans.net/wawcs0130100/Home.html

5. Gordon, A. and Browne, K. (2004) Beginnings and Beyond: Foundations in Early Childhood Education, Sixth Edition. New York: Delmar Publishing.

6. Rose, C. and Dryden, G. (2000) Learning FUNdamentals: Early Years Ages: 0-3. Newport: Chrysalis Children’s Books. Also see http://www.jumpingbeans.net/wawcs0130100/Home.html

7. Ayres, A.J. (2005) Sensory Integration and the Child, 25th anniversary edition. California: Western Psychological Services.

8. Williamson, J. and Greenberg, A. (2010) ‘Families, not orphanages’. Available at: http://www.crin.org/docs/Families%20Not%20Orphanages.pdf.

Category: Spring 2013

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