Children who engage in play in large, open indoor and outdoor spaces, have the benefit of being able to orient their body naturally as they move through the world. The freedom to move spontaneously, to choose the speed and direction of your moves, and your level of engagement with the environment is an essential part of growing and developing – but sadly one that many children miss out on.
As children learn through discovery of their environment, they need different kinds of spaces to facilitate their thoughts and actions. The importance of soft, comfortable areas for Tummy Time in our youngest children, through to safety play surfaces for those a little older as they toddle and tumble, and then on to areas where physical and spatial challenges are available for those with more body control, are all spaces that children need as they grow and develop.
Engaging children in large movement activities helps them to really connect with their bodies and the amazing things that they are finding out it can do. The excitement of running freely in a large open space, swooping and stretching as they feel alive in their own bodies, is one of the great joys of childhood. Add to that the freedom to shout, to sing, to twirl and dance to your own rhythm and there is an amazing power and confidence that builds in children which only this kind of activity can provide.
Organized sports, and the development of the physical skills to support them, do not allow children to use the spontaneous movements that they crave. Developing skills should also go hand-in-hand with the creative use of their bodies, setting and meeting their own physical challenges and the feeling of pride and success that goes along with this. Big Body Play is an integral part of a child’s exploration of what they can do, how they can do it, and the awesome feeling that being control of your body brings. It’s called Play, because that’s what it is – no structure or rules, just freedom to move as you want and explore your space as you want.
When the world is new and exciting, every interaction that you have with it brings new knowledge, new challenges, new feelings to explore. Put on any piece of music with young children and most just can’t help moving their bodies. They are driven by a need to express what they feel through the physical at this age because they are still developing the understanding of, and appropriate language needed to explain, how they feel. Many dancers say the same, that they need to get their feelings out through the movement of their bodies. Most cultures express themselves through dance, not only dances for celebrations, but also spontaneous, joyous movements which allow for freedom of expression.
Being in control of the amazing body that you live in, that allows you to move in so many ways as you find your way in the world, is something that we take for granted as we grow older. The joy of children as they learn to move and be in control of their bodies, and how they interact with the world, is one that we should encourage and treasure. Let’s say HOORAY for Big Body Play!
Vanessa L Temple
Coordinator: Foundation Years at Hartland International School
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