There are few things I find more important then gross motor when it comes to early childhood development. Why you ask? Because from the time we are born we absorb information and learn through the physical world by touching, exploring and experimenting. Before we can talk our neurons are moving incredibly fast to help us control and communicate with the rest of our body through our muscle groups. The communication pathways improve and grow more expansive the more we use our muscles, explore with our senses the world around us. It starts with head control, postural control, balance, body awareness, spacial awareness and every other major component to get us moving. Only after we’ve mastered our large muscle groups can our smaller fine motor skills fully move into action.
Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on trying to get our young children to sit still and “behave” at a young age. I hear parents tell me that their children get two 40 min breaks to play outside at school each day and don’t know why their child can’t sit through dinner for 30 minutes. Think about it this way. Before we were able to think complexly and abstractly, before we could entertain ourselves or learn by reading books, we had to learn through physical exploration and our large muscle groups led the way.
If we only allowed our large muscle groups to work for 1 hour and 20 minutes in any give day, knowing that was our primary method for learning and developing, how easily do you think it would be to meet those developmental milestones? Have you ever noticed that on rainy days when you don’t get out of your house, or you spend too much time cooped up inside that you are more antsy, irritable and impatient? I know I am! I’m an adult and physical activity is not my primary mode for learning but a lack of it still affects me. I get irritable.
That being said, I cannot emphasize enough how important physical activity is for young children. They need it to develop, to feel emotionally balanced, to grow and help them learn. Let them run, climb, tumble and roll in the grass! Give them more outside time then you think they need. I guarantee it will facilitate their learning… and you never know, you may get 30 minutes of family dinner time and enjoy it!