Walking, play benefits young children

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Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

The month of April is recognized as Physical Wellness Month. April is also recognized as Stress Awareness Month. I would like to share two free activities that we can do with our children as families  to take care of ourselves, our children and our families. During this beautiful spring season, children can benefit and enjoy walking and playing.

Walking is a family activity that can include the youngest of children. Infants love a stroller walk.  All ages truly enjoy family walking. In the preschool classroom on beautiful weather days, children love to go walk around the school. Walking promotes daily exercise and healthy growth. As a teacher, I have noticed after a good brisk walk around the playground, children seem to be in a better mood and more focused for learning and doing classroom activities.

Walking together provides shared good times between parents and child. It can be a relaxing time during your day where you and your child have freedom to talk and listen to each other about what is on their minds. Our community is so vibrant and beautiful with spring foliage and new animal life bursting out all over. Family walking field trips are wonderful learning experiences in learning about nature. Children love to discover and learn.

Include your children in making decisions of where you and your family will walk. This will encourage young children to feel special, responsible and a participant in the daily family walking time.

 Being out in the sunshine, fresh air and just being outside clears the mind and increases energy. Walking helps the cardiac and respiratory systems. Too, muscles are strengthened in the legs, feet, arms and the whole body from daily walking.

Free play is a young child’s work. As early childhood teachers and parents, we can directly observe our young children playing and how much it contributes to their physical wellbeing in growth and development.

So many processes, social interactions and creative expressions, not to mention physical benefits, are learned by your child by freely playing under the supervision of an adult. Stand back in the shadows as parents, listen and observe closely how your children learn and interact during their free play. Structured activities are good for your child up to a reasonable point but supervised free play is important to a child’s physical, mental and emotional development which points them to a successful future.

Physical play involves childrens’ large actions such as running, jumping or riding a tricycle or bicycle. The goals of these activities are to help children increase their physical skills or learn to use them in new situations.

Dramatic play requires that the child assume and act out a role. It’s often in relationships to other children playing their roles in informal dramatic situations that may represent true life experiences. It’s neat as a parent to hear your child imitate you possibly.  It’s rewarding for a teacher to hear students role-playing as teachers to their teddy bears and dolls.

Games are another form of play activity, but a different kind than physical play or dramatic play. Usually these require specific rules. Many times, with very young children ages infants to three-years-old, structured games are not appropriate for this age level. Actually, children at four and five years old are beginning to move into a stage where game playing is possible. Elements of game playing for children must be kept simple. As children engage in playing games, strategies need to be taught. Parents can enjoy playing the games with their child as they teach them the strategies. Many of our own well remembered childhood games are enjoyed by your own children today like London Bridge; duck, duck, goose; over, under relays; red light.

Too, parents can offer their child manipulative play with natural inexpensive materials such as sand, water, empty milk jugs, spoons, pots and shovels. Wet sand can be molded in many shapes, dry sand can be sieved and run through funnels. Clothe your child in play clothes and let them have fun! They only go through childhood once.

When it’s raining or cold outside families can gather around and do indoor play like I spy, charades, Simon says or inexpensive board games such as checkers, card games, puzzles, etc. Let the children gather your old bed sheets to put on a circus or talent show. If the weather is pretty young children love to walk and run outside! Make these times a memory for your child.

Beth Pinyerd

Classroom Observer

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