CHILDREN GROW AND DEVELOP PHYSICALLY according to their experiences, characteristics, and abilities. But physical development is so important that we must make sure our environment allows each child to find his space in the sunshine.

We can do that by (1) creating the right outdoor environment, (2) allowing children time to use it, (3) encouraging movement awareness, (4) teaching physical movement skills, (5) supporting children as they begin to develop and use those skills in increasingly complex and controlled ways, and (6) helping children develop a positive attitude about wellness and physical health.

Think About Movement

We always expect children to move in physical ways, but have you ever thought about getting children to "think physically" to help them develop those physical skills?

To do this, it's important to determine the physical movement skills and abilities you want children to have when they leave your program. Next, break down those skills into discrete motions and invite children to engage in those motions in ways that are fun and creative. Finally, when children have learned the separate motions, help them understand how to put them together and practice the entire skill. Once you follow these steps, children begin to appreciate their bodies more and feel good about what they can do!

Carrying Toddlers

Toddlers carry everything from here to there and back again. As part of developing movement awareness and, later on, motor planning, help them begin to see how they hold different things in different ways: "Look at how Sarah is carrying the long stick. See where her hands are? Can you carry a stick like that? Let's pretend the stick is very heavy. How would you carry a heavy stick? Show me." Comments like these help children focus on their actions and the ways they repeat specific actions.

Preschoolers on the Move!

Many preschoolers are beginning to use climbing devices, such as overhead horizontal ladders, and may need help progressing from simply hanging from a single rung to moving forward from rung to rung on an apparatus. Once they can swing their bodies forward and backward and twist, they'll be ready to hang, switching from one hand to the other, for brief periods at a time. From this point, they can begin to combine the forward swing and twist with the one-hand hang to progress along the rungs.

Kindergarten Plan

Visit a nearby construction site or show a video of construction machinery at work. Encourage children to compare their body parts to parts of the machines. How are their feet like the tracks or tires on the equipment? How are they different? How do they move alike? How do they move differently? Activities like these get children to think about, plan for, and use physical movements.