WHEN CHILDREN MOVE IN, ON, OVER, UNDER, AROUND, and through various apparatus, they learn about where their bodies are in relationship to objects (in the tunnel, on the balance beam, and so on). Young children also learn about positional relationships when we invite them to place objects in relationship to one another (put the square blocks on the shelf under the rectangle blocks) and when we describe the positions of their bodies or the objects. The more we use words in conjunction with experiences to describe the positional relationships, the more quickly children will understand the concepts. For example, while children are under the table, we want them to hear the word under to describe where they are in relationship to the table.

Traveling Toddlers

Toddlers are great at getting into small spaces, and they enjoy the privacy those spaces offer. This is wonderful, because you can create so many opportunities for children to get on, in, and under things and to go over, around, and through them. In addition, since toddlers are natural born "carriers," you can encourage children to carry things in and on other things, as well as under, over, and through. Purses, pails, buckets, and boxes with handles are great for putting things in. From a collection of items, invite children to select objects that you name and put each item into their containers ("Jaime, a block! Krystin, a comb!"). Then ask children to help count the items in their containers. Lead a parade around the room with children holding their containers: Go around the tables, go under the desk, go through the door. As you go past each location, invite children to take an object out of their containers and place it on or under the table, desk, or chair.

Parading Preschoolers

Preschoolers enjoy vigorous activity. Remove the chairs from a table in your room. Invite children to pick an object from the block or dramatic-play area and line up the items leading to the table, leaving two to three feet between each one. Then ask children to line up and follow your directions to get to the table - a child can go over the block, around the spoon, and under the table. You can add a through direction by using a cardboard box with the ends cut out (you'll have to tape it to a chair so it will stand up) or by getting a cheap trash can and cutting the bottom out of it to form a plastic tunnel.

"Can Do!" Kindergartners

Kindergartners will love the challenge of crawling through a tunnel and walking "on a narrow bridge" suspended "over a river." Using the trash can tunnel idea from above, place a balance beam through the tunnel so children can crawl through it. Then lay a 2'x4' pine board on the floor at the end of the tunnel. Place a "river" cut out of craft paper under the board. Children can walk the board to go over the river. Later, invite children to carry a block or spoon on a tray or in a container as they move through the tunnel and over the river. As a further challenge, children can carry a ball or plastic egg on a tray while going over the river. Children who fall off are "all wet," and the objects are lost in the river.