Importance of physical confidence for babies14 Dec 2018
Our Active Program Manager Jenny dives into Oac’s holistic approach to wellbeing
With 17 years’ experience teaching young children physical activity, including my current role as the Active program manager at Oac, I have had countless questions about the importance of physical activity starting at such a young age. In this article I will share with you some of my most frequently asked questions about physically activity in the nursery age group and why at OAC we try to embed our physical activity program ‘Oac Active’, fluently into our daily curriculum to help embed confidence in children’s gross motor skills.
How do you introduce a physical activity program for babies and children in the nursery room?
For the nursery age group, our Oac Active program is developed in line with their day to day curriculum as much as possible. We create games and activities that the Educators will find easy to implement, using resources that are already in the nursery room or outdoor areas. Our program is split up into quarters and there are 3 themes per quarter that all our children follow. Themes include Accuracy, target practice, body awareness, motor planning, hand eye coordination, Gymnastics, strength and power and much more!
How do you help Educators use the program to encourage developmental milestones?
We are hugely aware that the nursery children are achieving milestones like crawling, walking and talking to name a few. In our program and in our training, we encourage Educators to adapt our activities and games to the individual needs of each child. Working in small groups at Oac allows the Educators to personally focus on the individual milestones.
For example, our game ‘Stack them up’ focuses on the theme ‘Hand eye coordination’ and it encourages the children to place building blocks/stackable blocks on top of one another. This can be done sitting or kneeling, however we would encourage our Educators to support our early walkers by standing and even moving around the blocks to help gain confidence walking and building a tall tower they can have fun knocking down!!
How do you and the Educators change the activity if need be to suit the needs of the child?
Every child is different at Oac, therefore one of our biggest ways of offering support to our Educators and families is giving them ideas and ways to vary and improvise each activity to suit the needs of each child. We have children with learning difficulties, children who are highly competitive, children in the same group who are at different milestones as their peers. As the Active program manager, I am constantly stressing the importance of improvising the activities and games to each of the children’s needs. For example, our game ‘This little piggy’ for our younger nursery children, focuses on the theme ‘Gymnastics’ specifically stretching and flexibility in the legs. The children bend forward and try and touch their toes with the Educators’ assistance whilst they sing the rhyme. However, for some of the even younger children who cannot yet sit up, I have advised Educators to improvise and have them lying on their tummy if it is safe to do so, stretching their arms out and wriggling their fingers instead of toes. This is a perfect example of using the same technique of stretching and improving flexibility, and the same rhyme, but using a different body part suited to the needs of that child.
What can families do to support the Active program at home?
My biggest suggestion to families at home wanting to help further their child’s gross motor skill development is to identify what their current interests are and include these in fun ways using their bodies.
Some of favourite activities and games for the nursery age group are;
Ramp Ball – Family members can sit opposite their child and place a cushion (or ramped surface) on their knee. Roll a large ball down the cushion and watch as the child tracks the ball with their eyes and encourage them to hold out their hands to touch/catch it. This can be progressed by making the ball smaller.
This activity supports our hand eye coordination and Body Awareness themes focusing on spatial awareness and receiving skills.
Rainbow Catch – Family members can hold one or various brightly coloured scarves or material and drop/throw them from a height. The child can be sitting or standing and must try and touch/catch the scarves before falling to the floor. This activity can be progressed by challenging the older and more competitive child to try and catch the scarf before falling to the floor. This activity supports our Reaction Time theme.
Beanbags and Buckets – Family members can place a bucket in front of our younger, non-walkers and the children must reach forward to place their beanbag (or toy) into the bucket (or container). Older children who can walk can be encouraged to walk, skip, hop, jump forward a few steps to their bucket and then crouch down to drop their beanbag in their bucket. This can be progressed by making the bucket (container) smaller or the child can try and throw it into their target? This activity supports our Target practice and accuracy themes.