Just Can’t Stop

It doesn’t matter the age – kids love to move, or be moved. Bouncing, wiggling, running, jumping, climbing on furniture, it seems they never stop.  And in fact, such energetic locomotor movements are valuable, appropriate, and fun activities for little ones.  The child’s innate need to move is inextricably linked to learning.  We not only learn to move as we grow, but we literally move to learn.  Educational Psychologist, Dr. Becky Bailey is fond of saying, “The best exercise for the brain is exercise”, and science bears it out.  (Just check out the recent Newsweek article on how to make yourself smarter.)  So,  movement is important and provides outlets for your child’s energy as well as for her skill development.

Moving and controlling one’s movements are learned skills, and one of the best features of learning to regulate one’s movements as we learn to crawl, walk, run, jump, and swing is that it helps us learn inhibitory control, or the ability to stop oneself and wait.  Now, I love inhibitory control because it’s an amazing developmental bonus you can often hide in a fun activity or game.  Kids will be playing along, giggling and smiling and never know that they are working on learning how to stop and wait, which really means they are learning self-control or impulse control. Having inhibitory control is important for social skills like taking turns, waiting in a line, waiting your turn to speak, asking for a toy rather than just grabbing it from another kid (or pushing them over for that matter).  Inhibitory control helps us stop and think through the choices rather than repeating past behaviors that got us into trouble like hitting a sister, jumping on the couch, or eating all the cookies.  In fact, a lack of impulse control or inhibitory control can cause us to get into a lot of trouble in school as well as in life.

So, I mentioned earlier that I love inhibitory control because it’s so easy to sneak it into fun activities.  How?  Simply play “Stop and Go” games.  Even babies love ’em because they delight in anticipating when the stop and start will come, while kids of all ages find great joy in developing mastery over their own bodies as they command their feet to stop.  We’re going to be doing lots of stop and go play in all our classes over the course of the semester.  But here are some fun things you might try at home:

  • Learn the ASL sign for STOP. One fun way to add stop and go to almost any activity is to learn the ASL sign for STOP.  In class with the preschoolers you might hear us chant, “Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, and STOP (all-caps is a common signifier for American Sign Language signed words).  Simply as it sounds, the kids love it.  You can use any locomotor movement – jump, drive, swing.  For babies, this can be a great way to teach the sign.  Simply push baby in a baby swing and then surprise them with a quick STOP as you sign STOP.
  • Play Move and Freeze. It’s musical chairs.  Well, sort of.  Most of you probably remember in playing musical chairs how you moved to the music, and when the teacher paused the music you had to race to find a seat.  Same idea minus the chairs.  Instead of racing to find a seat when the music stops, simply freeze your body.  If you want to add more silliness for preschoolers or big kids try have them freeze in silly shapes or statues when you pause the music.
  • Play Red Light Green Light. This is another game I remember fondly from my childhood.  It’s a little too involved for toddlers unless they have adult assistance, but it would be great fun for preschoolers with a bit of help or bigger kids on their own.  One person (works well for a grownup to take this part) is the traffic light and stands a good distance ahead of the other players with his back turned to them.  The traffic light calls out “green light”, which means the other players can attempt to sneak up and tap him on the shoulder.   However, when he calls “red light”, they have to freeze before he turns around and catches them.  Anyone the traffic light sees moving when he turns must return to the starting line.  The first player to sneak up and tap the traffic light wins.
Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply