I have had the privilege of hearing Daniel J Hodgins speak on several occasions, and have so appreciated his deliberate push toward practices that are indeed beneficial for our children. Many of the practices of which Dan speaks are found far too seldom in our early childhood settings.
During at least two of my conference experiences, Dan's presentation was entitled Looking Through the Eyes of Boys and Girls. It was extremely insightful to say the least. In an effort to continue my own thought processing on the topic, I picked up a copy of Dan's book BOYS: Changing the Classroom, Not the Child at my most recent conference experience. Now again, this is a book I highly recommend parents (and teachers) to read!
Dan wrote the following in his book, which inspired me this afternoon:
If boys (and girls) lose the right to run- the right to spontaneous, unstructured movement- then we increase the risk that they will develop a lack of confidence in their bodies along with obesity, heart disease, joint replacements, and a long list of other horrors.
Reading this inspired me to do a bit of hunting on the topic. I found a few articles, including one intended to educate parents on which cartoon characters are healthiest. Throughout all the articles, running is considered to be a positive thing for young children (for obvious reasons to most of us). I found one article of specific interest to me, and definitely worth passing on to you all.
Rae Pica has written a piece entitled Why Motor Skills Matter , which I found on a website called Moving and Learning. As you read below, I think you'll find that Rae communicates the same sentiment as does Dan Hodgins:
And, considering the health hazards for the unfit (obesity, heart disease, and many others), this is one area where movement matters even more than language. A competent mover will gladly keep moving. A child who feels physically awkward and uncoordinated is going to avoid movement at all costs (just as a person who feels inept at public speaking will avoid a podium at all costs).
Such a child isn’t likely to take part in an after-school game of tag, or to play jump rope or climb the monkey bars during recess. And it’s doubtful that her parents would consider taking her to the playground, on a hike, or roller skating on the weekend. There’s no mystery as to why the research shows children lacking in movement fundamentals are more sedentary than peers of the same age who are skilled movers. And since poor movement habits tend to track from childhood to adulthood, a physically inactive child is unlikely to grow up as a lifelong mover.
In this realm, the most important thing you can do is to give children the time, space, and opportunity to move.
Rae also discusses how we often expect children to develop gross motor skills naturally or "magically" as they mature. He explains that this natural development can be true in regards to manh of our childrens' basic gross motor skills, but that "maturation takes care of only part of the process – the part that allows a child to execute most movement skills at an immature level."
I agree with Rae, as I have seen this exact thing in my own time with preschoolers. The children come into school with a wide variety of gross motor skill development. It can become quickly evident to preschool teachers which children have been allowed or (even better) encouraged to run, jump, balance, climb, swing, hang, etc. I believe that all of these gross motor skills need to be developed and specifically through (as Dan said) "spontaneous, unstructured movement."
THEREFORE, in our school you will find a list of rules for children which includes but is definitely not limited to
Please parents...offer your child the amazing benefit of doing these things at home as well...at their own initiation...by themselves! If you stop them, slow them, or even "help" them, you could be depriving them of the opportunity to gain experiences and skills that are quite necessary.
Now obviously boundaries must exist. I'm not asking that you look away while your children run willey nilley and climb your bookshelves. I'm asking that you first of all create a space where these things can naturally and safely occur...hallways for running...stumps and structures for climbing...landings for jumping. I'm also asking that you pause a moment before stopping such behavior. Just step back and ask yourself where the boundary REALLY needs to be and how you can accomodate the movements needing to be experienced.
Do you really need "walking feet"? Not usually!
So, like I said, we run here...and our children are the better for it!