Physical development is an important aspect of growth in children and has been determined to enhance their social and language development as they connect and interact with each other during active play. Preschool is viewed as one of the most physical stages in an individual’s life (Erdem, 2018). Therefore, children in this stage must be provided with the opportunity and platform to engage in play and other motor activities both in school and at home.
However, there have been concerns concerning the lack of physical development of preschool children, both indoor and outdoor. It is recommended that preschool children get at least sixty minutes of physical activity per day, indoors and outdoors (Erdem, 2018). This time should be distributed throughout the day and could involve both unstructured and structured activities. To ensure constant progressive physical development in children, the teacher should formulate and implement strategies that provide physical activities.
Incorporating Physical Activity in the Classroom Program
Physical education is usually perceived as an extracurricular part of the classroom routine, whereas it should be considered part of learning. Physical activity should not necessarily be added and allocated a specific duration in the timetable. It could be blended in between classroom or outdoor sessions. For instance, after story time, the children may be asked or organized to role play by assuming the story’s characters and imitating their sounds and movements. There are numerous ways of incorporating physical activity in the learning routine, including;
- Participating in traditional, non-competitive games that involve light physical exercise.
- Such exercises as walking, jumping, and crab walking during the transition from one session to another.
- Dancing and workout sessions have also been proven to enhance preschool children’s flexibility, coordination, and strength.
- Establishing physical education sessions in the classroom routine.
- Introducing or engaging preschool children in either teacher directed and open ended outdoor and indoor active motor play.
Creating a Play Conducive Environment
It is crucial to ensure the safety of the children when incorporating physical activity indoors and outdoors. Classrooms with limited spaces or those with many moveable furniture should be adjusted or rearranged to create more space. It should also be noted that preschool children may have not fully gained control of their motor functions and movements and should therefore be monitored during any activities (Gerritsen et al., 2016). The following implementations are recommended for creating a play conducive environment.
- Provision of equipment and toys.
- Allocation of music and playrooms.
- Cushioned furniture and use of soft classroom equipment.
- Classroom lofts to allow swinging, jumping, climbing, and sliding.
- Using hallways for activities such as bicycle riding.
- Restructuring classrooms to create more room that accommodates physical activity.
What Happens when I Challenge Children with Developmentally Pertinent, Gross and Fine Physical Tasks?
Generally, it is beneficial for children to engage in motor tasks as it has proven to improve their ability to manage their emotions and social skills. What effects, however, do these activities have on preschool children’s academic learning? Physical activity poses substantial benefits to preschool children that prepare them for more complex academic learning and life in general. This section reviews what happens when children are subjected to active physical challenges. Through physical exercise and interaction with other children, preschool children acquire such appropriate life skills as turn-taking, self-regulation, persistence, responsibility, accountability, and cooperation, all while participating in their challenges and having fun. These skills are essential in the growth and character of the children onwards.
Challenging children with motor tasks also improves their concentration in class during academic learning. Research conducted previously have drawn conclusions stating that children allowed to participate in active play and physical challenge, apart from physical development, have a considerably higher concentration level, especially right after the activity (Yilmaz, 2016). It is also crucial to recognize that children learn from movement and activity.
These physical challenges also promote the children’s emotional and social development. Participating and completing a physical challenge boosts children’s relationships, confidence, self-esteem and trains them to express their feelings better. Challenging and fun motor activities, especially open-ended ones, give preschool children the freedom and opportunity to choose how to act and solve a task. By exploring different options, children can utilize their intelligence, thus improving their decision-making skills. It makes children create as they try to invent new ways and tricks of solving their tasks. This also gives the teacher the relevant information required to assess the development of a child.
Children are also able to advance their cognitive skills through the cause and effect learning. For instance, when music is played, they can recognize the song and recall their dance to that specific song. This is a fundamental aspect of learning and mastering it as from the preschool level presents a child with the valuable skill of learning and adapting to their environment. Lastly, through physical education, teachers have an opportunity to identify the strengths and weaknesses of preschool children.
Erdem, D. (2018). Kindergarten teachers’ views about outdoor activities. Journal of Education and Learning, 7(3), 203-218.
Gerritsen, S., Morton, S. M., & Wall, C. R. (2016). Physical activity and screen use policy and practices in childcare: Results from a survey of early childhood education services in New Zealand. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 40(4), 319-325.
Yilmaz, S. (2016). Outdoor environment and outdoor activities in early childhood education. Mersin Üniversitesi Eğitim Fakültesi Dergisi, 12(1), 423-437.