7 Simple Ideas for Exploring through Movement and Play (and why your child's brain needs it!)

Young children are born "movers." A child's first 12-18 months of life are filled with exciting "movement milestones!"

  • Learning to raise her head and look around
  • Raising up his torso while having tummy time on the floor
  • Flailing tiny arms and kicking newborn feet during diaper changes
  • Rolling over, scooting, and crawling
  • Taking those first wobbly steps
  • Learning to run, fall, and get back up again 

And that's just the beginning of a young child's relationship with movement and play!

There's a reason young children have boundless energy and are wired to move. Science shows that for a child's brain to fully mature, it needs stimulation through movement and sensory experiences. Each stage of development comes with new opportunities for learning. For example, an infant might explore by touching, grasping, chewing, or crawling. A toddler might explore by walking or climbing.

Physical activity and curiosity don't simply build a strong body; they build a strong brain!

When your baby is crawling, when your toddler is climbing the ladder to the slide, when your preschooler is tossing a ball, they are actually building the architecture of their rapidly developing brain. As young children explore their surroundings, their brains build mental maps of places and spaces. 

This is why "Explore Through Movement and Play" is one of the 5 Basics that every child needs to get a great start in life!

Here are 7 simple ways for parents to encourage exploration through movement and play:

1. Give your baby regular "tummy time." When they lift their head to look around, they strengthen the upper body and prepare muscles to crawl. They also get a new view of their surroundings. 

2. Play peek-a-boo. This game teaches infants that objects and people exist even when hidden. It's also a fun way to bond with your child! Best of all, you can play games like this during everyday activities like diaper changes or bath time. 

3. Make art. Drawing, even if it's just scribbling with crayons on scrap paper, is a good way for little hands to build strong muscles and for little minds to develop creativity. 

4. Get outside as much as possible and encourage natural exploration wherever you are. Grass, leaves, flowers, and rocks are all fascinating to young children! The world is a brand new place for them and they learn by engaging with the everyday objects of their home and outside world. As your child explores, point to objects and say things like, "This is a leaf. It falls from the tree." (This is a great way to do Basic #2: Talk, Sing, and Point!

5. Build an obstacle course indoors. Use blankets, pillows, or boxes. See if your child can go over, under, around, and through these objects.

6. Use "position words." Whether you're at the park or indoors, use words like over, under, near, far, through, and around as your child engages in these activities. 

7. Visit the playground. Climbing, swinging, jumping, and hanging from monkey bars provide outlets for a young child's boundless energy while also building strong bodies and brains. 

Though movement and play come naturally to babies and young children, we live in a world where television screens, computer monitors, and smart phones are part of everyday life. It's tempting to rely on devices and digital entertainment for your young child instead of making sure they get plenty of physical activity and natural play.  

Because 80% of brain development happens in the first three years of life, it's important to seize the opportunity and give your child a great beginning! The more you practice "The Basics," the more they will become a simple part of everyday life for you and for your child. 

Know that when you put away the screen and encourage your child to engage with the real world around them, you are building a powerful brain, preparing them for school and for life! 

The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life!

Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:

  • Watch this short video for encouraging ways that real parents are helping their young children "Explore Through Movement and Play" in everyday life. Click on the tips at the bottom of the page for Infants 0-12 months and Toddlers 12-24 months.
  • Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
  • Follow The Palmetto Basics on Facebook and Twitter. We provide encouraging, real-life, shareable content to help parents and caregivers!
  • If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! palmettobasics@gmail.com.

Thanks for sharing this post and spreading the word about The Palmetto Basics to those within your circle of influence!


4 Ways You Can "Do the Basics" During the Holiday Season!

The holiday season can be a wonderful time for young children and for those who care for them. The festivities and traditions take on a magical quality when seen through the eyes of a child.

But as we all know, the holidays can also be a stressful and challenging time. Extra treats, later bedtimes, parties, presents, and travel can be disruptive to normal family rhythms. Many parents and caregivers also experience extra financial and family strain during this season.

With these realities in mind, how can we take the "The Basics" (5 fun, simple, powerful ways that to help all our children become the happiest and most successful they can be) and weave them into both the celebrations and the challenges of the holiday season?

Here are 4 simple ways:

1. Maximize Love

Regardless of what holiday tradition your family celebrates, the best present you can give your child is your presence.

Your young child needs your hugs and kisses, your bedtime snuggles, and your voice. Our consumer culture convinces us that we need the latest and greatest toys and experiences, but all a young child truly needs is consistent love and care.

 

2. Manage Stress

This is easier said than done, right? Remember that caring for young children is already a full-time job! This is definitely a stage of life when it's always best to simplify.

  • Store-bought desserts instead of homemade are just fine for the holiday party.
  • Remember that less is more with young children. They are easily distracted and overwhelmed. Keep treats and toys to a minimum so they can really enjoy the gifts of the season!

  • Keep normal routines as much as possible. Kids will enjoy the holidays more if they are well-rested and so will you!
  • Know your limits and your child's. It's nearly impossible to please everyone. If others' expectations of you are more than you can handle, it's okay to say no or offer an alternative.
  • When stress is unavoidable, take steps to cope effectively. This may look like finding a trusted caregiver for your child if you need a break, walking away from a tantrum for a minute to take deep breaths, finding someone you trust who can help or listen, or going for a walk.

 

3. Turn family moments into learning moments.

The great thing about The Basics is that they become part of everyday life!

Talk, Sing and Point as you take in the sights and sounds of the season. If you're traveling, point out new things you see through the window.

Practice Counting, Grouping and Comparing with the unique holiday items and foods you have around your home. If you're doing extra baking, let your child help with counting and measuring in the kitchen.


Explore through Movement and Play as a way to run off extra energy (and sugar.) If weather permits, take a 30 minute break and go to the park or take a walk.

The holidays are also a great time to enjoy fun indoor games together!

Read and Discuss Stories by picking up some books about your family's holiday from the library. There are so many wonderful seasonal books for young children!

 

4. Pay attention to the stress of those around you.

We all have a part to play in the well-being of the young children in our own communities. If you see or know of parents who are under too much stress during this season, offer to help. When we step in to lighten someone's load, we're not only helping the parent, we're helping the children who depend on that parent to provide love and stability.

 

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The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life! 

Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:

  • Watch this short video for encouraging ways that real parents are "Maximizing Love & Managing Stress" in everyday life. Click on the tips at the bottom of the page for Infants 0-12 months and Toddlers 12-24 months.
  • Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
  • Follow The Palmetto Basics on Facebook and Twitter. We provide encouraging, real-life, shareable content to help parents and caregivers!
  • If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! palmettobasics@gmail.com.

Thanks for sharing this post and spreading the word about The Palmetto Basics to those within your circle of influence!