Learn to Love your Wiggles - 4 Ways to Use Movement to Support Preschool Learning
23 April 2019
For preschoolers, being physically active is essential to learning. To begin with, moving in and of itself is a learning activity for children. Your preschooler is still learning to master their body, developing the large and small motor control necessary to physically navigate their world. When you give your child the freedom to use all of their senses to explore their environment, their minds and bodies are in sync. And that is ideal for early learning!
At the same time, it’s very important that preschoolers learn to concentrate and listen. But, they are actually less likely to do so if you insist that they be still when they are feeling wiggly. As a preschool teacher and parent, I learned that expecting a wiggly preschooler to sit in a chair to concentrate wasn’t realistic-- or even physically easy-- for very young children. When we ask a child to “Sit still,” “Don’t move,” or “Stop wiggling,” they actually have to use the majority of their concentration to be physically still. This challenge leaves your child with little mental energy or focus for anything else, much less the fun activity you’ve planned for them! Because for preschoolers, sitting still takes an awful lot of work.
So let’s learn to love those wiggles and use them to support your little one’s learning! Here are 4 easy ways to work with and embrace your preschooler’s need to move. You’ll grow concentration and other key skills for primary school too!:
- Encourage learning and listening in comfortable positions. Rather than seeing wiggles as misbehavior, it’s important to remember that our bodies are designed to move, not to sit. If you think about it, it is possible to learn standing up as well as sitting down. This is something we adults are allowed and even encouraged to do, because sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health. In fact, some children may be much better at focusing when they are moving. Think of how your child has learned songs, rhymes and stories while being held and rocked. So, how about trying lying down on their tummies when it's time to learn? Being comfortable alone can make concentration and learning easier and more enjoyable for your child. Or, simply changing positions can make a big difference in sustaining your child’s concentration.
- When you’re wiggling, talk about where things are. When your wiggly preschooler is climbing on the pillows, use spatial words like over, under, around, besides. For example, “You just climbed over that cushion. Can you crawl under the next one?” Using spatial words like these fosters your child’s understanding of their position in space and well as the words themselves. By encouraging them to focus on what they’re doing, you’ll help grow your child’s concentration too!
- Add math words to your child’s movements. When your little one is running around outside, you can encourage their early math skills learning by using math words to describe what they’re doing. For example, “I see how high you jumped that time.” Or, “Can you bend down lower to go under the branch of that tree?” When you use words like faster, slower, shorter, and bigger to describe their movements, you’re putting basic math measurement concepts into action! These ideas can be naturally learned in active ways while your child moves throughout their day. Plus, this kind of active learning is more effective and definitely more fun than those worksheets.
- Get ready for kindergarten by putting new ideas into movement. Since preschoolers learn through movement, try incorporating movement or actions whenever you can to introduce new ideas. For example, when you’re learning about geometric shapes, numbers, and letters together, have your child use their body to make the shapes to communicate these new ideas. Try, “Can you make a circle with your arms?” “Show me how you can make the letter V with your fingers.” Or, “Can you and your friend Miguel make a triangle with your arms?” Acting out a story is another fun and easy way to help your little one concentrate. When your child acts out a new storybook rather than simply listening to it, she will understand its characters and plot better. She’ll also remember both a lot longer! Incorporating movement like this grows your child’s concentration, attention span, and language skills, which will all be key in the school days to come.
You can get more quick and practical tips about the importance of movement in your preschooler’s development and primary school readiness in Children Learn By Doing - 4 Ways to Boost Early Education with Active Learning or Get Ready for Big School - Preschool Skills Checklist. Then have some more fun moving with our activities, Shadowy Fun and Line Challenges from our Math Learning Area.
I hope that these active ideas help you capitalize on your preschooler’s wiggling and squiggling as yet another easy and fun way to encourage their learning and growth! Let us know what you think-- What worked best for your child's early learning and concentration? You can give us your feedback right here.