We know it’s important for kids to get plenty of playtime and exercise, right? After all, young children have LOTS of energy. Moving their body provides a great outlet and helps keep them healthy.
But did you know that playtime and exercise are actually important parts of school readiness?
These large movements that a child makes with arms, legs, feet and their entire body are called “gross motor skills.”
While “fine motor skills” — like writing, sorting, cutting — may seem more obvious for kindergarten, perhaps you’re wondering why gross motor skills are so important. Other than a child enjoying recess, why do these exercising these larger muscle groups matter so much for school readiness?
Research shows that gross motor development and brain development go hand in hand. The brain actually needs to be stimulated through movement and exercise in order to develop properly. The good news is that children love to play. They don’t know they’re building healthy brains; they’re just doing what comes naturally – playing! But it’s up to parents and caregivers to provide regular time and space for children to play and move their bodies.
Summer is a great time to give your rising kindergartner plenty of opportunities for physical activity. Though it may be easier in the moment to put them in front of a screen, the little years are a precious and important time for building a healthy brain.
Here are 12 everyday ways you can help your rising kindergartener get plenty of physical activity in these weeks leading up to school.
1. Hop, skip, and jump. You could set the timer and tell your child to do a combination of these activities for 10 minutes in your driveway, yard, or at the local park.
2. Visit the playground as often as possible. Climbing, jumping, running, and swinging are all amazing activities for gross motor skill development.
3. Toss a ball back and forth. Classic activities like this never go out of style with kids, and it’s a great way to develop focusing skills and hand-eye coordination!
4. Provide sidewalk chalk for art, games, and hopscotch. Hopscotch uses balance, coordination, and hopping.
5. Hula hoops. Besides hula-hooping, kids can also jump through hoops, crawl through hoops, or throw hoops into the air and catch.
6. Visit a local track and let them walk, skip, hop, and race around it. This also provides an opportunity for parents and caregivers to exercise! Most tracks are fenced in, which offers a contained area for young children.
7. Cool off with water play. You don’t need a pool or water park to have a blast with water! Children love simple activities like running through the sprinkler and having fun with containers of water. Another favorite activity is giving kids a big paintbrush and letting them “paint” letters, shapes, and designs on the sidewalk or driveway with water.
If it’s a rainy day or just too hot outside, here are activities your child can enjoy inside or outside:
8. Have a dance party.
9. Walk across a balance beam. You can make one by drawing a line with sidewalk chalk, or using tape if you’re indoors.
10. Jumping Jacks and windmills. Counting while your child jumps also helps with math skills.
11. Play pretend or charades. Have your child waddle like a duck, fly like an airplane, and hop like a rabbit. Or you can let the child pretend to be something, and you get to guess.
12. Make (or have your child make) a simple obstacle course outside or inside with materials you already have. They can hop, crawl, climb, skip, or tiptoe their way through a course filled with cardboard boxes, pillows, containers, and other regular items you may have at home.
These everyday activities aren’t complicated and expensive, yet they are so important for your child’s healthy brain and body development. As parents and caregivers, know that when you visit the park or take a break from screen time, you’re actually investing in your child’s success in powerful ways!
This is the sixth of 8 posts this summer that will help your child get ready for kindergarten. Thanks for sharing with other parents and caregivers of rising kindergartners who may benefit!
You’ll also enjoy the other posts in this series: