Movement is at the very core of how children develop intellectually, emotionally, socially, and of course, physically. Here at Moving Smart we foster children's naturally move-to-learn style while helping parents and teachers understand the comprehensive benefits of all that wiggling!

That's why we say "A Moving Child is a Learning Child."

Monday, April 20, 2020

SPAGHETTI FOR BREAKFAST



We're all coming to terms with "the new normal." And as hard as new routines are for adults they're even harder for kids. And more essential. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF ROUTINE
All parents know the importance of giving kids structure which includes a daily routine they come to count on. Routine gives children a sense of security and empowerment which helps them understand and navigate their world. 

But when routines are disrupted as they've been these past weeks, it's like trying to recite the days of the week in alphabetical order. Seriously. Have you ever tried that? If you haven't stop right now, don't read ahead, and recite the days of the week in alphabetical order. And don't use a pencil and paper. Come back when you're done.

Notice how you had to stop and rotate through all seven days several times to get them in the right order. You probably started with Monday, which of course, you later realized was wrong. You probably put Tuesday in front of Thursday too. Something so simple can be so halting when you change the order of things. 

And that's exactly how your child feels whenever his routine is disrupted.


THE IMPORTANCE OF ADAPTABILITY
Now that we've made the case for routine, there's an equally important argument to be made for flexibility and adaptability. Adapting to unexpected changes helps little ones learn to think on their feet -- an essential life skill as we all have to deal with unexpected situations, like right now. In other words, children need a balance of both - routine and spontanaeity.

And this is especially important right now because when things finally do go back to the "old normal," guess what? That's going to be their "new normal."

PLAYING WITH ROUTINE
There's a game I used to play that is so much fun, we thought you might like to try it with your own family during these uncertain times. It's designed to give kids a sense of humor about life's unexpected situations by playing with their known sense of routine. It's creative, full of possibilities, and everyone in the family can play.

I call it Back to Front Day, where you take a day and do everything BACKWARDS! And I mean EVERYTHING. Here's how I do it. Feel free to improvise!


BACK TO FRONT DAY
By living a day in reverse, kids learn to think in a different way because all day they'll be anticipating not what comes next, but what comes before! And if you involve them in the planning of the day, they will enjoy the unpredictable wackiness that comes with living backwards! 

PLAN AHEAD
Sit together with your kids and explain the idea so they can help you plan. Start by talking about your daily routine and what you do each day. Perhaps make a list or a chart and if your child isn't old enough to read, have him draw out the activities so he can see how the day unfolds. Then talk about how you can do it all backwards on Back to Front Day.

IDEAS FOR BACK TO FRONT DAY
Here are some ideas to get you started. Be sure to brainstorm these and any other ideas with your child so he feels in control of the day. Here goes...

Start by giving your day a wacky name. For instance if you plan it for a Saturday, you could call it Yadrutas.

And while you're at it, give yourselves backwards names for the day. For instance, Pam becomes Map; Emily becomes Ylime, Mommy becomes Ymmom, Daddy becomes yddad, etc.

Then be sure to do everything backwards. For instance...

The night before get dressed in your clothes to go to bed. Sleep in your clothes. And be sure you are wearing them backwards.

When kids wake up, greet them with "Good Night!"

Snuggle in bed and read them a bedtime story. Be sure to read it backwards from the back cover to the front.

Walk backwards to the bathroom. (Actually, try to walk backwards all day.)

Brush your teeth – rinse first.

Have a bath. Dry from bottom to top, not top to bottom. Get out of the bath backwards and get into your pyjamas.

Spend the day in your pyjamas.

Have dinner for breakfast – dessert first. (Note, this will take some planning on your part, but I highly recommend spaghetti!) 

Everybody uses their non-dominant hand to eat. (If you're a rightie, use your left hand!)

At the dinner table talk about what's going to happen today. Review your backwards plan so everyone is reminded of what's going to happen. Project forward by planning backwards!

Do activities in the morning you would do normally do in the afternoon

At lunch, eat dessert first, and with the wrong hand.

Do activities in the afternoon you would do normally do in the morning

Have breakfast for dinner. (I highly recommend pancakes!)


Remember you will be in your PJ’s all day. So you will need to get dressed in your day clothes to go to bed. And don't forget to wish them a "Good Day" as they settle in for the night.


Whatever you choose to do, have fun with this. The sillier the better. And the longer you can keep it going throughout the day, the more fun you'll have. You might just find by the end of the day, living backwards feels pretty normal, proving that these days, "normal" is what we say it is!

Enjoy. (And please, send us pictures. We'd love to hear about your "yad!")


Thursday, April 2, 2020

A WALK IN YOUR SHOES


If you've been snuggled up at home with your family for the last week or two, by now you may have acquired a little shadow... someone who always wants to be with you... and be you. Your little shadow finds you endlessly fascinating and is eager to do what you do, even if it's just tidying up around the house. For little ones, washing the windows or folding the laundry is the farthest thing from drudgery. To them it's challenging, intriguing, and just plain fun. And they get to be with you! What could be better than that?


This is the very basis of what teachers call play-based learning. The ancient Greek philospher Sophocles said, "One learns by doing a thing. Although you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try." And for little ones it hardly matters what the doing is. As long as the child chooses it and is physically involved in it, fun and learning are bound to follow. 

Taking a walk in your shoes is an important part of your child's development particularly in the toddler years. This is the beginnings of role play, and the role they want to play is you.


So, whenever there's a chore to be done, watch to see if your little shadow wants to "help" out. If they show interest, invite them in. And whenever you can, make it real. Hand them a sponge or a brush or a squeegie, not a toy. Give them a bottle or bucket of water (not any cleaning fluids at this point), and watch how they try to do what you do. Several things are happening when you do this...

1. Little ones don't know how to behave yet so they use you as their model. After all, you are their introduction to the world, their first and best teacher. And one of the ways they learn from you is by doing what you do. 
 
2. When little ones mirror your movements, they are moving their bodies in new and unique ways. They're learning what they can do with their bodies, which in turn is developing new and important pathways in the brain.

3. And you're together as partners in the process, in the moment, sharing the task at hand. They are "shoulder to shoulder" with you and that makes them feel important. And, remember, no matter what the outcome, at this stage, the result is always "a job well done."

And sure, it's going to take a few minutes longer with your little shadow's help, but only if you see them as chores. Instead, I invite you to see them as your child does... time well spent.

Friday, March 27, 2020

MR. POTATO HEAD'S LAUNDRY DAY

OK. Nobody likes laundry. But even laundry can be a fun, learning activity for preschoolers while you're knocking a big chore off your list. So here's what you do...

HOW TO PLAY...


As you're folding the laundry, choose articles of clothing from the basket and encourage your child to identify each item (e.g., socks, shirts, pants, underwear, etc.). Talk about how we wear the different items. We wear socks on our feet. We wear shirts on our backs, etc. This establishes the concept of "order" for your child. 

Now, like Mr. Potato Head, let's mix it up and play with the concept of "disorder." Only in this game, your child is Mr. Potato Head!

Start by wondering out loud what it would be like to wear your socks on your ears. Coax your child to try wearing her socks on her ears. And put socks on your own ears too. Oh, how silly! And the fun has begun.

Your child may take it from there, but if not, suggest a few other mix ups to give her the idea. For instance, I wonder what it would be like to wear your pants on your arms? Or your underwear as socks? Or see what it's like if you climb into dad's shirt together! In other words, the sillier the better!




WHAT THEY'RE LEARNING...
What we just described is a game involving patterns, sequences, order and disorder, all essential underpinnings to problem solving, creativity, and mathematics. That might sound a bit heady or academic, but in fact, children are naturally introduced to these concepts through everyday, physical experiences and play.

For instance, early on babies adapt to daily routines which give them a sense of security and belonging through the predictable order of life. Toddlers eventually figure out that it's better to put the big block on the bottom in order to support the smaller blocks on top. With enough repetition, preschoolers they learn that "A" comes before "B." And of course, we all inevitably arrive at the conclusion that socks come before shoes.

Further, dressing the "wrong" way actually instills a sense of pride and confidence that they're "in the know." They know the right way to dress!

And in the process, you might even get the laundry done.



Stay home. Stay well. Have fun. And keep moving!


P.S. When we asked friends and family to snap some photos of this game for us, even the older kids wanted to join in and had fun with it!



Wednesday, March 25, 2020

PLAY MAKES THE BEST TEACHER

We wrote a blog post called Parents Make the Best Playmates several years ago and it has always been one of our most popular topics. (You'll see the post in full below.) In these days when parents are being called upon to guide their children's learning at home, it's important to understand in the early years, play is the most powerful learning tool of all.


We'll dig deeper into the power of play over the next few weeks, but for now, rest assured. You don't need a degree in education. All you need to do is relax and play. Because even if you don't recognize it in the moment, your child is learning in so many ways...

Play is TANGIBLE and PHYSICAL. Kids are tangible, physical creatures. That's why they can't sit still.

Play is a WHOLE-CHILD EXPERIENCE, inviting the body, senses, emotions, imagination, and natural problem solving to the party. That's why she becomes so engrossed she doesn't even hear you calling to her.

PLAY BEGINS WITH THE CHILD, making the entire experience personal and relevant. That's why she puts on her tiara and goes out to the garden to make mud pies. It makes sense to her.

Play is how children learn to RELATE TO OTHERS. That's why it's important to make time for the two of you to play together each day.

Which brings us to today's topic. As important as play is, we've found some parents don't fully understand their role in the process. Take a look at our original blog post for a few ways you can become a better playmate to your child and have fun along the way...


PARENTS MAKE THE BEST PLAYMATES
All child development experts (including me) will tell you that one of the best things you can do for your child is to play with your child. But those same experts (including me) often lament that parents don’t always know HOW to play with their kids.

I have a theory about this. Adults sometimes struggle with “child’s play” because it is counter-intuitive to what’s expected of us in every other part of our lives. As adults, we’re expected to be strong, mature and in control at all times; responsible, efficient, effective, and results-oriented. Yet it is these exact qualities that make adults INEFFECTIVE as play partners to their children.  

To help you understand what I mean, here are a few rules of thumb I prescribe for parents during playtime...

FOLLOW, DON’T LEAD. When it comes to play, your child is better at it than you are.  Know your place and follow her lead (unless safety becomes an issue).

GET SHORTER. Whenever you can, bring yourself down to her level (both physically and emotionally). This is your time to see the world through her eyes.

KEEP IT POINTLESS. True play has no agenda – no rightness or wrongness to it. Whatever happens happens. Keeping playtime open and free is not only the best way to encourage your child's imagination, it's also the best way to help her learn naturally.

And no matter what, remember, playtime is for both of you, so relax and go for the ride!



THE OVER-UNDER JOURNEY!     Playing collaborative games equalizes the playing field for your child while giving you a perfect, kids-eye-view of life!  Next time you have a few minutes, try taking an Over-Under Journey and you might just be amazed where the two of you end up!

SET UP
1. Start by deciding where to go.  You may want to go to a real place like the kitchen or you could think of grander, imaginative places like the Dinosaur Forest or the Princess Castle!  (Wherever you decide to go, pick a physical location 10-15 feet away as your target for a game of 5-6 turns.)  Let your child decide the destination and then follow her imaginative lead.

2. Next, decide who is "Over" and who is "Under."  Again, let your child decide.  

3. Using only your bodies and your imaginations, the "Over" player must travel each step of the journey by going over the other player.  Likewise, the  "Under" player must go under the other player.

GAME PLAY
Here’s a few ideas to get you started.  Note:  These ideas are written for parents but can easily be adjusted for children as well.  But be sure to let your children make up their own over/under obstacles as much as possible.
  • Go OVER THE HILL (stand tall and let your child climb all the way up you!)
  • Go UNDER THE BRIDGE (form a bridge with your body or legs and let your child climb under)
  • Go OVER THE TICKLE TIGER (lie down on your back and have your child climb over your tummy -- tickling as she goes!)
  • GO UNDER GATE (lie on the floor and raise one leg in the air up and down.  Have your child scoot through the gate.)
  • Go OVER THE TEA POT (sit on the floor and form the shape of a tea pot.  As your child climbs over you, whistle like a tea pot!
  • Go UNDER THE PUDDLE (lie down on the floor tummy-side down.  Have your child "swim" underneath you)
  • GO OVER THE WORM (wiggle like a worm on the floor and have your child climb over you from head to toe)
  • GO UNDER THE TUNNEL.  (sit on the floor with your knees up and have your child climb through)

Have fun, and let me know how your journey went!