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."

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Lucky me! The other day I had a "Charlie Day" with my grandson (whose name is Jakie not Charlie, but that’s a story for another day). Charlie Days consist of a sleepover followed by a full day of fun for just the two of us. No mommies, daddies, or big sisters allowed!

Jakie is a loving, gentle child with the typical tornadic energy you would expect from a three-going-on-four year old boy. That means Charlie Days are why-walk-when-we-can-run days! 

Fun, but phew!

And that got me thinking about the importance of speed in a young child’s life.

Why Kids Love Fast!
It seems that just minutes after their first steps, little ones are off and running. Not walking. Running! I love that stage, watching them relish the freedom of their own two feet.

And certainly, going fast feels good and is a large part of why “fast” is a young child’s default speed. But it’s not the only reason.

You see “fast” is actually easier than “slow” for young children. That’s because when the human body moves fast, the physics of forward momentum take over part of the job our sense of balance normally does for us. When we move slow, we rely more on our balance to keep us steady, stable, and upright. And that’s where the challenge comes in for little ones.

As we’ve written about before, children aren’t born with a sense of balance. Balance is developed in the early years through the natural process of movement. As such, when children do get to their feet, the brain and body are working double-time, managing balance and complex movements simultaneously. And of course, that takes some getting used to… actually years of getting used to in order to perfect the highly sophisticated act of moving at a slow, controlled pace!

Why Slow Matters
Now, going fast is perfectly natural and great for kids. But it’s important to try to slow them down too... at least sometimes. You see, going fast doesn’t give the brain time to think. Going slow engages the brain, giving it the time it needs to receive, analyze, and store all that sensory information. This helps build the brain’s sense of balance while refining movement. And when that happens, children are on the road to more deliberate control of their bodies… and yes, they might even slow down a bit!

So, how slow can you go? Here are 10 fun ideas I’ve used at home and in my classroom that kids might just slow down for...

Ready? Set. Slow!

1. THE GO-SLOW CHALLENGE! Little ones naturally want to please us and naturally want to show off what they can do, so when they’re dashing about at top speed, say to them, “Oh my goodness, you really can go fast! I bet you can’t go slow!”

2. CHANGE IT UP! Any time you change the way children move, they will automatically go slower. For instance, when transitioning from snack time to story time in my classroom I’d sometimes have the children walk backwards to the mat. Other ways include: walking sideways, walking on a line on the floor, walking with a bean bag on your head, etc.

3. TURTLE! TIGER! TREE! To give little ones a full sense of their own self-control, give them practice changing speed. For instance, when you call out “turtle” they need to walk very, very slow. When you call out “tiger” they need to speed up and move very, very fast. When you call out “tree” they need to stretch their “limbs” like a tree and freeze in place! At first, do this with a predictable rhythm. Once they’ve got the hang of it, change to a more random/unpredictable rhythm. And be sure to change the sequence so they have to listen carefully.

4. CAREFUL! CAREFUL! Set up activities that require them to be careful and precise in their movements. For instance, crawl through the tunnel without touching the sides or carry a ping pong ball on a spoon from one end of the yard to the other.

5. GIANT STEPS. The bigger the gait the slower the movement, so have the children walk across the room or play yard using giant steps. Once they have a feel for it, have them count how many steps it takes to get from start to finish. Now have them come back the other way and see if they can do it in even fewer steps!

6. TWO BY TWO. Pair up the children standing back to back, linking arms. Now challenge them to cross the room or play yard. Without even asking, they’ll automatically move more slowly as they negotiate their movements with each other.

7. THE SLOW ZOO is filled with the slowest animals you’ve ever seen! Have the children move like a turtle, snail, crab, sloth, elephant, rhinoceros, etc., or make up their own “slowimal” to show you just how slow they can go!

8. SLOW TALK. Doing anything slowly will help children understand how to pace themselves. Talking slow is a really fun way to develop auditory discrimination while sounding out words and at the same time giving them “slow” practice. Model slow talking for them and encourage them to repeat words or phrases you say. Then let them loose to slow chat with each other. It’s hilarious!

9. SLOW TALK & WALK. Once they’ve practiced Slow Talk, add a movement challenge for even more fun. For instance, take a trip back to the Slow Zoo. Have the children move like their favorite slow animal while describing their movements in Slow Talk. “I ammmm walllkkking lllikkke aaaaa turrrrrtlllle.”

10. IT’S SLOW TIME! Indoors or out, play any favorite game but take it slow. Great games for this are Follow the Leader or Simon Says, but try this idea with any game the children already know. Taking it slow will make the game different, challenging, (and often silly) for them!

If you're interested in learning more ways to help children develop balance and control, you might enjoy these posts...



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