The rate in which a child’s brain develops in the first 5 years of life is exponential. They are born with all of the neurons that they will ever have, their brain doubles in size within the first year, reaches 80% of its adult capacity by 3 years of age and is 90% developed by age 5.
With all of this development going on ‘on the inside’, we may wonder why children do not always listen to instruction. Are they ignoring you? Can they hear properly? Chances are they aren’t getting enough movement in order to be able to concentrate on, and process, what you are saying.
Screen time, limited outdoor play, and parental fear of their child hurting themselves, are just a few of the reasons that children are not meeting their required ‘big play’. When we don’t allow children to jump, run, climb, swing or even play on uneven surfaces, we inhibit their ability to learn how to move their own body. If their proprioception and balance systems aren’t given the opportunity to mature, their bodies may become a distraction, limiting their ability to sit still and concentrate.
Proprioception is feeling where your body is in space, as opposed to looking directly at it, eg - looking at a ball being thrown towards you, instead of your hands, in order to catch it. The vestibular system is responsible for balance and telling us where our body is whilst in motion. The two systems work together, and proper development of them is essential so that children know how their body moves, how gravity works, and how to take appropriate risks.
Examples of activities to help proprioception and vestibular systems:
* Climbing trees
* Balancing on a beam
* Heel/toe walking
* Wheelbarrow walking
* Barefoot on sand, grass, rocks, dirt
* Monkey bars
* Ball games
* Riding a bike
* Walking backwards
Recommended time spent playing:
Infants (under 1yr): 30-90 mins of tummy time, crawling, reaching, grasping
Toddlers (1-2yrs): 3-5 hours of big play, with majority outside play
Pre-schoolers (3-4yrs): 3-5 hours of big play, preferably outside, with at least an hour of rigorous physical activity
Primary school (5+years): 4-5 hours with majority outdoors.