It is no coincidence that you often hear that key learning stages are referred to as the 'building blocks' of life. Building blocks have the most marvellous property that while a single block is uninspiring, small and unnoteworthy, put together with many others it can create the most fantastic palaces or castles, the greatest zoos or fun parks or the most wonderful houses. A building block is a unit of a much larger creation, and the possibilities of what a pile of blocks can become are limitless.
The same is true when it comes to learning fundamental principles. Learning letters is the first step on the way to learning to read and write; learning numbers is the first step to learning complex mathematics. Craft play includes many fundamental principles that help to develop fine and gross motor skills, as do sports and games. Each small step is repaid with much more value by way of long term reward.
Active children who participate in a healthy mix of games, craft and learning will be collecting 'building blocks' through life. These building blocks will make well rounded individuals, and in the same way that traditional building blocks can make almost anything, so fundamental learning blocks will create a child capable of almost anything they put their mind to.
The youngest baby to ever start walking was only six months old when he took to his feet and walked - he couldn't even crawl!
Xavier King's parents were astounded when he took his first steps so early. With his arms stretched out in front of him to keep his balance, he toddles across the room at about 6 foot at a time.
His parents had a feeling he would be a fast learner when it came to mobility as Xavier was sitting up at three months old. Most babies begin to crawl at about 6 months and will pull to standing at about 9 months. By 18 months most are walking although it can take longer for no reason at all!
However, it has actually caused the parents a little concern as they need to be nearby at every moment to make sure he doesn't get into any harm. A play pen has proved very useful indeed. His parents have suggested that the bouncy chair they had for their son may have contributed to his leg and muscle strength. He loved the chair and would happily bounce in it.
Early walking is often said to be hereditary however neither of Xavier's parents walked particularly early. They will now spend most of their time running behind him to make sure he is always in their sight!
For many children, the idea of climbing a vertical climbing wall seems totally impossible and dreadfully scary. However, getting children to try climbing walls and physical apparatus is a great way to boost their confidence, as well as help with hand-eye co-ordination and concentration. This doesn't mean to say you should rush out to your nearest climbing wall and get them heading into the sky. Instead, try out a few climbing activities at home and see how they get on.
Stepping stones at the park are a great way to start off if you have any near your home. If not, make a few using sheets of paper on your lawn!
Climbing a tree is fun and even getting a little height by themselves (or a little help) can be very rewarding for the children, make sure the child is supervised at all times to avoid danger.
Walking along a low wall is great for balance and gross motor skills.
Stepping over huge tree roots can be tricky and a good practice activity for balance and concentration.
Traversing walls have become more popular recently and many children's centres and community centres have low, easily accesses climbing holes and stones so children can move along the wall from right to left rather than climb upwards. This is ideal for little ones scared of being too high off the floor.
It's all good physical practice and great fun for all ages children. Just take care not to believe those who think they can do it alone until you see it for yourself so stay close by!
Rough play and tumble time means that children can get rid of a bit of energy and aggression, take some risks when it comes to pushing their physical boundaries and let go a little. For many carers and parents, the idea of rough play is something that should be avoided: too dangerous, too aggressive, too uncontrolled. However, in a controlled environment, where the rules are clear, rough play can be great fun and beneficial to children.
Boys may find rough play easier than girls; they are more inclined to be physical and use gross motor skills. It gives boys a chance to get close to each other and have contact with other boys in a way that they can understand.
Aggression should be curtailed though; it's not a fight! Parents need to supervise carefully and make the rules clear. If anyone looks unhappy its turned from a fun tumble session into something that is not fun so this would need investigation
Make sure everyone has a get out clause. Make it a rule that if someone is unhappy with the game or where it is heading that they can say, "Stop, I don't like it" and the game will stop while that person gets out or steps aside for a moment. This has to be clear from the outset.
Ideas for rough and tumble play:
ToucanLearn activities are designed to promote and assist with the development of fine and gross motor skills, as well as other skills too, but do you know what fine and gross motor skills are? Here's a simple outline of what they are and how they develop.
What is a Motor Skill?
This is an action that involves movement of muscle in our body: walking, writing, clapping, painting. Any movement at all.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
These are the larger movements involving limbs such as arms and legs plus feet. Or, indeed, using the whole body. Examples include crawling, kicking, running, jumping.
What are Fine Motor Skills?
These are finer movements that we use, specifically the fingers and thumbs, and toes, to do smaller and more specialised actions such as picking things up or wriggling toes.
How do they develop?
Both gross and fine motor skills tend to develop in tandem as so many activities rely on both gross and fine motor skills.
At 3 months: a baby will wave their arms around across their chest and will then play with their fingers. This practices both gross and fine motor skills.
At 18 months: a toddler will use gross motor skills to reach for a toy or puzzle and to sit up and play with it and fine motor skills to do the puzzle or post the shapes into the box.
Gross and fine motor skills Milestones:
At one month a baby can:
At three months a baby can:
At six month a baby can:
At twelve months a baby can:
Of course, all this can vary from child to child and some may be learn more quickly than others while others catch up later, so don't be worried if your child is not reaching these milestones precisely when they should. If you have any doubt or fears about gross or motor skills, simply go to the doctor or health visitor for advice.
Children love a run around and it's so good for them; we should encourage them at every stage of their development and at all ages. Research shows that children who are active at a young age tend to stay active later as teens and then show a greater desire to remain active in later life. These are the children who are less likely to develop heart disease or become obese when they are older.
But why get involved in sport?
Sport and exercise helps children in all sorts of ways; it assists their academic, social, mental and of course physical development.
How does physical activity contribute towards academic development?
If a child is not active, they will probably have low muscle tone. With low muscle tone, a child's ability in school can be inhibited. They may not have the stamina to keep up with activities involving fine motor skills (writing, making and creating) and friends will be ahead of them. As they grow older, they may not have the stamina to keep up in an exam situation, because they are physically weaker.
If they are active, they are working on muscle tone, doing lots of activities means they are using their muscles to make them stronger. There is also research to suggest physical fitness and ability in the classroom are related and that more active children do better at school. Healthier children are more ready to learn, it seems. There is a discipline involved with sports and physical activities which will effect a child's attitude to school work and their desire to do well.
How does physical activity help with social skills and confidence?
Children playing in teams work together and build on the idea of team work and sharing the defeats and successes of sport. They gain confidence and learn about trying, practicing and improving a skill. This confidence and teamwork effects how they treat their fellow classmates and makes them more happy and confident with themselves.
How do team activities and sport help with life skills?
...they can make children more self-disciplined and more self assured, they improve social interaction and working with others. Team activities establish the idea of being a good sports person, being a member of a team and being honourable. They help with attention span and determination to succeed. They introduce the idea of commitment and being accountable for your actions and build strength and improve gross motor skills to help children become more courageous and bold to try new things.
If your little one is 2-3 what can they do to start with?
Learn about the body and what it can do! Name body parts, discover how they move. You can crawl, run, skip (perhaps!), jump, hop (maybe?) and all these skills are basic but vital before moving on to the next stage of physical development and competence. Balancing, moving with apparatus and being in control are the key things to learn about.
If your little one is 3 - 4?
It's all about being in control and having lots of fun! Use balls to roll, throw and try to catch! Use big balls, small balls and all sorts of other things instead of balls to throw and catch with. Give lots of praise and have a laugh together whatever you are doing. Be supportive both mentally (ie. encouraging) and physically (ie. hold them when they climb a tree) while their confidence grows.
If your little ones are 4 - 5?
Practice and practice some more! Work on skills that they are good at and the ones they are not so good at. Practice balancing on logs, climbing trees, running and doing obstacle courses to improve and build on their strengths.
So, get out there! Join a club, go for walk, scoot along the parks, swim in the local pool, run around the garden and have fun!
Growing up is full of minor achievements but none make a parent more proud than those early defining moments when baby first rolls over, learns to crawl, walk, talk and one day, to write! The first few years of life are filled with milestones when your child achieves something that you've not seen them do before.
There are four main developmental areas, learning control of the body with fine and gross motor skills; personal and social development and language. Here are a few milestones to look out for in your baby's first year:-
0 - 3 Months
3 - 6 Months
6 - 9 Months
9 - 12 Months
Of course, babies develop at different rates and reaching milestones late may not have any bearing on wider development. They may even skip milestones, for example starting to crawl without managing to roll over, or taking first steps unaided without cruising.
Every child registered in ToucanLearn has a private blog space. Log milestones for each of your children and in time you'll have an invaluable record of their early lives that not only will you look back on fondly, but one day your children might thank you for too!
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