Children start life as physical explorers, taking in information from all of their senses, as well as through motion. It is this total sensory motor integration that leads to learning. Each new level leads to new learning and new physical challenges. Adults know it is not enough to be “present.”Children need us to share our presence emotionally as well as physically, by sharing joy and carrying a positive attitude, adults give children hope encouragement, and success through concrete experiences.
Children start sensory motor integration with physical activities, and appropriate environments need to be provided to help facilitate learning. Our sensory and intellectual systems are geared for making sense of the world through physical activity. Early childhood is the prime age for learning through movement, which brings them the potential for a sense of well-being in their lives. It is through movement that children experience the power of mind and body working together in an immediate direct way.
Infants: Musical Dances – These offer immediate experiences to share and celebrate unique cultural traditions. Many families have their own dances, and these might include the Irish “jig,” the Jewish “hora,” the Italian “tarantella,” or the Mexican “hat dance.” Adults don’t need to know how to dance these, just ask parents to share or get a CD from the library and let the caregiver make up their own dances while holding the infant and swaying to the music.
Toddlers: African Talking Drum – Give the children coffee cans with plastic lids which can be donated by their parents. Cover them with colored construction paper and encourage the children to decorate them with magic markers or crayons. In this African tradition the drum beats tell children what to do. A steady 1-2 beat means that the children should walk around in a circle in the same direction beating their own drums; a syncopated 1-2-3 beat means to gallop; a sharp single beat means stop. Let the toddlers invent new beats to represent other movements.
Preschool: The Tagging House – Choose three or four taggers, two “Safe Houses” and one “Tagging House.” As children are tagged with a tap, they come to the “Tagging House” where there is only room for one person at a time. As soon as another child is tagged, the previous one goes “free.” In this game no one is out for very long.
Sensory motor integration includes information and concepts formed about the world through physical activities, these activities also involve intellectual development, spatial relationships and problem solving in a concrete, physical way. It is especially important in the development of social and emotional skills, and on self esteem. Since body language is the child’s first language it also has a major impact on language development. The goal is to make movement activities safe and enjoyable for every child. Look for more sensory motor integration activities in my book “Teaching with Heart.”
Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.