By Todd Boheimer, PT, ATC-L
The structure of school and busy schedules often mean our children aren’t being given all the time they need to participate in physical activities. The rigor of today’s learning environment keeps them in desks during the day and after school they’re whisked away to activities, homework and family time. While children spend the day immersed in academics, it’s also important to make time for a different kind of learning – active learning.
WHAT IS ACTIVE LEARNING?
Children learn from movement. The concept of active learning embraces a child’s ability to learn simply from being physical. By using the body as a tool, they acquire knowledge of movement and learn how to inhabit their bodies and move their body in space. Memory and movement are linked. When they’re moving children are active, aware and able to grasp concepts by using all their senses.
Dedicated time for free play allows for active learning as children create and make up their own movement and use their imaginations. Studies show that children should have a dedicated 60 minutes per day of this kind of play outside of school where they’re typically being told what to do, which limits imagination and self-direction. This dedicated time can include functional activities you might find on the playground like monkey bars and other typical playground games like running, hiding, hoping, skipping and jumping. The body is a tool of learning and with trial and error children put developmental concepts into action.
PREVENTING DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS
Physical therapists spend each day watching people move, evaluating movement and teaching the best ways to move and be active. As movement experts, they are trained to identify developmental milestones and improve the body’s function.
When children aren’t participating in enough active learning, developmental delays could occur. Children develop at different times but, as a parent or caretaker, you may pick up on something that sends up a flag. If this occurs, a pediatrician can perform assessments and tests for motor learning. The earlier any issues are identified the better as a child who is lacking in some learning development could lose sensory awareness or movement that can become even more difficult and complicated to treat in the future.
WAYS TO INCORPORATE ACTIVE LEARNING
Need a few ideas for how to incorporate active learning into your child’s day? The American Physical Therapy Association has several great suggestions.
A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: What kid wouldn’t want to be a monster for a day? By making these monster feet, children won’t just be having fun, they’ll also work on balance, body control and coordination.
SUPERMAN CORE STRENGH: All you need are a few small toys for this activity that works on core strength, coordination and motor control.
HULA HOOP TIRE RUN: This obstacle-course style activity focuses on gross motor skills while getting heart rates going and muscles working hard.
Physical Therapist Todd Boheimer practices at OrthoCarolina's Hickory and Lincolnton offices. In addition to treating patients, Todd stays current in the latest research by frequently attending continuing education courses and reading journals. He is married to his wife Rhonda and has a son and daughter who attend Maiden High School. Todd is very active with his local church, loves attending his children's sporting events and volunteering in the community.