Children’s movement skills as a resource of health
Promote physical and mental health resources through a wide range of exercise and exercise options. In the (inter) national specialist discourse, movement is considered to be of fundamental importance for early childhood education and development processes. This is due to the results of the collaborative project "Movement in early childhood (BiK)" underpins.
Ida chose the building blocks to play with today. She is 2 years old and likes going to kindergarten. In her game she is quickly distracted by the other children who built a climbing mountain. Ida watches very carefully how the others climb up and are happy when they have reached the top. Ida keeps pointing her fingers towards the climbing mountain. After a while she gets up and goes to the mountain. She looks at her feet, then at the first step of the climbing frame and then up. Ida starts to hold on to the rung with her hands and put her left foot firmly on. She pulls up close and manages to put her right foot next to the others. Ida is happy. But the other children climb even higher up to the mat. Ida moves on to the next step. Done. But it’s still not up. She turns to Margot and waves to her with her free hand. The teacher gets up, Ida quickly turns back to the climbing mountain and climbs another step. Now she has to take a big step. Again she turns to Margot, who is smiling behind her. Ida climbs onto the mat all by herself with big eyes. Once at the top, Ida hops around.
In this movement situation, Ida not only has climbing experiences, but also has to deal with a challenging situation that is sometimes new for her. She challenges her skills and learns how to deal with heights. For Ida, it also means having confidence in yourself and experiencing yourself as competent to act. In addition, the physical component such as e.g. General fitness eye-hand-foot coordination and concentration promoted. This enables her to expand her movement and risk competence.
Importance of exercise for health
The BiK project shows the importance of this phenomenon for education and development as well as health in childhood on the basis of four meaning fields of the movement (cf. Bahr 2012).
In one of the meaning fields – movement as a medium for health education – the multi-layered and holistic view of physical, emotional and socially ecological health factors is represented. In, above and with movement, both physical and mental health resources are initiated and promoted. Physical health resources include Aspects of strength and endurance, coordination and posture training as well as general fitness. It not only promotes the performance of the cardiovascular and immune system through exercise activities in childhood, but in particular strengthens the muscles and improves posture in order to prevent postural weaknesses and disorders. The body constitution and the movement competence decisively determine the coping with the social and material demands of the everyday life of children.
The physical constitution is not only influenced by physical activity, but to the same extent by nutrition. The topics of health, body / exercise and nutrition are now inextricably linked. The causes of the increased occurrence of overweight and obesity in preschool children can be seen in an interplay of various risk factors such as possible genetic predisposition, migration background, a low social status and changing living conditions due to excessive intake of high-calorie and high-fat food with increasing physical inactivity.
Safety education also plays an important role in this physical aspect of health promotion. In addition to improved body control, exercise and perception offers lead in particular to the training of concentration, differentiated perception and realistic assessment of situations. This enables dangers to be recognized earlier, better reactions to be triggered by a differentiated ability to act and thus the risk of accidents to be reduced. The development of risk competence, the minimization of the risk of injury and the taking of risk are of pedagogical importance. Children should learn to fall, deal with ups and downs and dangers.
The focus of the perception and the concentration on your own body are also central elements of relaxation. The alternation of tension (activity) and relaxation (rest) produces positive effects of well-being, stress reduction and dealing with one’s own body reactions.
The importance of exercise is at the center of salutogenetic health promotion and the strengthening of children’s resilience. Both approaches address physical and mental health. Through movement, resources and competencies can be developed that are necessary to successfully deal with stressful life events. Children can use resources to independently and independently represent their concerns. They are therefore capable of health or preventive health behavior. Coping strategies are developed that can be resumed at a later date and thus support the development of generalized control beliefs and a positive self-concept.
Research has shown that various health problems and risk factors from physical inactivity and a lack of physical fitness are more likely to occur in childhood. This in turn has an impact on the psychological and emotional-social level. Children with poor physical fitness have a harder time participating in exercise games and activities, which in turn can lead to teasing and exclusion from the game. In addition, this can have an impact on the self-confidence and self-concept of the affected children.
Promotion of physical and mental health resources
In order to strengthen children’s movement competence as a psychological and physical resource for their health, the conscious promotion of movement and perception can be described as a central task of day-care centers for children. On the one hand, this includes enabling free play situations in which children can acquire motor skills that are appropriate for their age and development, allowing them to act competently, safely and confidently in everyday life. On the other hand, daily offered and accompanied exercise offers are important, which provide suggestions for new exercise ideas. The child must be offered a broad range of movement and perception patterns that he can test and develop in new situations (see Zimmer 1987)..
Movement events do not always have to be staged by the educational specialist. Free play situations are especially important for the development of mental health resources. Children have a high urge to move and many creative ideas on how they want to experience, feel and try out their bodies. In order to build up a positive self-concept as a mental health resource and to gain the conviction of oneself to be able to meet new and unknown requirements, the child needs the freedom to develop his or her skills individually and to be able to actually test and use them. A stimulating spatial and material environment arouses the child’s interest and leads to (movement) actions with the aim of exploring and researching the conditions that trigger the stimulus, reducing uncertainty and at the same time building up a comprehensive repertoire of actions and experiences and constantly expanding it ( see Kopic 2013). The child’s living space should become an area of experience. For free play situations, it is therefore recommended to design the interior and exterior spaces in the day care center in such a way that they stimulate children to experience a variety of movements and perceptions. Experiences close to the body via the tactile sensory system (touch and touch), the vestibular system (balance) and the kinesthetic system (sensations of movement) form the basis for the development of a differentiated body structure and the development of the body’s own abilities. Children experience the limits of their own body through tactile experiences and touching other people and materials.
Furthermore, the body represents the child’s access to its environment. It is used as an exploratory organ to feel the material (and social) world and its diverse facets (soft / hard, scratchy / smooth, cold / warm, small) / large etc.). The child becomes aware of himself in the body-related and action-oriented examination of the material. It also learns about the specific properties of materials and can use them specifically and competently in later (game) actions. The environment also constantly challenges the child’s muscles, tendons and joints to adapt. To respond appropriately to these external conditions means first of all to visualize one’s own body and individual abilities. In addition, this means to assess the correct use of force for actions such as lifting or pulling, to adopt and hold the correct joint position in appropriate situations and to be able to consciously relax or relax the muscles when necessary.
In the automatic testing of their own sensory systems and the body’s own efficacies, the child gains confidence in its abilities and it is increasingly expanding them. The improved body control and self-assessment of the children through the playful trying out and also the occasional falling and tripping enables them to differentiate the acquisition of risk competence. In dealing with challenging movement situations, the children learn to use their bodies and senses competently and to master challenges. Dangerous situations can thus be better assessed and dealt with competently.
However, free play situations are not only important for the acquisition of movement and risk competence as a health resource for child development. Movement events led and accompanied by the educational specialist as well as movement impulses that take up the ideas and topics of the children are also important in this context. It is not crucial to create dangerous and elaborately staged movement situations. Risk and risk are assessed subjectively depending on the child’s wealth of experience and level of development. For example, if children have not had any experience with altitude, climbing on a chair is already a risk. High-altitude children, on the other hand, need more impulses to expand their skills, e.g. balancing on a narrow or shaky surface at height.
The educational specialist has broad knowledge of materials and their possible uses in movement contexts. There are many movement-oriented methods available to expand the child’s wealth of experience. Through movement games, a movement course, the incorporation of actions into a movement history or the like, she can provide the children with materials and spaces that are suitable for the playful development of physical health resources. The roller board, for example, has a high challenge character and can be used excellently for fun-oriented promotion of conditional and coordinative skills. Different muscle groups are always challenged and strengthened by the different ways of moving on the roller board (sitting, kneeling, lying) and by pulling and pushing each other. The strengthening of these muscle parts during the joint play makes a high contribution to posture training and thus to the school requirements of the children. In principle, care should be taken to ensure that physical activity offers for health promotion are designed to be eventful for children and that they are designed to be highly inviting. The movement occasions should always convey joy in and for movement and address the world of experience and experience as well as the needs of the children.
Just like the need for activity and exercise, children have the corresponding need for rest and relaxation. In order to favor the above-mentioned positive effects of relaxation in day-to-day life in the day-care center and thus counteract psychological stress on children, this can be offered by the specialist if required. Relaxation methods based on children’s needs (imaginative, body-related, cognitive) help the child to calm down, perceive his inner experience and needs, process the experiences made, relieve tension, build up new energy and thus increase his performance. With these offers, however, it must be taken into account that the need for activity and rest is individually designed for all children and that the specialist himself has an individual need for exercise and relaxation, which should be differentiated from the needs of the children. The entire everyday life should therefore be varied and with opportunities for retreat.
The promotion of physical activity can make a major contribution to promoting children’s health in day-to-day care. Safe and competent movement behavior strengthens both the child’s physical and mental health resources and makes it physically and emotionally strong for its further development.
Bahr, S./Kallinich, K./Beudels, W./Fischer, K./Hölter, G./Jasmund, C./Krus, A./Kuhlenkamp, S. (2012): Significance fields of the movement for educational and Development processes in childhood. In: motor skills. 35, 3, pp. 98-109.
Kopic, A. (2013): Visual spaces – interior design and its importance for educational processes. In: loose-leaf collection two-year-olds in kindergarten. September. Pp. 15 – 24.
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