Haven’t you noticed how quickly your child, however young, responds to anything that involves physical activity?
When you clap your hands little babies turn almost instinctively towards the sound while slightly older babies try to follow the path of the sound with their eyes and even older ones try to physically but awkwardly imitate you.Toddlers respond even more instantly and happily because they can and they do so, by repeating the action endlessly.
Experts believe that such responses to external stimuli are required not only for the development of a child’s cognitive and motor skills but also for the all-round growth of the child’s brain and absolutely essential at every stage of the child’s physical development. So what better way to encourage a child’s mental and physical progress than by reading out loud stories that involve some form of movement or the other? And that is probably why more and more books are being written for little children that have stories that include some movement or the other of the body -dancing/marching/twirling-even as they follow a story theme.
Such books introduce your child to
1) Physical exercise-good for health/physical development
2) It lays the foundation for a strong vocabulary/memory –learns new words/ideas
3) Some robust discipline –learns to follow instructions/ enables retention
4) It enhances comprehension- Improves understanding and increases the power to grasp
5) It teaches rhyming skills- learns to like/follow music, song, and dance
6) It helps to identify and match words to action- Which child, for instance, does not love to move rhythmically to ‘Put your right leg in and your left leg out and wave it all about….’
So if you want to see your little one grow up tall, strong and knowledgeable it is evident that reading to your child at an early age is almost as important as the food you put into its little mouth. It also makes for a happy, laughing child. Reading becomes a fun-filled adventure for your curiosity imbued little one when there is plenty of action and movement. Repetition makes it even more enjoyable when your child begins to recognize, predict and carry out instructions on its own. Therefore it is imperative that you as a parent make reading an integral part of your child’s daily routine-the sooner the better.
Some ways you can introduce your child to physical activity through books:
1) Playing out the actions in a book. For E.g.: ‘Spot the dog’ by Eric Hill involves searching for Spot all through the house. So could you and your infant
2) Identifying and moving various parts of the body. E.g. ‘From Head to Toe’ by Eric Carle is all about animals asking children to move limbs and parts of the body.
3) Engaging in rhymes-E.g.: ‘I am a teapot. Here is my spout…’ for instance can get the child to identify the teapot and its various features through sing-song sessions
4) Through acting out ‘Action’ songs like for E.g.: If you are happy and you know it claps your hands…/Row Row Row your boat…/Itsy bitsy spider…/ten little monkeys jumping on the bed…
5) Interactive books for babies to older kids that will have the child identify various activities and act out the book. For E.g. Dancing Feet! By Lindsey Craig which your little tots will love has animal footprints on every page that need to be identified and then imitated while ‘Goodnight Yoga’ by Mariam Gates for older kids will prepare children for the night in a fun way
It is a well- known fact as Professor Pamela Sullivan of James Madison University states that ‘Physical activity also helps children develop large and small muscle skills that form the basis of their ability to be active later’.
So Stories, songs, rhymes with repetitive actions, pre-set sequences and verbal hints read and acted out in infancy could teach our little ones that to ‘move’ is to have fun and this may not only forge a ‘liking’ for physical activity in childhood but could also stand them in good stead when they are all grown up and busy adults who necessarily need to exercise for continued good health