I mean absolutely no disrespect for the human race, but I have to admit that I do incorporate some animal training techniques in my children’s fitness programs. I work with 2-5 year olds and children with autism, so my first objective is to develop their listening skills, self control and attention spans, as would an animal trainer.
I’ve been doing it for aver 25 years and I have discovered that to be effective with this age group you need certain traits that are similar to a dog trainer. You need the patience and the energy, the mean look and the nice look, the stern voice and the gentle voice, and you need to repeat and give treats. Sometimes, the only difference between a dog trainer and I is they get barked at while I get laughed at.
Young children are not miniature adults, so their fitness regime is completely different from older children and adults. They are learning how to move through repetition of movement patterns. Repetition allows the brain to make connections to the muscles of the body in order to produce the most efficient movement. Children are making their most important connections during their first five years of life, so the more they repeat systematic movement patterns the more strength, balance, endurance and coordination they will develop.
Children seem to know intuitively how important it is to keep their bodies in constant motion which is why they don’t stop moving, just like a young animal. It’s my job to provide a little structure, so their movements bring consistent improvements. Following are the first three movement patterns I have all my 2-5 year old children practice regularly.
1) Standing and Sitting repeatedly builds a foundation of core muscle strength, balance and coordination from the shoulders to the hips which will be essential for acquiring exceptional physical skills. It also makes children laugh and gives me their attention.
2) The Sitting Dance is great to do while they’re sitting around watching TV or before reading them a story.
- Straighten the legs and bend them at the knees several times.
- Move them apart and together several times.
- Make them – straight – bent – apart – together.
- Make one leg straight and one bent, then switch back and forth.
3) Wacky Waving is perhaps one of the most effective activities for helping your children begin making solid connections between the brain and all the major muscle groups, It will also increase the circulation of blood and energy to all parts of the body. Simply play some music and direct your children to wave with each part of their body for approximately 20 seconds in the following organized sequence:
1. Move one hand – the other hand – then both hands.
2. Move the head up and down – the eyes all around – then move the chin from side to side.
3. Move the shoulders – then the hips – then the shoulders and the hips.
4. Move the elbows – the knees – then the elbows and the knees.
5. Move the whole body from head to toe.
– Scott Liebler is a writer, trainer, humorist, teacher and motor development specialist working primarily with early childhood populations. He has been developing curriculum, teaching in classrooms and training early childhood professionals for over 25 years.
He is the creator of Funsical – a curriculum of music, movement and language activities that appeal to children’s natural desire to move and have fun while developing essential skills. The activities are based on techniques used by professional educators, medical professionals and therapists to help children achieve optimal learning, communication and physical performing abilities. A former gymnast, radio announcer and professional clown, Scott now utilizes his own experience, knowledge and passions to help all children build a foundation for reaching their potential and purpose in life.
He is an adjunct faculty member of Front Range and Red Rocks Community Colleges in Denver, CO, a seminar presenter for the Bureau of Education and Research (BER) and administers the Moving and Improving program for early childhood communities. For information on Funsical audio CD’s, curriculum materials and training programs please visit www.funsical.com, email [email protected] or call 800-530-3675.