By Lisa Kerr, Program and Exhibit Developer, Providence Children’s Museum
One recent Saturday I came across a lion in my living room. I could sense I was being stalked before I actually saw the beast. I then spotted the animal, crouched behind the couch on all fours, claws outstretched, nose sniffing the air, waiting to pounce. Before I could escape, the lion made its move, springing forward with a leap that came from its toes. On impulse I grabbed the giant cat, and swung it around the room. The lion, which looked remarkably like my five-year-old daughter, erupted into a fit of giggles.
One of the greatest amusements for me in playing with kids is their ability to fully use their bodies in their play. From toddlers bouncing along to their favorite song, to elementary-age children engaged in fantastic stories, children have a magical ability to become any creature great or small, use super-hero abilities, dance, stretch and create. By transforming their bodies through this kind of creative movement, children are able to express a range of emotions and experiences that words alone could not.
In addition to feeding a child’s imagination, there are numerous developmental benefits to creative movement. When children engage physically in their play they are practicing motor skills, exploring self-expression, fostering social relationships and learning about the properties and boundaries of the world around them. Increased movement and physical activity is effective in fighting obesity; research has even shown a link between exercise and increased learning.
There are easy ways you can bring creative movement and physical activity into your everyday experiences with your children:
– Read your child a favorite book. As you read, invite your child to act out the story.
– Make a list of descriptive words, like cold, sleepy, excited, scared, sneaky. Call out a word and have your child act it out. You can whisper the word to your child and have him act it out for other kids who guess what it is.
– Pick a variety of music styles, have kids dance to the different genres.
– Make a list of animals and have children go about a normal activity, such as getting dressed, in the style of the animal.
As you encourage your children to play, don’t be afraid to be silly alongside them. By modeling a carefree attitude you are helping them engage all of their senses, free their imaginations and feel self-confident and comfortable in their own bodies.
Just be on the lookout for those lurking lions!
This month, head to Providence Children’s Museum for “Music and Movement,” a new exercise class for preschoolers. The series runs every Wednesday in June at 1:00, 1:45 and 2:30 PM. Come move, dance and play together!
Providence Children’s Museum – 100 South Street, Providence, RI. 401-273-5437 (KIDS).