Child development

The first activity that you child will involve on their first day in Pre-school is Exercises of Motor Skills More than 50 years ago, Dr. Maria Montessori pointed the way to developing academic and intellectual abilities through muscular coordination exercise. Her ideas were revolutionary in her day, but are now being rediscovered and widely adopted by educators throughout the country.

A study, made by the Indiana State Board of Health, of children in the Lafayette,Indiana, public school system, and conducted by Professor N. C Kephart and Professor C. C. Cowell of Purdue University, indicated that it was possible to predict the I.Q. on the basis of certain tests of muscular coordination. For boys, the predictions were accurate 82.2% of the time and for girls, 85.7% of the time. In his book The Slow Learner in the Classroom, Dr. Newell  Kephart states further that he believes that the development of perceptual-motor abilities has an effect on academic achievement.

He feels that breakdowns in the orderly development of a child’s learning in the early grades can be traced to a lack of earlier orderly development in muscular coordination and control. Research has shown that as children improve in coordination, their readiness to improve in other areas also occurs. Academic achievement apparently goes hand in-hand with muscular control and coordination, for as the child is able to free more and more of his attention from the physical problems of movement, control and mastery of himself and his equipment, he is able to direct his attention toward other areas.

To stimulate such orderly development of muscular coordination, Dr. Montessori originated several exercises. She used the interests of early childhood as their base: running, jumping, racing, chasing, building, pulling, painting, pouring.One of the most successful, and one of the easiest to set up in a classroom, is known as:      

“The Line” It is based on the well known fact that children like to walk on lines or fences, and to balance themselves. The exercise helps to develop coordination of body and perception, and increase awareness of lateral as well as of balance. Montessori introduced this much loved activity on the basis of her observation of the spontaneous movements of young children, who invent all kinds of difficulties, once basic balance in walking has been achieved. We see them walking on beams, hard-stone edges,lines formed by tiled pavements, tram rails and railroads, etc. Dr. Montessori responded and gave the line. (Ref: The Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori, pages 124-126).

All that is needed to present this exercise is to draw a large ellipse on the floor of the classroom with chalk, paint or tape. Masking tape wide enough for the child to be able to place his foot on the center of the tape is particularly good. The child walks on the line, being careful to place the feet in the correct position…    one should leave or join the activity when the music is repeated or when there is a break or rest in the melody.All these objects should be kept on a table, preferably the center of the ellipse or next to the wall. It should however be kept in such a place that children when changing their objects do not come in the way of other children that are walking.As his skill increases, a glass of water may be carried, or a bean bag on the head, a flag or a bell.

If the child’s attention wavers, the water may spill, the flag fall, or the bell tinkle. Children also are helped by counting while walking on the line, stepping heavily on the count of one and lightly on the counts of two and three. Developing this rhythm establishes communication between feet and brain.

Walking with flags: Flags of different nations which are in proportion to the child’s hand should be kept available.The activity is to walk on the line as in exercise 2, but holding a flag upright with the right arm stretched out horizontally. This considerably increases the difficulty of the movement of the feet, as the activity claims that the child distribute his attention over two places: feet and flag. The child who still has to look at his legs all the time will be seen to lower the flag and the arm which is a control of error.Children are free to choose a flag kept in the stand before the walking starts and to exchange them from the stand when there is a break. Some of the flags they know;soon they will start asking about others. This leads to real knowledge of the flags of different nations. On other occasions, their knowledge of flags can be used to introduce or correlate items of interest concerning the respective countries and peoples,their national anthems, customs, clothing, etc.

Most anthems are marches, some slow,some fast. Later on the children can walk on the line following these rhythms.After the flags are known thoroughly, the national anthems are played.When the children have become familiar with these anthems and know to which country and flag they belong, the children can also be told that when one national anthem is played, the child holding that flag should continue holding the flag upright and the rest should lower theirs.Another possibility is to ask the children to take a flag from the flag-stand. Inform the children that a national anthem will be played and that the child who has the flag belonging to that nation will walk on the line, holding the flag upright; the others will step off the line and lower their flags.

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