Hi, friends! It’s Sarah again! I’m so happy to be back to share another early development tidbit with you. Last time we explored how gross motor practice during Zumbini® can help little learners develop those fine motor skills that are so crucial in life. (Missed the post? Check it out HERE!)
This time, let’s build on that concept to explore how Zumbini® helps bolster early body awareness, enabling your little one to do things from crawling and walking (gross motor), to drawing and writing (fine motor). Haven’t tried Zumbini® yet? No worries, just jump over to our Zumbini® page or visit www.zumbini.com to register for a demo and class sessions!
We’re all familiar with the five senses, right? (Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.) Two other senses, the vestibular and proprioceptive systems, play an instrumental role in our daily lives by working in concert with the “main five” to give us information about our bodies and the environment around us, or body awareness. The vestibular system (think inner ear) helps with balance, coordination, and understanding our position in space. This is the one that allows us to sit in a chair without falling to the ground. The proprioceptive system employs proprioception, the method by which the nervous system tracks the location of our body parts, using information obtained through joint and muscle movement. Because of proprioception, we intuitively know how and with what pressure to move our feet/knees/legs/arms in order to walk and navigate, without having to watch our body parts and consciously form a plan.
As adults, things like sitting in a chair and walking tend to be subconscious functions or background tasks that we constantly perform. This is because we’ve had many years for our bodies to process information and create "body maps" that dictate how to move. As children become increasingly mobile, that’s exactly what their bodies are starting to do—process and map. A toddler may seem wobbly on his feet because he is exercising new gross muscle groups, determining how much pressure to apply, experimenting with different methods of maintaining balance, and learning how to avoid obstacles. Similarly, a toddler seated to draw must also exercise new fine muscle groups, determine how much pressure to apply to draw without breaking his crayon, experiment with balancing on a chair, and learn to turn his wrist to form figures.
Consistently practicing various types of movement is how young children form an understanding of their bodies and how to effectively use them. The more they practice, the better their "body maps"—and therefore their coordination—can become. The Zumbini® program provides ample opportunity for caregivers to work with their children to strengthen invaluable concepts of body awareness at a young age. The large, gross motor movements of Zumbini®’s purposeful choreography—jumping, twirling, stomping, freezing, scarf handling—provide young children the opportunity to explore movement, navigation around classmates and obstacles, balance, and spacing (i.e. awareness of “personal space”) in a safe and fun learning environment. Through repetition, these motions enable little learners to better process how to successfully move in various situations, while staying upright and avoiding collisions. Mirroring or following the fine and gross motor movements of their Zumbini® Instructors, caregivers, and classmates during dance segments, instrument play, and singing further allows little ones to gain an understanding of their own body parts and how to properly move them as they mimic others’ motions.
While body awareness concepts may be a little easier for the older, more mobile toddlers in class, rest assured that even our younger friends are greatly benefitting from class participation. Infants being held during class are also experiencing body awareness with some help! Will a 6-month-old exactly copy hand motions using wrist bells during a Zumbini® class? Probably not, but through observation and trial and error she is likely to figure out how to make the bells jingle and get them to her mouth, while sitting up. This is a definite win for body awareness or proprioceptive input, hand-eye-mouth coordination, and balance! (No worries, the bells are constantly sanitized!) You're doing an amazing job supporting your child's development, keep up the great work. Now, let’s get out there and get moving!
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