The Importance of Motor Skills
From the first days of life, children begin using their bodies to learn about the world around them. Piaget (1950) suggests that sensory and motor experiences are the basis for all intellectual functioning for approximately the first 2 years of life. As children continue to mature, their reliance on physical interactions with people and objects remains strong. Motor skills are an essential component of development for all children. Gallahue (1993) puts it this way:
Movement is at the very center of young children’s lives. It is an important facet of all aspects of their development, whether in the motor, cognitive, or affective domains of human behavior. To deny children the opportunity to reap the many benefits of regular, vigorous physical activity is to deny them the opportunity to experience the joy of efficient movement, the health effects of movement, and a lifetime as confident, competent movers. (p. 24)
The physical activity level of young children has received increasing attention nationally because of the rapid rise in childhood obesity. Research tells us that the percentage of obese children ages 2 to 5 has doubled in the past 30 years (Ogden, Flegal, Carroll, & Johnson, 2002). This alarming rate of increase can be attributed to two main factors: “eating too much and moving too little” (Sorte & Daeschel, 2006, p. 40). Physical activities in early childhood settings are critically important in helping reduce the increased health risks associated with obese and overweight children (Epstein, 2007).
Social Skills and Physical Development
Movement activities are especially well-suited to helping children develop social skills (Pica, 2004). As children participate in group tasks that require movement, they learn that their efforts are critical to the success of the group. Coordinating the movements of the group in parachute play, for example, allows children to create a dome overhead and sit inside at the same time. Simple games like this for young children also require cooperation and positive social skills. At the elementary school level, group games such as soccer provide opportunities for children to work together for a common goal while engaging in vigorous physical activity.
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