The Importance of Movement in Early Childhood – Why It’s Essential & Ideas To Help Your Children

By nature, our children are very active. Movement is a part of their daily life as they hop, jump, and skip with their friends. But how important is it when they are only a few months old? 

Is it safe for babies to move around too much at that age? How does mom or dad know if their baby is healthy? What can we, as parents, do to make sure our babies are getting the best possible development during their early childhood?

In this article, I’ll share some answers to these questions, along with some ways to make sure your baby grows up with a happy and healthy childhood. 

What are the different types of movements?

Most of the time, we move without thinking, sometimes to pick up a cup of coffee or to wave goodbye to a friend, you’re moving at the very moment by scrolling down to continue to read this article!

If you ask anyone what a movement is, they’d probably say it’s doing something like:

  • Balancing
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Catching something being thrown
  • Hopping
  • Throwing something
  • Galloping
  • Skipping
  • Leaping
  • Kicking

And while these are good examples, every single one of those movements falls under the three categories:

  • Balance
  • Locomotor
  • Ball skills

Almost everything you do as an adult involves using these skills one way or another. And just like you, your children use these skills too, or will eventually grow to develop them. The exciting part is, they may actually need to use them more than you do.

What are the types of movements expected in children?

Most children will eventually learn to stand up and walk. Of course, they will make mistakes and fall down, but finally, with time, they learn to walk.

But before we get into why our children need movements, first let’s take a look at what their everyday activities are.

This is what a simple timeline looks like: 

  • For the first 6 months, your baby tries to cycle with their hands and legs or grab your finger.
  • Later on, they crawl and hold toys. 
  • In the next 24 months, you can even challenge them with activities like going for smalls walks, running, and dancing.

Putting Movement in the Montessori, what can you do? 

Everyone knows that 3-year-olds never just sit around, especially when surrounded by other 3-year-olds. And this is precisely the age they go to Montessori.

But still, most people who aren’t familiar with the Montessori environment are amazed when they see strictly how active these children are.

Montessori offers children many chances to move around. It lets them express themselves by movement. 

Even simple exercises (singing, dancing, etc.) have much better success at having children remember the alphabet or learn new words.

But why is this?

It is because the physical movement actually helps their brains remember what was learned. 

Your child’s brain actually makes a connection between the activity and the study material. This type of emotional skills development is essential at this period in their life, helping them build their self-confidence.

To this day, we still sing the alphabet song when someone asks what letter comes after Q! Can you think of other songs or catch prases (like PEMDAS or ROY G BIV) that you’ve remembered to help retain information?

Here are some ideas to help them use movement to learn

  1. Drawing: Have you ever noticed how our kids have a considerable imagination. They draw on walls, furniture, and even or themselves if we let them. Obviously, as parents and teachers, we can’t let them do this, but giving them some creative time does wonder.
  2. Building blocks help our children develop their motor development skills. The small movements help them with growing and also in understanding what does what. If I stand like this, I fall. If I want to balance, it helps if I spread my arms. Doing constant movement activities help them learn how to balance better.
  3. Solving puzzles:  This, of course, has a noticeable effect on the brain and problem-solving. Making sure the pieces match and fitting them together also has a tremendous impact on a child’s coordination. This learning process is another critical factor for self-confidence. It teaches them to make mistakes and learn from them to move forward (in the puzzle, and later on, in life).

What Does Movement Look Like in the Later Years of Childhood

Before looking into these benefits, you must understand that there really isn’t a set guideline to say, “your child should be able to do this by a specific age.” Childhood development varies from every little one, as well as their physical and brain development. It’s more about ensuring they’re well being and letting them move & grow to build their self-esteem and social skills.

But some countries have created a scale for parents to know if their child is moving enough, to see if their school readiness matches their peers. For example, the Australian government has recognized the importance of movement, especially during the childhood stage. They introduced a checklist to ensure that a child’s fundamental movement skills are developed.

Here are a few of the activities on their checklist.

  • At 3-years-old, a child should be able to run using only their toes, kick a ball, and balance on one leg for a short time. 
  • At 4-years-old, a child should be able to hop and kick moving objects
  • At 5-years-old they should be able to do more advanced movements like jumping on one leg.

What are the Benefits of Movement in Early Childhood?

When we think about the benefits of movement in early childhood, we probably think of the apparent benefits.

This means seeing your baby being able to walk or run sooner than the other kids.

During early childhood, movements have been found to have a significant impact on your child’s long-term memory, perception, and development (especially during the first 36 months). It’s called “movement on memory.”

What are the Physical and Psychological Benefits?

Let’s take a look into what precisely these activities do. 

Moving well during early childhood has been proven to help children have:

  • Better emotional and decision making skills, along with increased attention spans in the long term, when they grow up to be young adults. 
  • Increased focus. Makes your child think, for example, why do I keep falling? How can I stand up? Maybe I can hold on to this chair to stand? 
  • Better balance to build muscle strength as they grow.
  • Improved nonverbal communication: Your baby will try to communicate using their hands, leading to healthier hearts, muscles, and bones.
  • Better movement and coordination: Children who practice walking and running at younger ages are much more likely to play a sport and even join a school sports team.

What are the Learning and Educational Benefits?

Now, let’s take a more detailed look at how exactly mental activity movement impacts your child’s learning and intelligence.

This is because our brains are used at a very early stage to maintain balance and to understand their surroundings.

Before reading further, you should know that our movements are linked with our memory.

These activities become a foundation for learning.

Let’s say your child has trouble remembering the multiplication table. 

If they do a little dance while memorizing it, they will definitely remember it much faster. And the best part is, all your child has to do is repeat that movement to recollect the table at any time.

Studies also show that your child will also be able to 

  • think faster
  • be more confident
  • be more social
  • be more self-aware

 At a very young age through movement. 

After all, how can a baby learn to stand or walk without first learning about their hands or legs? 

These studies also showed that children who led an active first 5 years during their childhood have demonstrated over a 90% increase in their ability to learn the new subject matter.

What’s the Best Way to Introduce Movement into Childrens Classrooms?

The answer to this may sound surprising; dancing!

Dancing has even helped 5th-grade students memorize mathematic equations. Coming up with a silly tune and dancing has helped many students with their studies and long term memory. Can you remember if you’ve done this type of music education combination during your elementary school years? Do you see now why they stress drama and music class more so during children’s younger years?

Anyone who has spent time with some children can quickly tell you how much children love to move and jump about. So why not use this to help them study?

Dancing helps active children express themselves and do better with their studies, from memorizing the alphabet to improving their coordination skills.

But how exactly can we as adults help our children do this? 

Each child should describe the dance before dancing. The adult’s role is to encourage creativity and ask questions like, 

Can you make the dance bigger?

Can you use your arms more? 

It also helps your child if you dance with them. Have you ever noticed that most living things are much easier to do when you have someone to do it with you? 

In a classroom, the teacher can encourage some of the shyer kids, especially at the early ages up to 6 years old.

Now let’s take a look at some examples of how teachers and parents can introduce some movement via some lesson plans. 

Benefit TypeActivity
LiteracyWriting poems to dance to 
LiteracyRecreating and acting out scenes from children’s books
MathA dance movement for adding and subtracting
MathCreating numbers using the arms and legs
Social StudiesLearning folk dances from other cultures
ScienceCreating the solar system with the students and moving as the planets
ScienceLearning the body through a body part dance

There are also added benefits of 

  1. Improving their language skills
  2. Better attention spans
  3. Improved reading 
  4. Better Cognition.

The Importance of Having a Childhood and Movement in Childhood

Here are the most critical characteristics of child development.

The most critical characteristics of child development.

Let’s take a look at each of these factors and what they mean. Earlier in this article, we looked at some things that children should be able to do.

Here we look at the categorizations.

Cognitive Development: Your two-month-old baby should be exploring their environments using their hands. They should be able to notice objects in front of them. When considering a 4 or 5-year-old, he should know how to do a simple math problem involving addition. 

Social Development: is measured by how they get along with others. Your 3-month old baby smiling with your friends and family is a good example. A 5-year-old is expected to know how to share and take turns. 

Speech Development: While a 1-year-old is expected to say their first word, a mother can expect her 5-year-old to use correct pronunciation.

Motor skills: have fine skills (using small muscles) like a baby picking up a crayon or holding their dad’s finger. The gross skills consider using the larger muscles to stand, run, and sit up.

Conclusion

As parents, we all want our children to succeed and be the best they can be. But before spending money on expensive toys to stimulate a child’s development, you can try these little activities daily. 

A research study conducted in 2018 with children between 2 to 5 years of age concluded that all the children had an enormous positive increase in language, attention, and concentration when the movement was incorporated for a short time of 30 minutes a day in their lesson.

When we look at the benefits of movement for children during their childhood, its advantages for the physical and emotional wellbeing are apparent. 

They grow up smarter, friendlier, and most importantly, healthier. And all it takes is a little dance every now, which works perfectly for us as busy parents.

It’s an important fact to know that these benefits aren’t short-term. These improvements have a lifelong effect even when these children grow up into independent adults working on studies and their jobs, helping build a foundation for a healthy and active life.

The good news is that this doesn’t really take up much time, effort, or money to do, so why not just add some movement into your baby’s life.