Why Kids Climb!
Posted by: Sue Atkins
Today I am delighted to have as my guest blogger Gill Connell who is based in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Gill is the founder of MOVING SMART, co-author of MOVING TO LEARN, and a teacher of teachers, parents, and young children. Gill is a child development and movement expert, with more than 30 years of experience in developing high-energy, movement-based programs to foster children’s natural cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development
One Sunday evening a few weeks ago I was getting dinner ready when I felt a familiar tug on my trouser leg. A voice from my feet called out, “I help you granny – I get up!”
The next thing I know, she had pulled up a stool and scrambled up to sit on the counter. Shoulder to shoulder we “cooked” up our meal, mashing and mixing and stirring and tasting as we went along. And standing there I suddenly realized she had made herself my size all on her own.
I started thinking about what it’s like to be a kid at kneecap level where everything’s always over your head. To be so little… so downright short… no wonder climbing comes so naturally to them.
Now, as an advocate for movement and play, of course, I love anything that’s climbable for kids of all ages. Climbing provides enormous benefits across the full spectrum of developmental needs…
Physically of course, childrens’ bodies crave challenge. Their little bones and muscles are anxious to grow strong while the brain is hungry to monitor and record the sensations of the climb for future use.
But more, climbing gives children the power to change their perspective — a key underpinning that fosters natural curiosity, discernment, critical thinking, and creative problem solving — all the things kids need to learn how to learn. And don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about Everest here. When you’re three feet tall the height of the couch is more than enough to see the world in a whole new way!
And of course, when you make it to the top of anything for the very first time there is no better feeling! Summiting — whether it’s the monkeybars or a mountaintop — builds confidence through hard-fought, well-earned, whole-body/whole brain achievement.
And when you get there you’re the tallest you’ve ever been, you can look down on the world and shout…
“Who’s short now?”
A NOTE TO PARENTS ABOUT CLIMBING
Climbing always presents a potential safety risk, of course. And when safety is at issue, it is always your decision, day by day, situation by situation.
However, denying a child the experience of climbing — and for that matter any challenging activity — carries its own set of risks. Children who don’t push at boundaries and push themselves to try new things risk learning to hold back. Perseverance, even in the face of a steep challenge, will hold them in good stead, and believe it or not, simple things like climbing are great practice for the bigger challenges that life is sure to present down the road.
To help you manage the day-to-day dilemma of helping your child manage new challenges, I would like to offer up the classic, classroom principle of Pause-Prompt-Praise as food for thought…
PAUSE • PROMPT • PRAISE
PAUSE. When you see a potential problem — and it is NOT immediately hazardous — pause for a moment before reacting. For instance, your child may get himself stuck on a piece of equipment on the playground. Again, if it’s not an immediately hazard, give your child time to think and watch to see if he can work it out for himself.
PROMPT. Then, if you feel the need to step in, do so. Gently prompt ways to solve the situation, offering a helping hand when needed. But try not to do it for him. In other words, put yourself in the role of the helper, not the leader. For instance, you might say “I wonder how we can help you get unstuck. What if I hold your arms and you lift your leg?”
PRAISE. As the situation resolves itself, praise the actions your child took by himself to solve it. And be specific. “Well done” doesn’t tell them what to do the next time. Instead, try to recreate the situation verbally so he knows what he did well, along the lines of: “I love the way you lifted your knee up to get unstuck.” Chances are, the next time he gets stuck, he’ll remember to lift his knee.
Based in Christchurch, New Zealand, Gill is the founder of MOVING SMART, co-author of MOVING TO LEARN, and a teacher of teachers, parents, and young children. Gill is a child development and movement expert, with more than 30 years of experience in developing high-energy, movement-based programs to foster children’s natural cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.
For more information on Gill and the Moving Smart team…
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