February 2016 Newsletter Article – Physical Movement and Self-Regulation


Physical Movement and Self-Regulation

When children have regular opportunities to experience a broad range of physical movements, they tend to have an easier time regulating their emotions and moderating their responses.

Child development specialists have identified six types of movement children should regularly experience.
They include:

  • Linear: Moving forward, as when walking down the street;
  • Rotary: Spinning around in a circle or riding a merry-go-round;
  • Oscillation: Swinging back and forth, shifting weight from one foot to another;
  • Flip-Over: Doing a somersault or flipping over a bar;
  • Heavy Work: Picking up heavy blocks, bags of sand, logs, rocks;
  • Crashing: Riding a cozy coupe car and crashing it into a wall.

As we have been discussing these types of movement, crashing is the one we have been struggling to build into our programming. The children regularly experience linear movement on daily walks, rotary and oscillation in music class, and flip-overs and heavy work while playing at the park. Our instinct as teachers, however, has been to redirect children from their crashing behaviors. Child development research has shown, however, that if children do not have opportunities to crash against objects (ideally a padded wall in a gym), they seek it out by running into each other, falling off a chair or throwing themselves down.

Some ideas we have discussed to satisfy that need for a crashing sensation include allowing the children to crash ride-on vehicles into each other or into a wall as long as it is done with moderation, facilitating safe rough-and-tumble play and playing games like ring-around-the-roses so the children can “all fall down” in their own spaces. With preschool and pre-k children, too, we are playing moderate contact sports like soccer, basketball and foam hockey.

With regular movement opportunities incorporated into their daily schedule, the children can better focus and manage themselves and their emotional responses. For more information about movement and self-regulation, please see developingchild.harvard.edu or zerotothree.org.


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