As far as preschools in Singapore go, physical education used to be considered a mere add-on to the standard curricula, and not an essential component to a child’s holistic development. Today, there is prevalent evidence that the inclusion of supervised physical activity in schools is highly necessary for nurturing a preschooler’s learning acumen, moods and brain functions.
Preschoolers stand to reap many rewards of an active preschool curriculum because gym lessons:
Boost Their Immunity System
Exercise goes a long way in boosting his or her immune system. Preschoolers’ bodies are very hardy, so even if they suffer minor injuries like sprains during playtime, exercise can only render a child less prone to mechanical injury.
One hour of unstructured physical activity a day is recommended for preschoolers, while toddlers should have at least one and a half hours of physical activity each day with one hour of free play.
Regular exercise has been medically proven to nurture young people with stronger bones, endurance and cardiovascular system. The foundation of an adult’s physical health is cultivated during early childhood.
Promote Physical Strength and Flexibility
“The muscles of a child start growing from a young age,” shares early childhood educator Melissa Tan. “Their large and small muscles develop rapidly, as well as their large and fine motor skills. They gain much of their physical strength and flexibility during their preschool years, and also learn to balance, walk and run well, as well as perform tasks that involve alternating their feet, like jumping and skipping. During which, they are using both left and right sides of the brain and are working their entire bodies. This is why for younger preschoolers, we tend to focus on grooming their hand-eye and hand-leg-eye coordination, through activities like throwing and catching – it’s all about working those muscles that they don’t often use.”
While good coordination makes children less likely to accidentally hurt themselves, osteopathic physician Dr. Joseph Mercola chimes in that cultivating the flexibility of a child is also essential to him or her avoiding potential injury. Child psychiatrist Dr. Karen Dineen Wagner adds that the basis of an adult’s motor skills and reflexes are crucially developed in early childhood..
Enhance Mood and Memory
According to experts, both sides of the brain are activated when a preschooler is learning through activity, because of the cross referencing that takes place. When children are moving in a way that involves creativity, the sort of brain activity that occurs helps to heighten their memory and communication capabilities.
In addition, exercise rids a preschooler of harmful hormones, while increasing the release of beneficial hormones, such as signalling molecules that act as neurotransmitters for establishing new memories.
Education expert Karin Gonzalez adds that exercise has been observed to optimise serotonin, endorphin and vitamin D levels in young children, while Dr. Gwen Dewar vouches for how exercise benefits brain growth, learning and memory retention.
Exercise has been observed to boost the levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in young children, which is crucial to the growth of brain cells, growth of new neurons, changing of neural pathways and prevention of brain tissue loss. Studies have also reported that children who exercise sufficiently are able to cultivate a positive self-image, concentrate better, sleep better, and are less likely to be feel anxious or depressed.
Stimulate Cognitive Learning
From role plays and school theatrical productions, to relays and challenge courses, learning is activated when the body is involved. According to Eric Jensen (Learning with the Body in Mind, Corwin Press), taking on acting roles can spike the development of learning faculties too. Theatre productions by schools have been observed to improve a child’s emotional and verbal communication, while introducing preschoolers to challenges of all types. Besides being physically demanding, acting involves a learning and developmental process for the entire mind and body too. This research also emphasises that the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain that processes learning.
Studies by Richard A. Dienstbier have also noted the positive impact that daily physical education has on motor fitness and academic performance.
Giving Your PreSchooler a HeadStart in Fitness
Dr. Dewar recommends that parents should plan a variety of activities for their children or have education experts help with organising these activities. Keep things fun and your munchkins will keep coming back for more.
Encourage your preschooler to maintain an active lifestyle centred around walking, climbing stairs and helping with household chores, and most importantly, be a good role model to your child with your own healthy lifestyle.
How MindChamps PreSchool Keeps Preschoolers Excited about Physical Acitivity
MindChamps PreSchool helps preschoolers activate all their muscle groups with its NeuroMooves™ programme. The programme gives children specific types of movement experiences that are of the greatest benefit to their physical and cognitive development.
“NeuroMooves™ is developed based on diverse research areas such as cognitive science, neuroscience and early childhood education that reveal that the brain and body are connected. They are interdependent, what happens in one area, affects the other,” elaborates Janice Lim, MindChamps Deputy Director of Curriculum & Training.
“Through a combination of structured and semi-structured physical movements and games, NeuroMooves™ aims to develop children’s physical capacity by placing emphasis on body awareness and sensory stimulation while enhancing their imagination through responses to relaxation and visualisation routines, as well as developing their rhythmic body movements through combining locomotor, non-locomotor and manipulative skill, coordination, manipulation and balance through games, early memory skills through movement sequencing and cross-lateral coordination, and body control and management through basic gymnastic movements.”
Janice adds that NeuroMooves™ sets the momentum for healthy and exciting activities, connecting both hemispheres of the brain with body co-ordination. Setting the basis for mental and emotional progress, not only do they equip its participants with core skills for sports and games, this holistic and complete model is especially effective for academic progress.
Also published on Medium.