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Crossfit Kids and Gross Motor Development

Our crossfit kids classes are not only developed with the intentions of increasing our young athletes competence over the 10 fitness domains, but also being mindful of the overall gross motor development that happens throughout childhood.  Gross motor simply means skills or tasks that require the entire body and use large muscles.  Think of activities like rolling, crawling, sitting, standing, walking, running, jumping and balancing, as well as coordination activities like skipping, throwing, catching, bouncing, kicking and climbing.  The development of these skills begins right from the time we are born and continues into early primary school years.  Ensuring we have the achieved all these milestones as we grow is extremely important as having difficulties with certain areas can impact on your child’s ability to not only play properly, but also then interact with their friends and piers.  Many areas of gross motor also impact greatly in the classroom environment.  If your child has poor core strength for example, then they are going to tire easily when having to sit at their desk for hours on end, making it hard for them to pay attention and learn.

 

Three common areas that difficulties are seen in are the areas of core strength, proprioception and motor planning.

 

Core Strength

 

What Is It?

Our “core” refers to the muscles in our abdomen and back that switch on to stabilize our bodies and keep us upright.  They allow us to have good movement and posture.  When doing things like throwing and catching a ball, balancing on one foot, hopping, jumping, walking up and down stairs, sitting unsupported, etc. these muscles are needed more.

 

How Do I know If It’s Working?

If your child has a weak core and the muscles aren’t activating and working correctly, you may notice things like poor balance, being “floppy”, sitting on the floor with their legs in a “W” position, tiring easily when asked to sit for long periods and using large movements for small movement activities such as big arm swings for throwing a ball.

 

Core strengthening activity ideas:

Exercises focusing on strengthening the core, will assist with improved balance, sitting posture, hopping, throwing, and catching.  Games and activities such as

  • Wheelbarrow races
  • Animal walks like bear crawling and crab walking
  • Climbing on playground equipment
  • Obstacle courses that require kids to crawl under obstacles, balance and step over obstacles etc
  • Swinging on monkey bars
  • Jumping on trampoline
  • Pushing and pulling heavy boxes or carts

 

References:

http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/Features/Articles/Pediatric-Core-Exercise-Program.aspx

http://www.albacreess.eq.edu.au/documents/sep/GrossMotorActivities.pdf

 

Motor planning

 

What is it?

Motor planning (co-ordination) refers to our ability to be able to do multiple tasks one after the other.  First we think of an idea for what we want to do.  Next we work out how we’re going to do it and finally we do it.  As we get more proficient at the task, this process becomes automatic and we don’t have to put so much time and thought into it.  Following directions, getting dressed, hopscotch, climbing, skipping, ball sports, even maths tasks and hand writing all require the ability to motor plan.

 

Signs of poor motor planning?

If your child has difficulty motor planning, you may notice things like

  • needing more practice for new tasks learned
  • clumsiness/being uncoordinated/disorganized
  • inability to follow multi-step directions
  • difficulty participating in sports compared to peers
  • avoiding tasks that require high level of fine motor skills eg. Puzzles, construction
  • trouble riding a bike
  • difficulty with day to day activities like tying shoes, doing up buttons, getting dressed

 

Improving motor planning?

Improving the ability to motor plan requires practice and time.  Instructions need to be given clearly and slowly and time needs to be allowed for the child to process what is asked of them and plan out their movement.  Once they become more confident and fluid in their movements, you can speed things up or add in new steps.  Some ideas for helping facilitate motor planning are

  • Simon says/follow the leader
  • dribbling a ball
  • balloon tennis
  • skipping
  • jumping rope
  • hopscotch
  • action dances like the chicken dance, Macarena, Nutbush etc
  • hand clapping games
  • climbing ladders/nets/playground equipment
  • jumping on the trampoline and giving a pattern to follow eg. Jump 5 times and stop
  • ball sports
  • obstacle courses

 

References:

http://occupationaltherapychildren.com.au/praxis-its-not-just-motor-planning/

http://nspt4kids.com/healthtopics-and-conditions-database/motor-planning/

 

Proprioception  

 

Our body has an internal sense known as “proprioception,” which refers to the messages sent to our brain from receptors in our joints and muscles about where we are in space.  These messages from the muscles and joints also tell us how our bodies are moving and what each body part is doing in relation to the other.

 

The proprioceptive system constantly receives information about where our body is in space.  Messages are increased any time we push or pull on objects (such as closing or opening a car door), the joints are compressed together or stretched apart (such as jumping up and down or hanging on monkey bars), and also when we manoeuvre around our environment. This system helps us understand how much force we are using and also is what keeps us upright and centred and stops us running into people or objects.

 

If your child has poor proprioceptive awareness, you may notice they tend to push too hard with pens/pencils, have trouble using a knife and fork, appear clumsy and uncoordinated, have poor posture, unaware of their bodies and bump into people or objects, play rough, bang or shake their feet, “flap” and toe walk.

 

In order to improve the awareness your child has, the input into the proprioceptive system needs to be increased.  Weight bearing through the limbs is the best thing for increasing the proprioceptive input the body is receiving. Any activity which involves “heavy work” is recommend.  some ideas of heavy work activities are

  • pushing/pulling/carrying heavy loads
  • wheelbarrow walking
  • tug of war
  • standing opposite a friend, placing hands together and trying to push each other backwards
  • hanging from monkey bars
  • jumping
  • Animal walks that require weight bearing through upper and lower limbs, crawling like a dog, bear walking, crab walking, frog jumps, bunny hops

 

 

 

References:

http://mamaot.com/40-heavy-work-activities-kids/

http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/what-is-proprioception-and-why-is-it-important/

 

 

 

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