GymbaROO for Preschoolers

Parents often wonder what benefit their three or four year old can gain
by attending ‘GymbaROO’. GymbaROO director, Margaret Sasse explains how GymbaROO can help prepare your child for school.

Minor immaturities may not cause problems prior to kindergarten or school, but these can be a major cause of difficulties in learning or behaviour later. It is therefore imperative that any subtle developmental differences are identified before school  age and appropriate preventative care is implemented (see our article Children of the Twenty-first century – Slipping through the net’ in this issue of First Steps).

Even children who appear to ‘have it all together’ benefit from the continuing activities at ‘GymbaROO’, as practice at developing skills helps to improve achievement levels.

Three and Four year old sessions at ‘GymbaROO’ offer:

• An optimal opportunity for children to complete their integration – to fully integrate messages and to be able to pass their limbs and eyes across the body midline, so they can move with control and efficiency.

• Encouragement of free, fluent, rhythmic movement and interest in exploration.

• Opportunities to practice and learn social skills: consideration and awareness of others. Taking turns and interacting with other children.

• Sensing body language and observing others.

• Listening & following directions and leadership of the teacher.

• Learning to be one of a group.

• Participation with enjoyment.

• Encouragement to become more aware, observant and talkative of things/happenings around them.

• Opportunities to take calculated risks; to try new experiences and to gain satisfaction in overcoming small uncertainties; and to accept the challenge of attempting and then mastering a new skill.

• Opportunities to take increasing responsibility for their own actions.

• Convergence and peripheral vision. In other words, children learn to use their eyes for word recognition and visual skills such as looking from the objects at near point’ (elbow to closed fist distance) to ‘far point’- (objects in the distance and back again ) smoothly and easily. This skill is required often at kindergarten and school.

• Parents are instructed how to teach correct letter formation, should their child be beginning to write letters at home! They also learn the value of full arm activities, and how to make wall blackboards.

• Auditory /hearing skills practice -hearing/sounds.

• Sequencing practice and memory skills through specifically designed exercises.

• Opportunities to develop weight transferring and balance insecurities.

• Experience in developing their skills in basic movement and coordination, as they learn to control their movements and learn how their body parts function so they can readily motor plan.

• Increased confidence in their ability and in what is possible.

It is critical that children master as many as possible of these skills before they start school, so that learning time  can be fully utilised.

From Tummy Time to ‘taking off’.
By Daya Bhagwandas

Tummy time is the first step up an orderly, sequential, predictable and inter-related process.

Tummy time is the first step up the ladder of learning. Movement takes off from this early motor activity. The key component is creating the opportunities for baby to have quality tummy time when awake. The coordination and integration of the sensory motor systems are vital for concentration, attention, organisation and learning skills.

Crawling is the first voluntary locomotion movement. Babies can crawl on their ‘tummies’ at birth!! (even if only a few centimeters!).

All babies have primitive reflexes that emerge in utero and are present at birth that help them ‘wriggle’ or move forward.

When a baby is on its tummy, you are allowing your baby to use these spontaneous involuntary movements. These accidental manoeuvres then become learnt skills of coordination, and movement then becomes a way of life!

The influence of balance & integration of the vestibular systems 

The ‘sense’ of balance is developed in utero. After birth, babies are therefore comforted by gentle movements and this continues to develop their balance and vestibular systems.  You would notice that babies roll over quite by accident in the first three months, influenced by baby’s own primitive reflexes.

‘Wriggling’ around and ‘rolling over’ on safe, supportive, comfortable surfaces helps the developmental processes.

Muscle tone, neck control and thereby head and eye control is reined in by tummy time.

Hands also go from an involuntary grasp reflex of clenched fingers to voluntary opening and letting go as the infant moves upwards and across the developmental plan.

Importance of moving on your ‘tummy’(crawling) 

Crawling is important so that the brain stem experiences good consistent coordinated patterns of movement. This seems to influence millions of nerve cells which provide a network of complex neural connections in a hierarchical manner involving many levels of control and a broad based circuit between all sensory modalities and the motor functions.

Body awareness, touch awareness, muscle tone, and manual (hand) control continue to be enhanced through this crawling on the ‘tummy’.

Supporting physiological functions 

Above all, your child is now physically active. Their brains need a lot of nourishment. One important ingredient is oxygen. The more the infant moves, the better the ongoing development of the physiological functions of breathing, feeding, digestion and language.
Bare feet and arms are best for baby to develop more understanding of tactile stimulation and the evolving responses. All sensory motor experiences develop body awareness and stimulate brain development. Time spent on the floor is also important for feet culture. Muscle tone, bone structure and foot arches develop from functional tummy time.

The type of floor, room temperature and environment has to be safe and appropriate
for productive tummy time. Talk to your KindyROO teacher for more information
about tummy time – visit www.kindyroo.com

Daya Bhagwandas is an audiologist and speech therapist with specialist training in neuro-development.

 

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