Encouraging Physical Activity Indoors

Hello Everyone,

I hope you are enjoying the fall season and are having fun preparing for the upcoming holidays!

As the cold weather comes to many parts of the country, often children will have less opportunity to play outside. The question for teachers is how to keep children physically active during the winter months ahead? And, as we are all well aware, obesity and health issues are very important during the early childhood years.

CHAMPS researchers call for more teacher involvement in promoting preschoolers’ physical activity in the classroom to control obesity and encourage good health practices in the early childhood years.

The CHAMPS report found that, in their study, young children participated in a high percentage of sedentary activities when they are indoors during the day.  Classroom activities include nap time, large group, indoor transition, snack, and manipulative time. Although teacher organized physical activity and music exercises, when observed, were related to very high levels of physical activity, very little of the classroom time was dedicated to these activities.

Since physical activity is so important, here are some specific suggestions:

  1. Schedule daily music and movement activities in your classroom. If music and movement are on your daily schedule, chances are those activities will happen versus doing them at random times and days.
  2. Include many large motor movements in the music and movement activities so children can use their whole bodies and move about in time and space with lots of energy.
  3. Include locomotor skills such as running, jumping, skipping, hopping and sliding in your in the physical activities you do with the children.
  4. Music is a great motivator to move. Vary the kinds of music you use to get your children moving and encourage them to fully explore different ways to move.
  5. Explore a variety of ways to move and characters to move about as, for example, elephants, rabbits or dogs.
  6. Add stories to your music and movement activities.
  7. Integrate music and movement with other curricular areas such as literacy or basic math.

Children learn by doing.  A Joint Position Statement from the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children states: “…children are active learners, drawing on direct social and physical experience as well as culturally transmitted knowledge to construct their own understandings of the world around them.”  By integrating music and movement with concepts children are more likely to understand and learn new skills.

There are many CDs that have been developed by artists who also are early childhood educators – their music and movement activities often promote critical skills for young children.  For example, Hap Palmer’s Oh What a Miracle (on the CD “Walter the Waltzing Worm”) introduces body parts and action words with an inspirational song;  Brenda Colgate’s Silly Willy Moves Through the ABCs encourages children to move to the letters of the alphabet and their sounds.  The all-time favorite, Five  Little Monkeys, helps children grasp basic subtraction.

If you work with English Language Learners, music and movement activities help introduce new vocabulary in a welcoming way.

How do you use music and movement in your classroom?  How do your students react to music and movement activities?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Dr. Vardin

The CHAMPS report is in Child Development, 80(1), pp. 45-58.

Posted in Music & Movement, Physical Education, What's New
One comment on “Encouraging Physical Activity Indoors
  1. Caitlyn Pierce says:

    Thank you for this article. I teach in northwest Pennsylvania. My coworker and I have been struggling to develop a plan for gross motor activities when it is not possible to go outside. In our center, there is no gymnasium or large indoor area to take the children to, so we have to stay in the classroom. The suggestions given in the article will help us plan activities that we can do in the confines of our classroom. My students love having dance parties at circle time. This could become a daily activity in my classroom that will engage the students while honing their gross motor skills.

    I have asked our director for the CDs that you suggested. For our students, the following directions element of these songs will help them practice listening closely to directions when they are given.

    Thank you again!


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