The Value Of Play

On 28 September, we wrote about a feature in The Telegraph in which a powerful lobby of more than 200 experts warning that half of all children are not ready for school at the age of five because of their sedentary lifestyles. At YogaBugs Mission Control, we’re great fans of play; and the more creative and imaginative the better!

Play is fundamental to children’s learning and development. It’s how children learn about themselves and the world around them. Children play spontaneously as it’s a natural instinct to explore the world around them.  As they develop new skills, children learn how to overcome obstacles and solve problems. Play teaches children how to get along with others and develops social skills.

It’s important that children try out a broad range of play activities, and don’t just focus on the same one, day after day. To understand the different types of possibilities, it’s helpful to think of play in terms of five categories – explorative, imaginative, creative, physical and thinking.

Explorative – children are by nature little scientists and have endless questions. What happens if I mix these colours together? How do these blocks fit together?

Imaginative – pretending to be a doctor or a fireman, role playing and dressing up

Creative – making something out of nothing

Physical – developing co-ordination, balancing, running, catching, skipping, hop scotch

Thinking – solving puzzles and problems, making up rhymes and songs, word games

Each of the five different play categories stimulates the brain and body in different ways. By ensuring that your child’s play covers a broad range of activities, you’ll greatly aid their overall development and build confidence. What’s so great about play is that it can be done anywhere, does not have to cost anything and most importantly is fun!

YogaBugs Responds To Telegraph Article – Childhood Being Eroded By Modern Life

Did you see the feature in Saturday’s Telegraph reporting on a letter from a powerful lobby of more than 200 experts? In it, they warn that childhood is being eroded by a relentless diet of advertising, addictive computer games, test-driven education and poor childcare. Coinciding with the publication of a book, Too Much, Too Soon?, featuring 23 essays on early learning and the erosion of childhood, the experts urge the Government to address a culture of “too much, too soon.”

One essay by Sally Goddard Blythe, Director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology in Chester, concluded that up to half of children were not ready for school at the age of five because of their “sedentary lifestyles”. They found it difficult to grip pencils properly, sit still, stand up straight and even catch a ball after failing to develop key physical and communication skills at a young age.

The authors of the letter, a group of academics, teachers, authors and charity leaders, argue that children’s wellbeing and mental health is being undermined by the pressures of modern life. These comments come five years after many of the same experts sent a similar letter to the Telegraph, criticising politicians and the public for failing to allow children to develop properly at a young age. This led to a debate on the state of childhood in Britain and coincided with the publication of Labour’s Children’s Plan - a policy document covering all aspects of young people’s lives.

The group is concerned that the “erosion of childhood in Britain has continued apace since 2006.” Meanwhile a UN report, published last week, accused British parents of trapping children in a cycle of “compulsive consumerism” by showering them with toys and designer labels instead of spending quality time with them. The group also criticises the education system, saying that five year-olds should be given a play-based curriculum in the first full year of school instead of formal lessons. The comments will be seen as a criticism of Coalition plans to subject all children to a reading test at the end of their first year in school.

You’ll have seen from our earlier blog posts that we have explained the critical links between the development of motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination and the development of literacy skills. In our classes at nurseries and primary schools, we see for ourselves only too clearly how the life of the modern child has become stressful, competitive and challenging. That’s why we’re absolutely committed and passionate about changing children’s lives so that they have the time to indulge in their imaginations and explore their creativity. Space to be creative is so important in this modern world where children have such little time to play. 

One of the very best things we can do for our children’s early literacy development is to simply let them play. Not only is play an important part of childhood, but we are actually helping them to build skills that are key to learning to read and write. Hand-eye coordination is a necessary skill for written language and the best way to help children develop this is to let them play with toys and activities that involve looking at, using, and discriminating a number of elements.

Furthermore in order to reach age appropriate targets in the development of left and right brain activity, children need to practice mid-line activities such as crawling, marching and balancing. For some children, developing these skills is particularly challenging so making this fun is key. Activities that combine story-telling and magical adventures with physical activities such as yoga are a great way of developing imaginations whilst practising essential developmental motor skills.

We’ve written to The Telegraph adding our support to this letter. Meanwhile thank you to this group of experts for highlighting these issues so powerfully.

Yoga and the Development of Gross Motor Skills In Pre-School Children

Yoga for children is very different to adult yoga as it has to be a lot more high-energy to keep them interested. That’s why our YogaBugs classes involve stories, group work, songs and games whilst simultaneously learning yoga poses, breathing and relaxation techniques.

The main aims for pre-school children are to develop motor skills and confidence. In this blog post, we’re going to focus on how yoga helps children to develop gross motor skills. Motor skills have two separate parts: gross and fine. Fine motor skills include matching shapes and colours, zipping, cutting straight lines and dressing or bathing. Gross motor skills include walking, lifting, throwing, kicking, sitting upright, jumping and reaching. Gross motor skills are important for major body functions, while fine motor skills take time to develop and won’t occur overnight. Children improve motor skills by practicing over and over.

You can encourage your child to develop their gross motor skills by allowing him/ her to ride bikes, kick and throw large balls and to gallop like a horse. Each child grows and develops at different rates so it’s important to be patient with him/ her, praising accomplishments and efforts. Improve gross motor skills with exercises by playing ‘Simon Says.’ Imitation activities such as creeping like a snake, waddling like a duck and hopping like a rabbit are effective for exercising the gross motor skills.

A great yoga posture to practice with your child is tree pose. This helps to develop balance and flexibility as you have to make small adjustments in order to stay upright. Simply start by standing upright and shift your weight into one foot. Lift the other foot and hold it against your ankle (with your knee pointing out to the side). First bring your hands together at your heart. When you’re feeling steady, lift your arms steadily up to the sky to form branches. Once you’ve got your balance, try closing your eyes and see how long you can stay balanced for. Repeat on the second side.