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Playing is More Than Just Fun: Benefits of Proper Motion to Develop Healthy Minds and Bodies

Written by Kimberly Allen, DC, DACCP   
Sunday, 01 June 2008 00:00
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Playing is More Than Just Fun: Benefits of Proper Motion to Develop Healthy Minds and Bodies
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Having fun with your child is important, but good play routines can last a lifetime.

It is a parent’s responsibility to stimulate their child’s developing nervous system with every motion and activity. These motions are helpful in developing neurological pathways. Parents also need to remember that although “educational” video games have been developed for babies up to young adults, they do not stimulate the same neural pathways in the brain as active play activities. Play activities should include stimulation of all five senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste). The following are some different play activities you can use to incorporate neurological development techniques into your child’s daily routine.

  • Visual (sight): Tossing beanbags, blowing bubbles, taking photos with a camera, dancing with scarves or movement with different colored scarves for the infant, using both hands to draw shapes and letters or to hold objects, and tracing letters or numbers on a person’s back and having them traced upon own back.
  • Tactile (touch): Different textures (smooth, rough, uneven), splashing water in a bathtub, building blocks, examining natural objects such as feathers and pinecones, petting and feeding animals, eating snacks with different textures, hugging, and manipulating small objects such as Legos, puzzles, and lacing beads.
  • Auditory (sound): Dancing or moving to music, humming, musical chairs, beating rhythm on instruments, singing sounds where words need to be added (“Old McDonald had a ...” Or “B-I-N-G-O”), and jumping rope while chanting or singing.
  • Smells and Tastes: Introduce the child to different smells and tastes and look for appropriate reaction. For example, a sour face in response to a sour taste. Have the child name different smells such as coffee, fruits, and perfumes.
  • Vestibular (equilibrium/balance): Spinning in circles, balancing on a teeter-totter, jumping on a bed, climbing on jungle gyms, sliding down a slide, walking on uneven surfaces (sand, grass), crawling through small spaces, allowing child to reach with right hand across the body to any object on the left and vice versa, and also tummy time for infants.
  • Proprioceptive (sense stimuli): Pushing and pulling toys or wagon; tumbling to the ground; pillow fights; playing catch with a ball; kneading dough; getting in or out of seatbelts, jackets, boots, shoes, and socks; playing horsy; stretching up to the sky; obstacle courses; and pouring water or sand from one container to the next.