Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Games With Heart

Valentine’s Day is just a heartbeat away and provides an opportunity to share friendships, promote cooperation, and just have some plain good fun while participating in non-competitive, active games. Pick and choose from these games –or play them all to your heart’s content… Or, better yet, for the benefit of your heart!

Give Your Love Away
Materials needed: Heart-shaped piece of paper or small heart-shaped pillow or ornament
How to play:
1. Sit all children in a circle
2. One child is chosen to be “it” and leaves the circle. The space where “it” sat is still open.
3. “It” holds the heart and stands outside of the circle.
4. Teach children the following verse or chant:
Love is something
If you give it away,
Give it away, give it away,
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.
5. Children are to chant the verse as “it”, holding the heart, walks around the outside of the circle.
6. On the last word of the song, “it” drops the heart behind a child’s back.
7. That child picks up the heart and runs after “it”, who is heading back to his place in the circle.
8. The child holding the heart is now “it” and the children start chanting the verse again as “it” walks around the outside of the circle, dropping the heart behind someone who has not yet had a turn.
9. The game ends when everyone has “given their love away.”

Musical Hearts
Materials needed:
Red yarn or red masking tape or red Mavalus Removable Poster Tape or sidewalk chalk
Music (with the words “heart” or love” in the title—i.e., “The Heart of Rock and Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News or “The Love Shack” by The B-52’s) and a music player.
How to play:
1. Using red or pink yarn or tape make giant red heart shapes on the floor or carpet. (If you can play outside, draw hearts on cement or asphalt with red or pink chalk.)
2. Direct children to stand outside of or beside a heart.
3. Play theme-related music and instruct the children to walk around the hearts, making sure not to touch any hearts while the music is playing.
4. When the music stops, children are to find a heart to stand in. More than one child in any heart is okay and encouraged.
5. The game continues with the starting of the music and children leaving a heart and traveling around the hearts. When the music stops, they once again jump into the nearest heart.
6. Use a variety of locomotor movements, such as marching, tiptoeing, galloping, hopping, skipping, jumping and running as children move around the hearts when the music is playing.
7. Challenge the children by stopping and starting the music at shorter intervals.

A Heart of Stone
Materials needed:
Heart doilies (one for each child)
Music (with the words “heart” or love” in the title—i.e., “The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News) and a music player.
How to play:
1. Each child places a heart doily on top of their head.
2. Play theme-related music and instruct children to walk around the space while balancing the doily.
3. If the doily falls off a child’s head, he must turn to stone (freeze).
4. To remove the "spell," another player picks up the fallen doily (while placing his hand on his own doily on top of his head) and hands it to the player turned to “stone,” who places the doily back on his head. The spell is broken and he becomes “unfrozen.”
5. After a “thank you” and a “you’re welcome” are exchanged, the players proceed to walk in the open space, heart doilies on head.
6. The game ends when the song is over.
These fun Valentine's-themed games for your early childhood/preschool classroom or for young children at home can add an enjoyable active play element to your Valentine's Day parties or celebrations this year. These simple games are easy enough for even the youngest children to participate, and teachers or parents can also tweak them to best fit the needs of the kids in your care.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kids on the Ball!

We can promote brain development by providing equipment that helps facilitate movement in our early childhood classrooms and/or home environments. A favorite piece of equipment that I like to use with young children is the exercise ball (a.k.a. gym balls, physio balls, stability balls, fitness balls, therapy balls or Swiss balls.) These large, colorful balls attract kids and help build neural connections in the brain. They are great for working on balance, coordination, postural control and sensory integration, which is the ability of the brain to receive, organize, interpret and use the vast amount of sensory information that enters the body and neurological system through both external and internal stimuli. Try some of the following activities and watch children line up to have their turn with the ball:

  • Tummy Roll - Holding onto their legs and arms, have a child lay face down (on their stomach) on top of the ball and roll the ball back and forth. Belly laughs begin as the child rocks and rolls, enjoying the sensations produced from this movement which activates the vestibular system in the inner ear. The vestibular system takes in messages about balance and movement from the neck, eyes and body; sends the messages to the central nervous system for processing; and then helps generate muscle tone (which allows us to move smoothly and efficiently.) Rocking and rolling also provides kinesthetic and proprioceptive input—awareness of sensations that come from receptors in the muscles, joints, skin and tendons.
  • Bouncy Time - Sit a child on top of the ball and hold their hands or body and gently bounce the child up and down. Sing a song or recite a nursery rhyme as you bounce the child to the rhythm. Rhythm and rhyme facilitates language and memory while bouncing enhances the respiratory system.

  • Play Ball - Roll, dribble or bounce and catch the exercise ball with a child. This addresses bilateral integration, the coordination of the two sides of the body.

  • Pizza Dough - Have the child lie tummy down on an activity mat or carpeted floor. With consistent pressure, roll and press the exercise ball up and down all over the child’s body. Say, “I’m rolling out the pizza dough nice and flat.” Ask, “Want me to press harder? Not so hard? More? Tell me when you want me to stop.” (Give the child the chance to be in control and to guide the activity.) Say, “It’s time to add the toppings to make you extra delicious! Here’s some pizza sauce.” Rub the child’s arms, legs and back with your hands. Continue with, “Here’s some pepperoni,” and with palm flat, press a hand on back of body in several different places. “Chopped onions would be tasty, too.” Using side of hand, move it up in and down along their body in a chopping motion. When you and the child agree that s/he’s “done,” pretend to put “the pizza” in a pretend oven.

There are so many ways to incorporate active play and movement with large sensory balls in early childhood classrooms. Children from preschool to school age will literally have a ball! What are some ways you use them in your school activities or with kids at home?