Friday 22 September 2017

'Exploring these movements is a bonding exercise for parents and children'

GAA star orlagh farmer - Part three of a four-part guide to fundamental movement skills for kids

Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer
Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer

Welcome to the third part of the Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) series. This week we are focussing on locomotor movement skills, which include running, dodging, skipping and hopping.

We take it for granted that children have mastered these skills, but often their arm and leg movements and landing are incorrect.

Last week I talked about the importance of contralateral movement, which is when opposite sides of the body move together when running or skipping. It comes naturally to a lot of children, but others need to be made aware of it.

Likewise, a lot of children tend to land flat-footed so it's important to encourage a narrow foot landing on the heel or on the toe. When I'm teaching children, I encourage them to walk on their heels or on their tippy-toes, or even to jump up and land on their heels or tippy-toes. Repetition helps build muscle memory.

By the same token, parents shouldn't be too technical with younger children. I wouldn't be worried if a four-year-old was landing flat-footed. They should practise these skills as an opportunity to explore early movement, use their imagination and have fun.

Fundamental Movement Skills get more specific between the ages of eight and 12, but younger children will have a better foundation to develop these skills if they are allowed to explore them early on.

* JUMPING

To practise vertical jumping, which is jumping for height, I like an exercise called 'make your mark'. Children are given a sticky note or page marker and they have to attach it as far up a wall as they can, by jumping as high as they can. This exercise really helps children improve as it has a competitive element, and they can track their progress too. To practise horizontal jumping, which is distance-based, I use targets like balls or hoola hoops.

* RUNNING/DODGING

There are plenty of games, loved by children of all ages, that help develop running and dodging skills. Treasure chest involves spreading out a variety of objects on the floor and giving your child a time limit to gather all the objects into a box or a basket. Tail snatch, which needs at least two players, is great fun too. Children stick a t-shirt into the side of their shorts or tracksuit bottoms, and they have to try to grab the other person's 'tail', and run and dodge as the other person tries to grab theirs.

* HOPPING/SKIPPING/GALLOPING

'Mirror mirror', which is when you mirror each other's movements, is a fun way to introduce hopping, skipping and galloping. It also gives children autonomy and they'll enjoy this exercise all the more when they get to make up their own movements.

* LEAPING

The two legs are in the air at the same time during a leap. Children can practise by leaping over a low obstacle, or by trying a running leap for added momentum. You could also try holding an object in the air for younger children to leap and tap. Exploring these movements is a bonding exercise for parents and children - and parents may notice their own skills improve too.

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