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'Give your child the opportunity to explore the movement'

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


Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer.  Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Cork player and PE teacher Orlagh Farmer. Photo: Paul Mohan / Sportsfile

Welcome to the second part of the Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) series. This week we are focussing on manipulative movement skills, which include kicking, throwing, catching and striking.

Research says that children should master these skills by the age of 10 but it should be noted that every child develops differently.

Likewise, every child has their own way of moving, so you don't have to be too technical. It's more important that children are given the opportunity to explore their own movement, and that parents get involved too.

Research shows that parents who encourage and endorse physical activity are more likely to pass on these good habits to their children. Enthusiasm is contagious and there's always a positive ripple effect when a parent gets on board.

KICKING - To help toddlers and younger children practise their kicking, I do an exercise called balloon ball. You simply attach a piece of string to a balloon and hang it from a door frame or a tree in the garden. It's great for leg coordination and balance too. Bathtime is another great opportunity for toddlers to practise this movement as kicking and splashing in the water encourages contralateral movement. Older children could try target-based kicking. Putting markers on the wall, or introducing a points system, will make it more fun.

• THROWING AND CATCHING - You can bring a fun element to underarm and overarm throwing by introducing different objects, targets and points. Toddlers may not get a proper overarm throw but they can practise their underarm throw with rolled-up newspaper, balloons and beanbags. Older kids can practise throwing a ball as high as they can into the air - or to a partner - and trying to clap before they catch it; or bouncing the ball off a wall before they catch it. They can also experiment with their one-handed catch.

STRIKING - Learning to strike is great for getting that hip and shoulder rotation, practising the transfer of body weight and learning to balance. Younger children could try a two-handed strike with something as simple as a rolled-up newspaper and a balloon, which won't damage anything in the house. Ball-in-a-sock is another fun game: put a tennis ball into a sock and hang it to a clothesline and see how many successful strikes you can get. Older children can start experimenting with equipment like bats and sticks.

ROLLING - Encourage children to try rolling an object along the floor, whether it's a ball, or a cylindrical plastic bottle. Make it fun by introducing a target - the younger they are, the closer the target. Older children could use tennis balls, or bigger balls. You could also try introducing technology to this, or any of the exercises above. Record your child while they are practising the movement and show them afterwards. They'll get a great sense of satisfaction out of seeing themselves performing it.

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