Having good sense makes sense, but what is good body sense? And why should you teach your kids such an odd thing? Body sense is the knowledge of different body parts, how they move, and where they exist in space. Doesn’t that come naturally? Yes, to an extent. But the better the body sense, the better academic and physical performance for your children and the more likely they’ll enjoy better health that lasts a lifetime.
Teaching good body sense is easy and fun and can start at a young age. Ever play peek-a-boo? Or how about when you tug your child’s toes for “This Little Piggy”? Both create the beginnings of body sense. “Patty Cake” is another excellent game for the little ones to learn the basic right-left hand combinations. Make up different versions of the song, or different songs, with different combinations of claps. Or better yet, have your child make up and teach you some new songs and clapping routines.
Same thing goes for that old standard, “Simon Says.” Start off with the usual “Simon says take three steps forward then three steps back,” or “Simon says tap the top of your head with your left hand.” Once the simple commands become easy, get more specific, as in “Put your left foot out and tap your big toe twice,” or “Take your right pinkie finger and stick it on the tip of your nose and wriggle it all about,” or “Place your left hand on your shoulder and tug your left ear with your right ring finger and thumb.” Be prepared for giggles. Again, the kids can make up their own commands. The most difficult version of Simon Says is done with eyes closed. Before playing it with your kids, try it yourself. And make sure there’s a soft landing, just in case anyone topples over (and it might be the adults!).
Playing with eyes closed engages and develops the body’s balance. More and more often, children are sustaining major injuries from lack of balance. Kids are injured from falls while playing soccer, riding bikes, and even running. Good balance prevents many of these falls.
Become mimes and gain great balance (plus flexibility around ankles and knees and stronger calf muscles). Stand with feet together and rise up onto your toes, then down partway, without letting your heels touch. Do this a few times to warm up, then come up on both toes and place one knee forward over your foot, then the other, and become a mime walking against the wind.
Try Toe the Line: start this one with your non-dominant foot. Walk in a straight line, placing the heel of the beginning foot in front of the back foot. Try to have the feet as close together as possible. A variation is walking forward, crossing one foot over and beyond the other. These exercises also “wake up” the brain. If your child is stuck with a homework writing assignment, suggest writing with the non-dominant hand—it works!
Stand up straight. How many times did we hear that as kids? Our parents were right. Many of our children are experiencing back, shoulder, and knee problems at earlier ages. Whether from carrying a too-heavy backpack, or from out-of-sync balance or posture, the effect can last a lifetime. A good body sense naturally corrects the lack of posture and position that leads to these injuries.
Walking with a book balanced hands-free on the head (old-fashioned as it is) works to correct both balance and posture. Start with a larger, heavier book (not a heavy dictionary, but lighter books are more difficult to balance) and walk tall and straight. Turn this into a game by awarding points for the farthest distance traveled with the lightest book. If your child needs more persuading about the benefits of standing straight, measure her standing normally, then have her do the book walk. She will have grown a bit or more. Kids always want to be taller.
One last way to teach kids body sense: a dance game. Ever seen the old dance diagrams? Have your child trace each foot, copy and cut out each tracing several times, then place in different dance configurations or odd step combinations (left left right, right right left, for example).
Join in on all the games yourself. Get the grandparents playing too. Improving body sense is a continual process as our bodies grow and change. Everyone can enjoy the benefits of increased flexibility and balance of body and mind!
Conda Douglas spends her time trying to make sense of her own body, teaching exercise classes, and posting fun exercises and recipes on her blog, Conda’s Fitness Center at condas http://fitnesscenter.blogspot.com/.