5 Methods that help your preschool class get up and moving in any space while learning to regulate their movements and stay safe!
Many teachers tell me that they would love to do gross motor activities in the classroom but they are worried about safety and accidents with preschoolers who are still learning how to navigate through space. Also, most preschool classrooms are full of tables, chairs, toys and are arranged in different areas for play with small groups. This creates barriers that teachers perceive as potential danger spots for bumps and bruises. How can we help kids learn about safe group moving and still keep the classroom safe? Young children are not fully aware of how to maintain safe space from each other or objects in the classroom, so we need to help them learn this skill and the classroom is a great place to practice. Here are some some easy tricks I have developed that help preschoolers become safe movers.
1. Space Bubble
As you introduce your students to the classroom on the first day of school, include a lesson on sitting for “circle time” without sitting on each others lap! Tell your students to make a “space bubble” around their bodies while you demonstrate a rounded shape with your arms on either side of your body. As they make their own “space bubbles”, point out that if they sit too close to each other their bubbles will pop! So to keep all our space bubbles safe, they need to find a spot where their space bubbles are not touching. Bubbles are very delicate plus kids love them and bringing in real bubbles to demonstrate this is also fun.
2. Magic Spot
If you can push furniture out to the side and get your class moving together, for a morning workout, your students will be focused and energized. It’s a great way to get brains and bodies ready to learn and it’s also great for relieving stress! But how to get them all in a safe spot for jumping jacks? What I do in my LeapSmart classes is to practice finding a “magic spot”. One by one have each child stand in a spot that will give them the space to swing their arms and legs without touching another person, any furniture or walls. This may take a bit of trial and error, but as the children discover their own “magic spots”, they will learn and understand how to maintain a safe distance.
3. Floor markers
I love poly spots, (those colorful plastic discs found in gym sites such as flaghouse.com), for a quick and easy way to have kids associate a color and location for their “magic spot”. In my LeapSmart classes I turn finding your poly spot into a color recognition game. If you don’t have poly spots, tape on the floor is great for indicating where kids should go. If you put the tape in the shape of the letter of their first name, then you can practice letter recognition as well.
4. Soft Scarves to motivate big movement.
Children love to watch colored scarves twirl as they move and the movement of these props is also useful for special needs children who need something tactile to hold as well as practice with eye tracking. I choose bright colorful scarves to spice up my movement activities because they are not only versatile but also safe! Scarves move in a variety of ways, (swing, float, wiggle and circle), and they are soft so as not to cause accidents. Even if some of your more rambunctious kids start a scarf sword fight, when your back is turned, nobody will get hurt. Scarves make jumping look like fireworks, and can become rainbows, paint brushes for body recognition as well as a way for toddlers to play peekaboo. I also love how they are great for practicing throwing and catching skills.
5. Practice the Freeze signal
When you see children getting a bit too boisterous or losing their magic spot and getting too close to each other, you need a signal that allows everyone to reset! That is when you need to have a stop signal that children will automatically respond to. Different signals work for different groups but some of my favorites are: clapping rhythms, lights off, or rhymes such as, “One two three, eyes on me”. You can even invent your own! In one of my workshops a teacher shared a great one: He says “catch a bubble in your mouth” At first that sounded strange but he explained that when the children need to stop and focus, he says this phrase and the whole class stops and opens and closes their mouths pretending to catch a bubble. This makes the class immediately quiet and still.
How do you keep your class moving and safe?