I don’t know about you – but, I spent much of my childhood years outside. My brother, my friends, and I passed hours running, screaming, climbing, and jumping in the backyards and sidewalks of Detroit. Fast forward to the realities of childhood for many children today.

“Walking feet”.

“Inside voices”.

“You can throw outside”.

These phrases echo in children’s ears 40 – 50 hours a week; even as the urge to move almost overwhelms them. The large muscle play children yearn for and need is regulated to short periods of time outside – and then, only when “weather permits”. Too often, when children are not given a safe outlet for these experiences, their need to move overcomes their self-control and teachers see the resulting behaviors as challenging. Instead of asking children to control these behaviors, it is incumbent on teachers to find safe outlets for them in the classroom.

We need to remember that throwing is not a challenging behavior, throwing blocks is. So, add a box and rolled up socks for children to throw.

Tearing is not a challenging behavior, tearing a book is. Ask families to send in various forms of paper (newspapers, sand paper, waxed paper, scrap paper, etc.) and place them in a tub. Redirect toddlers’ tearing interest to this area.

Climbing is not a challenging behavior, climbing a shelf may be. Add step stools or soft pillows on which children can climb.

We know that beyond physical development, children’s use of large muscles benefits development in all domains. Positive impacts on children’s cognitive, social-emotional, and language domains are all seen right along with the physical when children can express their innate drive to move. Finding ways to support movement in the classroom is an all-around positive move.

Given these realities, why is movement in young children limited more and more? Children who struggle are punished by having recess removed. Younger and younger children are confined to desks for longer periods of time. And, with increased focus on academic outcomes, children spend more time sitting in large groups and passively listening to a teacher deliver content. All of these practices fly in the face of what research tells us children need. So, let’s shift our efforts to teaching how children learn instead of hoping they will learn in the way we want to teach.

What do you think? Engage with me and others in the ECE community on my social media outlets. You can also find more information about my book and available training sessions, on any of the following:

Facebook: Teacher as Gardener

LinkedIn: Michelle Salcedo

Twitter: @authorsalcedo

The book can be purchased at Free Spirit Publishing


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