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Our Physical Education Program, The Love Of Movement

Our Physical Education Program, The Love Of Movement Our Physical Education Program, The Love Of Movement

At Montessori Stepping Stones we use a multi-disciplinary approach to physical education.  The overall goal is to introduce our children to fitness and sports, which in turn helps encourage each child’s cognitive, social, gross-motor and fine-motor as well as sensory-motor development while having fun with his or her friends.

These activities also help to foster co-operation and team work in other areas outside of the physical education class. During the early stages of child development the observation of and provision of psychomotor activities (progressive acquisition of skills involving both mental and motor activities) is a paramount task of the educarer Whenever learning new movements there is a level of frustration that hinders growth.  This is natural.  A good educarer sets goals, encourages practice, gives positive feedback, and provides motivation.  This helps the child progress through the different stages of psycho-motor development, making it easier and less frustrating to learn.

There are three stages that a child progresses through when learning psycho-motor skills, they are the cognitive, the associative, and the autonomic.

The beginning stage is called the cognitive.  The cognitive is marked by awkward, slow movements, which the child is consciously trying to control. The child has to think before doing the movement.  Performance is generally poor, and the child makes many errors in these slow, choppy, movements. The frustration level is high, but diligent observation and practice allows the child to move onto the next stage of psycho-motor development.

The second stage of psychomotor development is called the associative stage. In the associative stage, the child spends less time thinking about every detail and begins to associate the movement one is learning with another movement already known.  This is the middle stage of psychomotor development.  The movements are not yet a permanent part of the brain.  They are not automatic.  Movements do not become a permanent part of the brain until they are performed ten thousand times.  A child in this stage must think about every movement.  However, unlike the cognitive stage, the movements begin to look smoother and the child feels less awkward.

The final stage of psychomotor development in the autonomous stage.  The autonomous stage is reached when learning is almost complete, although the child will continue to refine the skill through practice. 

This stage is called autonomous because the child no longer needs to depend on the educarer for guidance and assistance.  The child has practiced the movement thousands of times. This is the stage where movements become spontaneous. The child no longer has to think about the movement.  The mind and body become one.  Understanding the various psychomotor stages makes it easier for the educarer to assist in the gross-motor and later the fine-motor development thus the development of learning.  If we recognize the natural process in the development of physical skills, we can easily accept the frustration we feel when first learning.  This is why Montessori Stepping Stones provides a prepared environment for the infants and toddlers to practice their movements and the refinery thereof. 

The Nido (Italian for nest) room accommodates no more than 8 children from six [6] months to fourteen [14] months of age with an adult-to-child ratio of one to four.  The focus in this room is on free movement.  It is equipped with customised stands, stairs, and bars that the babies use for pulling-up, crawling and standing exercises.  It is equipped with child-sized tables and chairs.  The physical care area is located next to a water source with low stools and toilets for children who are learning to clean themselves or change their own panties.  The Infant room serves children who are comfortably walking (approximately age fourteen [14] months) to age two [2]) in a small and intimate group of 15 -30 children. 

The environment conforms to the physical needs of the children (ergonomics), both in the size of the furnishings and in the opportunities for motor development. There is minimal furniture, maximum natural light, selected art placed low on the walls, and defined spaces to challenge coordination of movement.

The Parent-infant class and the infant community use a similar environment that has three distinct areas: The movement area includes stairs and a platform; movement mat; push cart; wall bars; materials for eye-hand coordination such as threading, bead stringing, cubes on pegs, spheres on horizontal pegs, puzzles, gluing, folding; and various practical life exercises.  The practical life area includes materials necessary for preparing and serving a snack, setting and clearing the table, transferring water and other items, sweeping, caring for plants, dish washing, clothes washing, polishing, hand washing, window cleaning, flower arranging, and so on.  Each of these stages and elements of gross-motor, locomotors and fine-motor movement supports children’s overall health and physical fitness and enhances the child’s progress in other Domains. 

During the period from 0-1 most development in gross-motor movement domain. Gross motor skills involve moving the whole body and using larger muscles of the body such as those in the arms and legs. They include skills such as gaining control of the head, neck, and torso to achieve a standing or sitting position. They also include locomotor skills such as crawling, walking, stretching, and throwing. Children develop many gross motor skills as they move and explore freely in our safe and supportive prepared environment.

When they can coordinate their movement, children are ready to learn how to pedal a tricycle; turn somersaults; and catch, throw, and kick balls. At times children require instruction to learn these skills. To become proficient, most children need numerous opportunities to practice using their skills. Gross motor skills lead to growing confidence and pride in accomplishments (social and emotional development, self-concept). Children during the age between of 1½ to 2 begin to practice their fine motor skills to discover everything they can grab hold of, thus practising dexterity and sensory-motor movement.  Fine motor skills involve use of the small muscles found in individual body parts, especially those in the hands and feet.  Children use their fine motor skills to grasp, hold, and manipulate small objects and tools.  As they gain eye-hand coordination, they learn to direct the movements of their fingers, hands, and wrists to perform more complex tasks.  With access to appropriate materials and activities, children can practice and refine both their fine and gross motor skills during a variety of experiences and while performing self-help routines.  For example, children might draw and write with markers, manipulate and use eating utensils, put on and take off dress-up clothes, and use a magnifying glass to examine an insect. 

For the children around the 2½ -6 age group (Children’s House) warm-ups may include walking the line at different speeds as well as balancing exercises.  The callisthenics vary from arm circles, leg stretches and trunk stretches, to isolating specific muscle groups and basic neck circles. In this way the child gains a greater awareness of her or his own body by learning the different names of the major muscles. 

The idea is for the child to become familiar with the different areas of his body.  By doing these various movement exercises, the child takes command of his or her own body, while at the same time participating in a group activity. 

Each child is given a chance to lead these activities, which in turn gives him a sense of leadership and confidence in assisting others.  The importance of team support and cooperation is stressed.  The idea is to help each individual child reach her highest potential without an emphasis on winning or losing so much, but rather, how the individual does.  The children reach many levels, both physically and socially.  They usually show a high degree of sportsmanship through these activities and learn to meet the challenges of Physical Education!