If a child has a good image of his body (how it works, how it moves, how it feels), he will have a sound base on which to build perceptual skills that are needed for effective academic classroom activities. All basic learning skills begin with a healthy body awareness. So, here are some tips to get that body awareness going!
- Body parts touch body parts – Who can… touch parts of your body with other parts, such as nose to knee, ear to shoulder, hands to hips, foot to leg, elbow to leg, toes to toes.
- Touch body parts to surroundings – Who can…. Touch head to floor, hands to wall, nose to window, finger to book, chest to desk, knees to floor.
- Torch games – Sit with your child in a dark room and shine the torch on different body parts. Name the part and move it as fast or slowly as you can. Swop places and let your child shine the torch on your body parts for you to name and move. Play some shadow games.
- Dressing up in different clothing can be fun, and is a wonderful way to accentuate body parts. Earrings, necklaces and scarves, socks, stockings, hats and belts all give us information about our body parts and where they are. Make some simple dressing up clothes for your child to ‘pretend play’ in. Dressing up also encourages imaginary play, and stimulates creativity.
- Cardboard dolls – Make your own dolls out of cardboard. Open your empty cereal box up. Draw some simple body shapes onto your box. A head, body, legs, arms, hands and feet. Cut each body part out. Give the pieces to your child and get him to colour each body part in, or to paint each body part. Help him to staple or stick the body parts together correctly.
- Back to back game – Get into pairs, and stand back to back with your partner. Put on some music and dance together moving in unison. Bodies are not allowed to lose contact. Don’t forget to laugh and make it fun!
- Play `follow the command’ – Use action words for your child to carry out. For example – swing arms, lace fingers, stoop, poke out tongue, sit, stand, jump, hop, suck, chew, shake head, bend knees, tap toes etc. This game increases your child’s awareness of his body and the ways it can move.
- Make hand and feet prints in wet sand – If you want a permanent keepsake of the prints, pour some plaster mix into the sand shapes, wait for it to dry and there you have a cast of the hand or foot shape. Your child can then paint the casts. OR simply play in the mud, with minimal clothing on.
- Miming games – Pretend to be a clown, an animal, a car or an object (like a house, or a ball), and move your body accordingly. See if you can guess each other’s body movements and what you are supposed to be. A monkey, for example, is an easy one to do. A car may be more difficult, but a crab will be easy to imitate. You could even act out a story in mime where the child has to tell you what has happened. Swop places and get your child to mime and you to guess.
- Rough and tumble play – All physical play helps to develop body awareness, but especially body games where the body is working against gravity or with resistance. Pushing, pulling, hanging, rolling and tumbling about, all activate the movement senses and your child’s sense of touch. So, bend over onto all fours and see if your child can push you over as you stay as solid as an ox. OR get your child to go onto all fours and see if you can push him over instead. Roll around on the floor together as you rough and tumble and wrestle. As long as your child is enjoying these games, play on. Do however listen to what he likes and what he does not, and stop when he has had enough.
By occupational therapist and founder of Clamber Cub Liz Senior