Not-So-Trivial Pursuit

by Amy Jain (Occupational Therapist at The Gateway School Of Mumbai)
“Play is a child’s work and this is not a trivial pursuit.” - Alfred Adler
A day at the park with Mom
A day at the park with Mom is so fun
To and from the swings I run and run
Jump on the tire and turn all about
“Gimme a push mom!” are words I’ll shout
Pump my legs on the swings I’ll do
Don’t pump too hard you’ll lose a shoe!
Up and over the top I’ll go
And see the whole world way down below
I’ll swing so high no one will see
Me fly to the sky on the clouds I’ll be
Sit on the wagon with my mom and pose
Today at the park, anything goes.
~ Annissa Worobec
I wonder if children today would be able to think of their own childhood when they read this poem!
I am not sure!
Don’t believe it? See it for yourself!

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Over the past few years, there has been a natural shift towards indoor play (more so Digital play!) as compared to the yester years where play was predominantly seen in the outdoor settings, viz nature, parks, playgrounds.
While there may be umpteen reasons for this, researchers have found this shift leaving the child bereft of many benefits of movement!
Movement is essential to the development of a child! Not just a typically developing child, but even a child on the autism spectrum, a down’s syndrome child or a child with any other learning differences.
Movement is not just about that physical growth, but also body movement which -
  • is integral to our intellectual processes from the moment of conception
  • enables us to take in information about the world through our senses
  • then anchors this information in our neural networks
  • is necessary as we build the skills we need to express our knowledge throughout our lives
Learning and brain development happen simultaneously as babies begin to interact with their world. Experiences that are rich in sensory stimuli (think movement in its widest sense) cause brain cells to communicate, and this, in essence, is learning and thought. Everytime we move, full brain activation and integration occurs, which naturally opens the door to learning.
There has been a plethora of research suggesting that the the regions responsible in the brain for movement are also involved in higher level thinking, which includes-
  • Problem-solving
  • Creating and designing
  • Anticipating outcomes
  • Curbing impulses, and delaying gratification
  • regulation of arousal
  • development of a sense of mastery
  • enhanced social cognition (negotiation, hierarchy and emotional awareness) and
  • gains in spatial cognition.
As evident, movement seems to be beneficial not just for physical growth, but it also helps in emotional and social growth.
Movement can take place in many ways like the physical fitness, basic motor skills, dance and music, individual and group activities, and cooperative games amongst others.
Young children do not have the need for highly complicated motor or play activities. They are learning at the very basic and fundamental level, and activities can be very simple and singular in nature, like going up and down the slide, playing on the see-saw, swinging.
As Vanessa Durand, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, says, freedom of movement is necessary for children to meet their developmental milestones: “Children learn by experiencing their world using all of their senses. The restriction of movement, especially at a young age, impedes the experiential learning process.”
So do you want your child to be tapping on an apple screen or climbing up an apple tree?


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