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Incorporating Motor Play in the Preschool Classroom

Active play promotes children's learning. Research has shown that children are much more attentive right after they have engaged in active motor play. In addition, children learn through movement. Adults can integrate movement into daily routines and planned activities to help introduce new concepts and enhance learning outcomes.

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  • Incorporating Motor Play in the Preschool Curriculum

    (This video has captions. You can turn them on by clicking the CC icon at the bottom of the video)
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    Narrator: Most people recognize the physical benefits of children’s motor play. What is less obvious is the way that active play promotes children’s learning. Research has shown that children are much more attentive right after they have engaged in active motor play. By providing plenty of opportunities for children to run and play outside, teachers, parents, and caregivers can help ensure that they are able to focus during quieter activities.

    Narrator: Preschool teachers can use movement as a strategy for teaching academic skills. Research has shown that children can more easily acquire academic knowledge when they are moving rather than sitting still. Watch how one teacher uses a motor activity to reinforce number recognition.

    Teacher: As you land on a number, if you recognize the number, you can shout it really loud! What number are you on, Alex? Two!
    Child: Two!
    Teacher: So you can shout out Two!. There you go. What are you on?
    Child: Huh?
    Teacher: What number are you on?
    Child: Two.

    Narrator: Preschool teachers can incorporate movement into literacy activities to increase children’s engagement.

    Teacher: When the big, bad shark (makes knocking sounds) came knocking at the door. Yep, let’s knock together. (Children all knock on the floor). This is what the shark said.
    Teacher: I am a monkey.
    Children: I am a monkey.
    Teacher: And I wave my arms.
    Children: And I wave my arms.
    Teacher: Can you do it? (Children wave arms) I can do it.
    Children: I can do it.

    Narrator: Motor activity is an opportunity to teach children new words and concepts.

    Teacher: We’re going to run and leap. Who knows what leaping looks like?
    Child: Jumping!
    Teacher: Do you know an animal that leaps?
    Child: A frog.
    Teacher: A frog leaps, that’s right.
    Teacher: There you go, you’re leaping! Leap. And leap. There you go, perfect leaping. I noticed you used one leg over and landed on the other foot.

    Narrator: Teachers can reinforce classroom lessons during and after movement activities. Watch as this teacher engages children in movement as they revisit what they learned on recent nature walk.

    Teacher: Migdaliz, what did you see on our spring walk? Did you see..
    Child: A duck.
    Teacher: A duck! Show me a duck!
    Teacher/ Children: Quack, quack.

    Narrator: This teacher connects the physical activity that children just completed with a recent classroom lesson on how the body works.

    Teacher: How does your body feel right now?
    Child: Tired.
    Teacher: Tired? How does that feel? How does tired feel?
    Teacher: If you feel your heart, touch your heart, what does it, touch your heart, how does that feel? Is it beating? feel it beating, boom-boom, boom-boom, boom-boom How about? Do you feel warm? Do you feel cold? How do you feel?
    Child: Warm. Hot.

    Narrator: Integrating movement into the curriculum can enhance learning outcomes by helping children focus and by reinforcing new concepts with relevant movement.

  • Learning to Move and Moving to Learn: Integrating Movement Into the Everyday Curriculum to Promote Learning
  • This video is part of a series of five videos created as part of the Center's effort to study the effects of physical and outdoor play. The work was funded in part by Head Start Body Start.
  • Producer: Julia DeLapp
    Videographer and Video Editor: Ken Measimer
    Student Production Assistant: Kristin Chemerka
    Content Experts: Dr. Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, Dr. Darren Robert, Dr. Ann Gruenberg