The benefits of exercises, or simply put, having kids run around being kids, is well documented – builds muscle and strong bones, less likely to become overweight, better sleep habits, perform better in school and have a better outlook on life. Whether through team sports, running around on their own or participating in an organized group class, it is vital to have your child active.
Coordination is an integration of many of our body systems – muscular, neurological, balance, vestibular- working together to produce smooth, purposeful movements. However, this may not come easy for all children. Children grow and develop skills on their own time. Unfortunately for the child who develops slower, there are often self-confidence issues due to a delay of age appropriate gross motor skills. Youth sports of today do not allow those children who develop skills slower the same opportunities. They become frustrated and often lose interest in organized team sports. They lose self- confidence and, as some parents note, don’t make many friends. One reason children have problems with developing certain skills stems from the brains lack of ability to “remember” the activity. Repetition creates neurological wiring and/or motor plans.
Instead of having kids lose interest in sports or activity, emphasis should be placed on having the continuous repetition of skills, even if it is basic. As professionals, even coaches, we must be consistent in our approach. Continue to work on the fundamentals or foundation of basic coordinated movements and skills. As a child’s brain creates this synapse, these motor plans will be learned. It is imperative to keep them interested in the activity or sport. It’s a great opportunity to teach the importance of commitment, being part of a team, and instill the habit of exercise.
As a father of young children, I have had a first- hand experience with the personal development of a child’s ability. I noticed, at a young age, uncoordinated, clumsy movement in my daughter, so I stressed and worked on consistent basic movements with her. This consistent practice really helped her as she grew and matured both physically and emotionally, to where she now participates in the sports and activities she loves with greater ease and confidence.
In my vast experience working with children with coordination disorders, I have found that a unique approach that applies gross motor activities in a fun and exciting atmosphere plays a significant role in a child’s improvement and development. The child does not perceive they are receiving “therapy”, but rather it feels like they are playing with their friends, while gaining self-confidence and improved coordination. We accomplish everything that sitting in front of computers and televisions can’t do. Kids are socializing, making friends, gaining confidence and improving their overall coordination.
What can be better than that?
~Tom Donofrio, PT, MS. is the owner of NeuroFit Rehab and creator of the Volt Fitness Coordination Program for kids/teens. He has 15 yrs. experience as a physical therapist working with this population.