Jack Be Nimble and Jack Be Quick: Increasing Movement Competence in Early Childhood Settings [chapter]

Michelle Hamilton, Jennifer Ahrens
2018 Early Childhood Education [Working Title]  
Increasingly, child caregivers have been tasked with assuring that young children are academically prepared for school. As a result, many childcare settings are focusing exclusively on academic content. The narrow curricular focus has resulted in the exclusion of offering physical activity and structured motor skill lessons. Consequently, many children do not receive adequate physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and lack movement competence to actively engage in physical activity with
more » ... peers or thrive in academic settings. Providing young children with structured movement opportunities, including body management concepts and movement, fundamental motor skill instruction, and directed opportunities to learn fine motor skills, is critical to movement competence. Finally, it is important for early childhood researchers, caregivers, educators, and policy makers to understand the relationship of movement competence in early childhood to later movement and academic success. 2 identified the goal of all children being ready upon entering school by 2000. These goals highlighted specifically the need for children to be academically prepared upon entering school or "school ready" [1] . Consequently, the emphasis on academic preparedness has resulted in "pushing down curriculum." Essentially, this has resulted in the academic curriculum once taught in primary grades now taught in early childhood preschool programs and childcare settings. Why does this really matter? After all, our early education programs are supposed to focus on preparing children to be academically ready or kindergarten. Correct? Unfortunately, by focusing on a narrowly defined academic curriculum, policy makers, educators, and childcare providers are compromising critical areas of child functioning and development. From a developmental perspective, focusing exclusively on academic performance at a young age is akin to building the walls of a house before the foundation has been poured. Arguably, critical needs of children are being ignored for a cookie-cutter school readiness checklist. For young children, it is important to have a strong foundation to promote positive health, physical activity, and the motor skills eventually leading to school success. Many caretakers and teachers erroneously assume children will naturally develop motor skills and are physically active through play. Unfortunately, positive outcomes will not occur without careful planning. By taking a close look at the early education programming, curriculum, and physical environment, more deliberative decisions can be made. By systemically addressing these needs through thoughtful planning, curriculum, and policy changes, it is possible to create a clear pathway for outcomes for children. Reversing the trajectory of adverse childhood outcomes Currently, millions of young children attend early childcare settings on a regular basis. These childcare settings include Head Start, public preschools, and private day care settings. It is not estimated that approximately 58% of children in the United States from 0 to 5 years attend a childcare setting outside the home [2]. This places public preschools and daycare providers in a unique position to address children's health and developmental needs. Early childhood obesity has become more prevalent in the United States. In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that obesity rates of children between 2 and 5 years of age are 13.9% [3] . Obesity and overweight status is defined as children at 95 and 85th percentile of body mass index, respectively, taking into account age and height. However, the rates of obesity in early childhood appear at higher rates among Latino, African-American, and low SES populations of children [3, 4] . Childhood obesity is related to a myriad of health problems with long-term and short-term health consequences. Consequences for health can include increased risk for asthma [5, 6] , diabetes [7, 8] , mental health issues [9] [10] [11] , and muscular, skeletal, and growth-related problems. In addition, children who enter kindergarten overweight are four times more likely to remain overweight or obese as an adolescent and into adulthood [12] . Without intervention, health-related obesity is one of the factors related to poor health consequences in adulthood. Moreover, childhood obesity is likely to have long-term adverse impact on social development. For instance, obese children were more likely to experience depression, be more socially isolated, and have difficulties making friends with other children. Additionally, overweight children of all ages are much more likely to be targets for unwanted bullying by peers and other children. Furthermore, childhood obesity affects important areas of children's development. Specifically, children's motor development is likely to be impacted. Young
doi:10.5772/intechopen.81181 fatcat:lkiq4tk4gvddzh5aklyawnjrmi