By admin
31 October 2014

Did you know moving helps children to develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually too?

WHILE we expect children to sit still when learning, too much sitting – in cars and in front of computer and TV screens – can be harmful for kids. Our bodies need to move – and that goes for young and old.

“We live in a culture where it’s still thought children should ‘sit quietly’ when learning. But research has shown time and again that children who move learn beter and are happier,” says Lizanne du Plessis, a Cape Town occupational therapist and author of Raising Happy Children. The mom of two has advice for Super-Moms on how to get their kids moving.

Why must kids move?

“Children need movement to develop physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually,”

Du Plessis says. “It also creates the necessary balance in the brain so they can calmly follow instructions and focus on what’s important and feel happy.”

Your child’s brain and body are still developing so they need more regular and intense movement than you do.

“Several problems, some even life-threatening, could develop if children don’t move enough,” Du Plessis warns.

For instance their gross motor skills development could lag behind and they could experience problems with balance and coordination. Due to their fine motor skills lagging they could struggle to use scissors, hold a pencil, fasten and unfasten buttons and zips and eat with a knife and fork.

Too little exercise could also play a role in a wide variety of other problems, from listlessness and hyperactivity to moodiness and obesity.

Know your child

The amount of movement your child needs depends on their temperament, Du Plessis says. She uses three animals to describe the various temperaments. Some children are a combination of more than one.

  • Monkeys: These children are sociable, busy and alert. They constantly look for opportunities to make contact with other people and the world around them. Children with this temperament crave intense movement. They also like goal-oriented, stopand- start activities. They’re energetic and enjoy jumping and spinning activities such as somersaults and cartwheels, rough play and adventure.
  • Porcupines: These children are sensitive, perceptive, polite and in tune with their environment and the people around them.They need more intense, regular movement than monkey children. Respect their temperament and give them the opportunity to say when they’ve had enough. Porcupine kids prefer slower, calmer, more predictable movements which they can control themselves, such as riding a scooter, swinging and climbing.
  • Giraffes: These children are relaxed, calm and adaptable. They’re easily satisfied, play happily on their own and are happy to play with anything or anyone. They enjoy more movement than porcupine children, but aren’t constantly craving it like monkey children.

Some giraffe kids need encouragement to exercise.

What can parents do?

Movements that stimulate our perception of our own body position (proprioception) are important for a child’s development.

Activities that put pressure on the muscles and wrists – anything that involves pushing, pulling, hanging and holding – help with proprioception. “If we can make these kinds of activities part of our kids’ daily routine we’ve won,” Du Plessis says.

Make a habit of these activities


  • Wheelbarrow walk to the kitchen.
  • Slither like a snake or crawl like a crab to the bathroom.
  • Sip yoghurt through a straw.
  • Eat crunchy food such as apples, raw carrots, nuts and seeds.
  • Older children can skip while younger children can jump back and forth over a rope lying on the ground.

After school:

  • Play on a tricycle, scooter or bicycle.
  • Pull your child on a blanket in the passage.
  • Play vigorously on your bed – roll around, throw pillows, tickle.
  • Encourage your child to lie on his stomach on a skateboard and propel himself along the passage with his arms.
  • Play tug-of-war.


  • Squirt water from a spray bottle.
  • Blow bubbles through a straw.
  • Dip sponges of various shapes and sizes in the bathwater and squeeze them out.

*Raising Happy Children by Lizanne du Plessis (Metz Press, R153 at

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