Big Body Play
Big body play is very important to a preschooler’s development! Big body play is wrestling, running, jumping, even throwing your own body on the ground. It’s the kind of play we feel like we need to stop and redirect when we see children partaking in it, but it’s a type of play that children love and crave for good reasons.
1. Big body play helps children learn about their bodies. Children learn most by doing, so when they jump, run, and wrestle they’re learning what their body can do, how it moves and works together. They’re learning what their body can’t do as well! Children’s bodies are more flexible and tolerant than adults, a motion that could hurt us is just perfect for testing their own bodily limits for them. God sure knew what he was doing when he designed children!
2. Big body play helps communication skills. Children learn how to interpret a nonverbal when they’re playing “rough” together. When my friend is smiling it means I can continue, but if they put their hand up or start to look scared it means this should stop. Some children need help learning to interpret these nonverbal—that’s what observant teachers and parents are their for!
3. Big body play is natural. Children all over the world play this way. It’s a form of play children crave because it comes naturally to them.
4. Big body play improves focus. Preschoolers have a LOT of energy. If they are allowed to get all their big body movements out during play, it’s a lot easier for them to sit for a story, or focus on using a small manipulative.
As important as big body play is, I’m still not condoning that type of play without limits. Children need firm boundaries all of the time, but especially when using their bodies in potentially dangerous ways. One of our boundaries is that this type of play must take place in a large space, like the open grass outside. or mats in the gym. Big body play should always be closely supervised by an adult. That way if a child needs help interpreting a non-verbal, or a quiet child needs help telling a friend to stop, you are there. You need to set the boundaries for what can and cannot happen during this type of play and firmly enforce the limits right away. This play often looks like fighting, but it isn’t. If it turns into a dangerous or malicious activity you need to be the one to stop it, as a child may not always recognize this transition. Big body play is important and great for a child’s development, as long as an observant adult is setting safe limits!