The text below is the excerpt of the book The Guide to Gymnastics for children ( ISBN: 9781646996841 ), written by Anna Salaris , published by de Vecchi / DVE ediciones .
The purpose of these pages can be summed up in four words: to grow up playing. In this book, the reader will find simple games that can enrich children’s motor experiences. We have to consider gymnastics within an educational process in which the playful aspect plays a central role because the child learns to grow through games.
In the game, according to Frochel’s definition, “the vital impulse of the personality which demands to be given and to be constituted is manifested; the whole inner world of the child with its needs, its tendencies, its ideas and feelings are made manifest… Through the total possession of living play, the child moves and completes himself”.
A game is disinterested; its purpose is to have fun even before the satisfaction of winning; it is spontaneous and arises from the desire to play without necessarily having to serve a purpose; in fact, it can go beyond its mere eventuality and become a true way of living, learning, growing, experimenting and maturing; it is fun, effort and commitment to reach a goal through self-improvement and self-improvement.
The game is therefore a response to very specific needs: it satisfies children’s curiosity since it is away of learning to conquer what is not known and which continually raises new questions and further deepening; at the same time, it is a response to the need for self-esteem insofar as it helps to improve one’s own abilities. The game, in short, is an opportunity to release physical and mental energies which at the same time stimulate and involve the child to get the best out of himself by coordinating all his faculties.
The game, moreover, requires a great deal of creativity and imagination not only for those who play but also for those who propose the games.
The characteristics of the games vary according to age: the first games are egocentric, solitary, oriented towards the discovery of oneself and, later, of the surrounding world; there are also more social games through which the child interacts with others.
The psycho-motor development of the child is a slow and complex process that is explained not only in the field of actual movement but involves globally every sphere of the personality; therefore, we can also speak of cognitive and social development as well as psychological development.
Motor skills are closely related to cognitive skills because it is precisely through the latter that the development of the central nervous system is promoted; it is therefore of fundamental importance to provide the child with the necessary stimuli to acquire good motor skills that can then be applied to intellectual operations that go beyond simple movement.
As can be seen from the following diagram, we can distinguish two types of abilities, psycho-motor and physical:
Psycho-motor skills, related to the central nervous system, can be classified into the following types:
Coordination, according to K. Meinel’s definition, is the “harmonization of all partial processes of the motor act with respect to the goal to be achieved by the movement”.
But there are more types of coordination: general coordination can be included in the above definition; oculo-manual coordination refers to the ability to coordinate hand and upper limb movements in relation to visual information; oculo-podal coordination is the ability to coordinate foot and lower limb movements in relation to visual information; intersegmental coordination is the ability to coordinate the movements of different body segments as regards the body, and intersegmental coordination is the ability to coordinate the movements of different body segments in relation to the body.
Important in the development of coordination are the sense organs, which receive very precise information of a tactile, acoustic, visual, vestibular, etc. type, transforming it into essential data for the process of controlling the motor act.
Body perception is, according to J. Le Boulch’s definition, “an overall intuition or immediate knowledge that we have of our body in a static position or in movement, in the relationship of the different parts to each other and in the relationships with the surrounding space, objects and people”.
The child gets to know his own body and learns to use it through action; each new movement he makes is another experience that helps in a process that goes through very precise stages, starting from incoherent movements to the complete control of any gesture.
Within bodily perception we distinguish a number of functions:
Active adaptive function: the ability to rework acquired movements to be able to solve new situations and problems as they arise. The adaptive function develops from the first months of life until the age of ten or twelve; the greater the stimuli during this time, the greater the adaptive capacity with which the child’s motor skills are enriched.
Body schema: it is structured from birth to reach its totality by the age of twelve, with the awareness of one’s own body in each of its segments in static and dynamic situations, in relation to others and the outside world. The evolution of the body schema follows well-defined stages on the way to adulthood. In fact, we can distinguish four moments:
Lateralization: the child discovers which is his or her “preferred hand” and the dominance of one cerebral hemisphere over the other is reinforced. Until the child has achieved good lateralization, his body schema, the efficiency of his movements and his coordination will be imprecise and poorly organized.
Temporal perception: the ability to become aware of sound sensations with their duration and pauses. It helps the child in the development of motor coordination which is explained through a combination of movements that develop simultaneously or in succession in space and time.
Spatiotemporal organization: this is the ability to organize space, taking as presuppositions the concepts of above and below, in front and behind, right and left, referring to oneself and transferred to the outside world, putting it in relation to time.
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