The rate of development of any individual is fastest during the preschool years. Development feats are rapid. This explains why the preschool child is always very active and curious at this time.
He wants to know the why and how of everything in his environment, for a normal pre- school child, there is never a dull moment. In consequence of the child’s need for activity, and the concerned orientation for all-round development, good pre-schools should therefore try to provide varied activities that can aid the child’s developmental needs.
In this article, we shall examine some components of the pre-school physical environment that promote the child’s physical, cognitive, social and psycho-social development.
The physical aspect of the child’s development is important because this aspect is a focal point on which the other aspects hinge. For example, a fragile child may not be able to explore and manipulate his environment as much as his energetic counterpart would.
This, in turn, may affect his intellectual and social development as he may become withdrawn (Osanyin, 2002). His participation in vigorous activities and manipulatory skills may be reduced.
Therefore, his senses may be adequately challenged and stimulated. The resultant effect of these is the lack of the desired all-round development of the child. Generally, physical development is in form of gross motor development.
Gross Motor Activities
Gross Motor development is also referred to as the large muscle development. It involves the ability of a child to throw and catch such things as balls, bags, dusters, sticks and many other objects during his play activities.
It also relates to the child’s ability to jump, climb, run, walk, push, pull, row and do all other activities that require the movement of the body.
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Opportunity to practice these skills on regular basis ensures mastery, competence and strength of body muscles. Some of these activities are treated below:
Stationary equipment securely installed must be provided for children to climb. Climbing helps children in managing different heights and body control.
The muscles of the body are also strengthened when climbing up, down, over, under, back, front, sideways and through a variety of climbing units.
In these climbing activities, children make and integrate decisions on the direction in which they move up, down, front, back, below, in-between, above or sideways.
These help in cognitive development. Usually, purchased climbing units may be expensive, so a resourceful head teacher or proprietor may create his/her own to especially suit the needs of the pupils.
For the outdoor, rust-proof pipes are recommended, while for the indoor of a hall, wooden gymnastics items recommended. Old tyres may be collected and arranged for children to climb.
However, the tyres should be secured, and fastened together for security. Telephone poles, edges and stumps of trees with ladders may be quite useful for climbing.
When trees are growing on the playground, they provide suitable anchor points for platforms. Finally, moveable wooden steps and natural mountains in the school, if available, are good for climbing.
Pushing and overcrowding on the climbing unit should be prevented. Ideally, it is best to climb bare-footed as shoes and slippers tend to be slippery.
Swings are stationary equipment that can be securely installed for the development of large muscles. They also help muscle coordination.
Children play the sheer thrill of whizzing through space, as they learn to jump, go higher or stop and coordinate their decisions with the movement of their bodies. Spatial concepts are also developed as children change directions and as they see things around them from different perspectives.
Sets of swings are available commercially.
However, it may be exciting and worthwhile to construct your own. You can make a swing by suspending ropes to a large tree with heavy and sturdy branches.
The seats are made from tyre cut in halves. Punch holes in the tyres to make them drain water. Three strong ropes may also be firmly attached horizontally to a single tyre. Ropes may also be hung with knots at the end to serve as swings.
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c) Rocking Boat
The rocking boat is a popular piece of equipment in most schools. It provides a soothing effect. Rocking horses are also used. The rocking equipment requires a child to sit on one spot, holding on with both hands.
For the rocking boat, there are some rules that must be observed:
No one outside the boat should touch it while it is moving.
If a child wants to get out of the boat, the boat should be stopped to let him get out.
Children must hold on with both hands.
The seats must be shared.
Wooden see – saws with rockers take about two children at a time; they are usually very safe since children’s feet are close to the ground. This also provides a sense of security and confidence.
d) Sliding Equipment
This provides children with an opportunity to experience balancing and body control. Like the swing, children enjoy the excitement of moving through space.
In using or installing a slide, it is necessary to ensure that the height from the ground is not higher than five feet.
To control the speed, the sliding area should be of reasonable length. The handrail should also be sturdy for safety.
A crawl through space, in addition to the platform slide, also provides a variety. Standard slides are usually made of rust-proof metals.
e) Sand Play
Sand is pleasant to play with. Like water, it runs easily through the fingers when dry. It can also be poured from one container into another.
Sand responds to children’s actions upon it, such as mixing with water, building, molding, shaping, and imaginative plays. Sand, for play, should be clean, dustless, dry, and soft as obtained from the beach or creek.
Sand may be contained in shallow pots with cemented sides. It may also be put in large wooden crates or sandboxes.
Whatever container is used, the type of materials available in the sand play area will influence the kind of play activities the children engage in.
To facilitate a variety of play opportunities, the school should provide shovels, diggers, bowls, spoons, cans, funnels, sewers, pails, wheel toys, and many other objects that may be used. Generally, for sand play, the following safety precautions should be kept:
- Children should never throw sand at people.
- Children should not throw sand into the air.
- Children should not eat or taste sand.
- Children should clean sand clinging to shoes or bodies before going indoors.
- Sand toys should be put away neatly.
- Any other play materials, besides sand material, should not be put into the sand.
f) Wheel-Toy Movements
Movable objects such as wagons, trucks, wheelbarrows, bicycles, tractors, and all equipment that can be pulled, pushed, and used are quite interesting for children. They help in developing their physical abilities.
The wheel toys to be used by children should have solid wheels instead of spokes, and children must designated areas.
They should also not be allowed to bump into people and or things. The teacher must supervise and discourage excessive speeds.
g) Water Play
As children splash and pour water, their muscle coordination develops. As they fill water into different containers, they can develop mathematical concepts. They discover objects that float, or sink.
They also note what happens when water is mixed with things like sand, salt, paint, etc. Water offers surprises to children as it moves, runs, bubbles and spills. Water play can be provided in many ways.
Ordinary plastic containers, baby bathtubs or low taps, water tables, oldsinksks, or baths are quite suitable for water layssuitableever a container is used, it is essential to provide adequate water toys to facilitate a variety of plays.
Plastic dolls can be immersed in water and scrubbed. Other inexpensive water toys that used to be provided are measuring cups, jars, straws, sieves, funnels, sponges, bottles, soap, aprons, and pails. The water should be safe to drink just in case the children get thirsty.
In conclusion, it is therefore important that schools recognize the need to build on the child’s desire for active participation and provide adequately for an active life. The preschool child is generally always very active and inquisitive.
Pre-schools should endeavor to provide varied activities that aid the child’s developmental needs. Activities such as climbing, swinging, and rocking foster physical development in the preschool child.
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