On March 22nd I had the privilege and pleasure of presenting a mini movement-to-music concert at Sumy City Orphanage in Sumy, Ukraine. I didn’t know quite what to expect, as I’d never been in an orphanage before. I was led into the multi-purpose room, where the children (ages 4-9) were seated in an orderly fashion waiting for me.
After a couple minutes for introductions, I mentioned (through my interpreter) that I hoped the children liked to jump and dance – at which point they absolutely exploded onto the empty floor between us! Three of the girls immediately launched into doing cartwheels to show me what they could do, while the other children were eitherjumping or demonstrating some of their cool dance moves, limbs flying everywhere! As I’m sure you can imagine, there was no lack of enthusiastic participation in the presentation that followed. ;-)
The next day I was reflecting on the wonderful experience I’d had, and I found myself wondering where this explosive impulse in children to be moving comes from. Do we just chalk it up to the child’s innate desire to play and have fun? Or could something else be going on? Could it not also likely be explained by the young brain pressing its strong requirement for – its insistence upon – receiving the kind of stimulation that vigorous movement (jumping, spinning, dancing, etc.) provides? (Such movement being necessary for the successful integration of brain and body, as Liz would say.) I strongly suspect that the latter explanation goes a long way toward helping us understand what’s really going on.
Unfortunately, children today don’t often seem to have the same opportunity for the quantity and quality of play-based movement that they used to, because of changing demands placed upon them, and sometimes because of safety issues. But what has certainly not changed is the young brain’s critical need for adequate, quality movement.
So, find ways – and make the time – to get kids moving! Educators and parents alike must be as insistent as the brains of young children that the children have plenty of opportunity for quality, vigorous movement.
On another note: I was amazed by the dedication of the staff at this facility, who give so much of themselves to these children and rely on their own friends and family to help provide the basics for which they never receive enough government funding. If you are interested in making a direct contribution to help improve the lives of orphans in Ukraine (including sick children in need of treatment), you can do so via the website at http://deti.zp.ua/eng/index.php