Hand-eye co-ordination is such an important part of a child’s development and is so much more than just being able to catch and throw a ball. This part of development involves the child’s ability to effectively co-ordinate eye movement with hand (or foot) movement. As with many areas of development, hand-eye co-ordination starts very early on in development and we can start to see it in action when our little baby at 3 or 4 months of age starts to reach out and swipe for toys - eventually being able to grasp them with more and more precision as this skill becomes more refined.
When looking at our program, we provide children with opportunities to develop their hand/foot eye co-ordination in every single class. Importantly, we progress skills quite purposefully so that the children can build on their skills session by session, term by term and year by year.
In soccer we start very simply with a standing kick, then progress to a running kick, dribbling a ball and then trapping a moving ball. As the child progresses, we can make tasks more difficult according to the skills. We ask them to trap a faster moving ball, dribble whilst weaving through cones or kick a moving ball rather than kicking a stationary ball.
Similarly in football, we progress from kicking a stationary ball to trying a drop kick in the older classes. We encourage more complicated skills in sports such as tennis where the kids attempt to throw and catch their tennis ball, then they start to volley the ball. We start with simple tasks to ensure they can achieve these before extending them to more difficult tasks like the forehand shot.
Children are constantly encouraged to watch the ball in golf and tennis, to look down at their puck when playing hockey. Throwing and catching skills in basketball are practiced in a fun a stimulating fashion and the children are encouraged to extend their skills appropriately. Some children stay with a drop and catch where others move on to dribbling the ball. The fielding activities in cricket and T-ball where the children have to track the ball coming toward them are equally effective. As they get older we roll the ball faster, roll it slightly out of their reach and encourage them to move toward the ball.
A great way to start a session of golf, cricket, tennis or T-ball is to give each child their bucket and then roll the balls to them one at a time so they fill their bucket with their 5 balls, ready to start their class. This is a good way of introducing the task of tracking the ball with their eyes at the start of the session.
Postural Control may be defined as the act of maintaining, achieving or restoring a state of balance during posture or activity (Pollock et al. 2000). You will find the terms balance and postural control often used interchangeably.
Ensure each class provides opportunity to adjust postures and focus on maintaining stable body positions. You will find that many children just like to keep moving and often this is because it is far easier for them to be moving rather than having to maintain a stable position against gravity. So, even though we like to focus on lots of high-energy games and activities, be sure to include some important stationary activities where the children are encourage to hold certain body positions.
This is a complex part of development and for a child with typical development it is something that comes very naturally. Very broadly, motor planning may be defined as the ability to order, plan, sequence and execute a series of intentional motor actions.
Similarly, tasks such as weaving in and out of cones, jumping the hurdles or bear walking may look awkward and clumsy in some children. These may be the children with motor planning difficulties. These children struggle the most with new activities and will respond very well to repetition, short, simple, repetitious commands and strong visual cues. Our program caters brilliantly for these children. When coaches are effective in using very short, direct instructions that are kept the same each week as much as possible, the children will respond well. The catch cry of “Ready Steady Go” prior to each skill is an essential cue and provides a little extra time to process, plan and execute a movement correctly.
Additionally, for these children, visual cues are essential to assist them, as often the verbal cue and visual demonstration aren’t quite enough to enable them to succeed. Therefore, the use of spots to stand on, foot prints to help orientate the body correctly (particularly for cricket, golf, T-ball, tennis and hockey) and the sharply contrasting colours on the equipment all provide really important extra visual cues in order that they can execute the skills more effectively.
Wherever possible, the use of tape or stickers to guide more accurate hand placement will also be a huge help to these children and enhance their participation in the activities. In the circuit, use foot prints to guide their path around cones, try to break down the hurdle movement and give them very repetitious verbal cues for each hurdle eg. Step, step, over, step step, over. These are often the children I take by the hand and give them the feel of the activity several times and then gradually allow them to progress to doing it more independently.
A paper written by Skouteris et al in 2012 focused on Physical activity guidelines for pre-schoolers. They completed an extensive review of current literature to determine the current physical activity guidelines for preschool aged children around the world. They found significant gaps in the literature and definite inconsistencies in the amount of physical activity deemed sufficient for this age group. Whilst the paper provided a detailed summary of global recommendations, it acknowledged that further study needs to be done in this area in older that public health policies may be created and implemented by government agencies.
Contributed by Anne Kelly, physiotherapist and franchise owner in Narellan Region Australia.