Basics of Natural Movement for Kids
Basic means fundamental. And the three fundamentals of natural human locomotion are running, jumping and throwing. Together they lay the foundation of Track & Field, the Olympic Games and are part of virtually all athletic activities.
It is essential to start with these in their plain form. The key is to keep things simple yet engaging, challenging yet doable, consistent and not tiring. You don’t need to become a coach, all you need is 20-30 minutes a day to have a break and have some fun. You know you can’t tell them you’re gonna teach them something if you want their full attention, but when was the last time you checked who jumps higher or throws better? Have you done a handstand lately? (If you do CrossFit, skip that question). There are many things you can do, the point is to create a fun game out of practicing basic human movements with your children. This will most likely benefit you as well in more ways than you expect.
This article is written primarily for parents of children aged 1-10, but it can certainly be applied to children and teens. Ultimately the age does not matter, what matters is that you do this if you feel that there is a need for some physical training. You will have to find the right approach to your youngster, and they might never thank you out loud, but you will thank yourself looking at him or her with pride.
The musculoskeletal load from running is essential to training our bodies to adapt to external forces. So starting early is advisable. I always took my two daughters for 10K trail runs on weekends with the rest of my athletes. No water bottles, no special equipment, no expensive running shoes. Just 10-15 of us on the trail, jokes echoing through the forest. But before you can enjoy running you have to learn how to do it.
Start with the basic drills (like the pose stance, pony, tapping, change of support, side to side pendulum). The key is to practice balance and the perception of bodyweight on ball of foot. One of the most common things I see at all my seminars is a whole lot of grown ups who can’t balance on one foot without flapping arms and looking plain embarrassed as in “wait a second, I just did a Spartan race, I know I can stand on one foot”.
To add another layer of difficulty to this simple task stand in the running pose with your eyes closed. Try it. Have your kids do it. Chances are – they’ll get a handle on this before you do. There is a trick to the running pose, if you shift your bodyweight to the ball of your foot, while keeping your foot and ankle relaxed and allowing your heel to stay in contact with the ground, you will gain stability and stop all that moving around common to anyone attempting to stand on their entire foot. You will be balanced yet will be ready to move in a blink of an eye.
Do short sprints barefoot or just chase each other on the lawn. Run in zig zag, use sudden stops and turns. Teach them to use their bodyweight instead of relying on muscles. As a matter of fact, young age is the best time to teach this because there are no muscles to appeal to, figuratively speaking.
If you’re lucky enough to have trails in your area, by all means take your kid(s) there. You don’t need to run, but simply exposing them to the uneven terrain will be very good for their feet, ankles, good for balance, perception, bit of strength development. Go barefoot or wear shoes, up to you, I spent my childhood barefoot simply due to limited access to shoes and never worried about getting hurt, so keep things in perspective and simple.
Jumping is extremely important to our body. Just like running, it helps keep our muscles, tendons, and blood vessels elastic and healthy. It keeps us young and springy.
While this video is for both running and jumping, it is especially important for learning to jump correctly. Some people instinctively find their way to jumping higher and better, while others are set to conquer jumping at all cost and keep getting injured, and much like with running, majority end up avoiding jumping altogether. Watch this video to understand the mechanism that will help you jump better and higher and then proceed with practicing and teaching your kids.
Try jumps in place, jumps from place to place. Use jump rope, there is a reason this old school exercises always was and still is the staple of every boxer’s or fighter’s routine. Use low height boxes or stairs to jump up and down, on both feet at first and then switch to one foot jumps.
We’re not talking about professional grade here. Just throwing a ball back and forth, or up in the air and catching it. Developing a perception of a catch and a throw using objects of various shape, size and weight will do wonders for teaching actual throwing technique later on. Try beach balls and tennis balls, try a book or a box. Here’s a really fun one, try throwing and catching a ping pong ball – you’ll see.
Things to keep in mind – take shoes off and do everything barefoot, this is very good for correct foot placement and bodyweight perception. If you’re keeping it in training format – repetitions should not exceed 10-12 per set, at 3-4 sets.
Weight of objects used should be appropriate, not too heavy. Using lightweight objects presents an interesting challenge and is very useful for all ages.
Through out your games and training pay close attention to your own physical reaction and that of your kids. If they are tired or sleepy afterwards – do less repetitions and less intensity next time, if however they seems in need of more action – increase the number of exercises and their repetitions, but without increasing weight. It will be extremely helpful to everyone involved if you figure out the physical load needs of your kids.
As I described in the Running Revolution, we all have a genetically pre-determined engine. It has nothing to do with skill or talent. Some of us simply have more fuel to burn and need to stay active 7 days a week while others can only handle so much. Majority of us do good with up to 3-4 days a week of moderate activity. This is not accounted for in the modern school system, so when children do not get the required amount of physical activity they either get restless and “get into trouble” or if they get an overload they struggle to stay alert and study.
Regardless of your kids’ age or physical abilities I recommend starting with standard basics and progressing from there according to your own individual situation, plan to use simpler or more challenging exercises and games based on the progress.
Remember, you need to keep your kids interested in the activity, so challenge them just enough for them to still be able to perform the task. If it’s too challenging and they are unable to do it, they could and most likely will loose interest.
- Do the drills and exercises in a playful form, they will regard physical activity and sports as something fun and uplifting for the rest of their lives
- Play and practice barefoot whenever possible. This will greatly help with proper foot development. Children do not need shoes with support, what they need is to walk and play barefoot to allow for natural foot strength development
- You know your goal so get creative, use our basic drills and exercises and modify them a bit, integrate them into games. Who can hop on one foot to the tree faster? Who can do more squats? On one leg?
- The quantity of repetitions does not matter, keep it fun, get into it yourself and time will fly by, and you will do more than you planned
- Always do part of your
training routineplaying games with eyes closed. This will be of tremendous help to you and your kid(s) in developing and sharpening your perception
As you know, running, jumping and throwing are collectively referred to as ‘natural human movement’. The ability to adequately do all three is rather important to an overall physical development, but the effects go much deeper. Having a good handle on the basics will allow for a better development of coordination and advanced movements later on, and that always has an impact on psycho-emotional, and intellectual development.
All of this ultimately contributes to the natural development of confidence. It’s all connected. So keep it simple and lighthearted, but start now and have fun, this is one of your most important tasks as a parent.
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