he other night, I was watching my barely one-year-old son attempt to pick up a garden hose in the backyard. Starting in a deep squat, he kept trying to stand up with something that was pretty heavy for his size. Standing unsupported without holding anything is a skill he has yet to master, and here he was trying something that seemed physically impossible. After about 50 tries, he finally got it and looked just so proud of himself when he did.
In watching my children grow over the last several years, I realized kids are invigorated by the most difficult of physical challenges. Driven by curiosity to learn about their environment, they develop new motor skills along the way. I am not sure where we lost this as adults, but developing this mindset and drive of a child would solve most of our health problems. Adopting this approach would bring more mindfulness to movement, paving the way for healthier aging. Let’s talk more about what we can learn from children to make our own lives better.
The curiosity of a child drives their motor development. If babies were not curious about their environment, they are much less likely to have the drive to roll, crawl, and walk to get to what they want to explore. Little ones have a natural curiosity that no physical challenge will stop them from getting to, even if it takes days or hundreds of attempts.
Most of us have lost this as adults. Not only are we no longer as curious about our environment, but even when we are curious if something looks too difficult we are much more likely to let the challenges stop us. Bring back your curiosity to facilitate your movement.
What can we learn from kids? Keep trying new, challenging tasks everyday. Couldn’t get off the floor without using your hands today? Keep trying tomorrow. Once you have mastered a skill, keep adding layers to increase the challenge. For example, make sure you expose yourself to a variety of walking surfaces. Can you walk easily on level, smooth ground? Try uphill, downhill, grass, gravel, or any combination of these and watch what happens!
Many of us lack understanding of “physical literacy” or how the human body moves. Kids are nautrally driven to learn every day, whether it is learning a new physical skill or learning how to read. Bring this love of learning back into your life. Set a goal each day for something new you want to learn about, whether it is balance, walking, or muscle strength. Keep moving fun, rewarding, and reinforce the positive gains (especially the small ones).
Ever watch how many times per day little kids fall without skipping a beat? Kids lack fear with their movement because it is a learned skill. Children require supervision because they have not associated their actions to dangerous consequences yet. Sometimes this fearlessness can be to their detriment, however most adults could use a little more of this fearlessness. We are not suggesting you get up and try the tasks that frighten you most, but take steps to break larger or intimidating tasks into smaller parts. Start by tackling the smallest parts. Recruit a buddy or a professional, like a physical therapist, to help you develop a sense of awareness of what your current capabilities are and make a realistic plan for improvement.
Kids are content to be in a world without chairs, tables, or shoes. They love to be barefoot, sit on the floor, and play for extended periods of time in a deep squat position. Believe it or not, adults should have all of these skills as well! Limit the environmental influences that impact movement in your kids environment, and limit them in yours too. Watch what kids do, and move like they do. When they sit on the floor, get on the floor with them. Notice how they squat to pick something up instead of bending over? Start trying that too, your back will thank you. Mimic their movements as they develop.
Start today! What can you do to bring back the fun, learning, and curiosity to your movement?