Deciding on a topic for my thesis paper for my master’s degree in Early Childhood Education was no small task. After a great deal of thought, I decided on, “the impact gym class has on a child’s social and emotional development.” As an NYC preschool teacher, I knew I had the perfect case study within my own classroom. This began a 10-month intensive study looking at movement development and gross motor skills in young children.

Some of the conclusions I came to include in my thesis are:

  • Movement is essential for children and is one of the components of accelerated learning.
  • Learning-by-doing is a skill children acquire when movement is involved.
  • Children develop social, emotional and cognitive skills when they are involved in movement, whether it is from a structured Gymtime class or running around the playground.
  • Children build self-confidence when trying new obstacles. They might not accomplish a certain movement on their first try, but most children do succeed eventually. This results in a happy, “I did it,” child!
  • Children know what they can or cannot do. In other words, their bodies instinctively will let them do what they can.
  • Observation and imitation play a huge role in a child’s movement development. They will challenge themselves as they watch older, more capable peers at play.
  • Children have their own goals. If you see a child continuously do the same obstacle in the park, he/she is trying to conquer something.
  • Every step a child takes is one more step to building a strong body.
  • Remember, movement is supposed to be fun!

Children are always learning new things about their own body movement. Some children have little fear, while others are more hesitant. Either way, they always have goals they want to accomplish!

Gymtime Gymnastics NYC

Movement development not only builds cognitive, social and emotional development,  but it also makes children’s bodies strong! Gymtime Gymnastics and Sports Programs director, Chris Vollaro has been leading toddler and kids gym classes in NYC for over 20 years. Here, Chris shares some of his favorite activities that parents can do with children to encourage gross motor development:

For children 18 months to 2 years old

  • Throwing, catching and rolling a ball
  • Running and jumping in a safe outdoor environment

For children 2 years – 3 years old

  • Throwing, catching, rolling and bouncing a ball
  • Running and stopping
  • Jumping over and crawling under
  • Playing at a playground

For children 3 years old – 4 years old

  • Throwing, catching, bouncing and combination of all three
  • Running
  • Jumping up with two feet
  • Learning jumping jacks
  • Riding a bike or a scooter
  • Playing on a playground

By Jacqueline Goldoff, Teacher at Early Learning Foundations 
Ms. Jackie holds a Masters degree in Early Childhood Education from CUNY City College. She enjoys hot weather, the color pink and playing sports. But, her true passion is working with children.