Movement and coordination are not typically the first things parents think of when their child is suffering from low self-esteem. It’s natural to consider social-emotional factors first, but movement, exercise, and improved coordination positively affect self-esteem in multiple ways.
To understand how movement and neurological systems impact confidence, emotions, our organs, behavior, and relationships, we must first embrace the importance of daily exercise. Exercise not only keeps the body physically healthy, but movement (motor skills) is also the earliest form of regulation. Think of the first gestures from an infant to its parents to find comfort. Movement provides an extraordinary opportunity for joy, connection, and relationship.
By definition, the motor system is the set of central and peripheral structures in the nervous system that support motor functions, i.e., movement. Peripheral structures may include skeletal muscles and neural connections with muscle tissues.
The foundation for learning, regulating emotions, and managing life’s challenges begins from motor and reflex integration. If motor skills are poorly developed, anxiety can take root. Choosing a proactive approach to strengthening motor skills when children are young can provide them with the necessary tools to prevent emotional or social difficulties later in life. Wait, are we still talking about movement? Yes, we are!
When a child (or adult) has stronger coordination and feels good in their body, they become more flexible and equipped to react to what life throws their way; softballs, water balloons, curveballs included.
The Importance of Bilateral and Hand-Eye Coordination
• Simple activities that require processing and integrating both hemispheres of the brain enable both hands to work together simultaneously. Bilateral strength and hand-eye coordination are used throughout our lifetime.
• “Crossing the midline” is a critical skill when mastering bilateral coordination. Crossing the midline enables spontaneous crossing over the midline of the body during functional tasks (i.e., moving one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot, or eye, reading left to right, etc.).
• Focusing on bilateral coordination helps prevent children from feeling clumsy, dropping items, using one hand in activities, or switching hands during tasks that require a dominant hand and a helper hand.
Movement and coordination help kids build healthy self-esteem and confidence. In the Amy Zier and Associates playhouse, we use sensory gym equipment, mats, and outdoor play to increase movement and coordination. We try to teach kids that exercise grounds us into our bodies and releases negative emotions. Sometimes, it’s something as simple as breathing to regulate big emotions.
Last week we took one of our Power Pod groups sledding. From getting their boots, coats, and mittens to starting, stopping, climbing – it was an outing full of movement, coordination, and snow much fun. They were unstoppable!
We’re looking forward to bike riding intensives, springtime visits to the park, and AZ+A Summer Camp to keep them moving and growing in new ways. In the meantime, enjoy (socially-distanced) snowball fights with neighbors and target practice games by tossing a ball toward a target or through a ring to help coordination and confidence.
Simple activities go a long way while also promoting connection and relationships with others. Movement, coordination, and improved self-esteem opens many possibilities to your child and family. They can continue to work toward skill acquisition and get involved in more activities as they grow. Your AZ+A occupational therapist is ready with ideas to bring more movement into your child’s treatment plan and your home activities.