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TEACHING THE JOY OF THE BODY
The Child’s Perspective
Here is a conversation I had with my three-year-old.
“Why do you have a body?”
“To skip with!”
“To skip with?”
“I see. What’s the best part of your body?”
“‘Cause I see the flowers.”
“But the nose is too, ’cause I smell them.”
“Do you hear them?”
“No, but if you close your eyes you do hear teensy little things.”
“Wind & trees.”
“How do they sound?”
“Swish, swish, but quieter than that.”
“Any other part of the body you like?”
“The tongue to talk–you hold onto it & you can’t talk–try it–say my name.”
“Shawni, does your body make you happy?”
“My body is the happy!”
The spontaneous delight & built-in curiosity of little children make them receptive to the joy of the body. They are perfect pupils, but they still need teachers. The sensing equipment is built in–they receive the sensation–but they need to interpret it to feel its joy. A child’s senses are more acute than ours, but the joy of the body lies in understanding what we sense, & that is where the teaching comes in.
Learning the name of the body parts.
1. Play “Simon Says.” The leader gives various commands. “Touch your tummy.” “Lift your left foot.” “Close your eyes.” The rest of the players follow a command only if it is preceded by “Simon Says.”
2. Play “Hoky Poky.” Players stand in a circle & act out this rhyme: “You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out, you put your left foot in & you shake it all about. You do the Hoky Poky & you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about–hey!” Rhyme is repeated with each part of the body.
3. Make a large puzzle of the body out of heavy cardboard pieces for children to put together. As they do, they name each part & tell what it can do.
Teaching appreciation for the body.
1. “What is it?” game. Blindfold the children. Then let them hear & smell & touch & taste various things & try to identify them. Use things with interesting textures (sandpaper, cotton, polished stones); different sounds (bottled water, marbles in a box, a bell); distinct odors (perfume, popcorn, pickles); distinct tastes (sugar, salt, peanut butter).
2. Teach appreciation of the human body over other bodies. Pretend you are an elephant, bird or squirrel–what can you do? What can’t you do? (Walk on two legs, pick up things with your fingers, talk, walk while carrying something.) Now pretend you are a plant–what can’t you do? (Almost everything.)
3. Relate the senses to their uses. Make a chart with six columns. List the five senses across the top of the chart in columns two through six. Let the children pick items to list down the left column & put checks in the appropriate columns for the senses that perceive them. Examples: Wind–we hear it, feel it. A hot dog–we smell it, feel it, taste it, see it.
4. Talk about each activity afterward; recall it with glee. Say, “Wasn’t it great to see which senses we use?” “Wasn’t it fun to identify the sound?” Also, while the activity is actually taking place, try to find opportunities to say, “Isn’t this fun?” “Aren’t our bodies great?” (Note: This is a key throughout the process of teaching children joy. During & after each experience with joy, help the child to identify the joy & be conscious that he is feeling it, so that he wants it & recognises it the next time.)
Use & development of bodily skills.
1. Dancing & marching. Use a variety of music, ranging from light, fairylike ballet to heavy soldier marches. The stronger the rhythm the better. Encourage freedom of movement & lack of inhibition: “Try to kick the ceiling.” “Look like a big tree swaying in the breeze.”
2. Learning to catch a ball. Few abilities give a child a greater sense of physical confidence & satisfaction. A large foam or sponge ball is easy to catch, a good first step.
3. Hearing game. Record some common sounds & play them for the children. See if they can identify them, for example:
Blowing of bubbles (straw in soap solution)
4. Outside obstacle course. If your yard conditions permit, set up outside some of the following things to form an obstacle course:
* a six- to eight-foot-long 2×4 beam, set up on two bricks (one on each end) for the children to walk along.
* Old tires laid down in a row, to walk on or in.
* A rope stretched between two trees, eight or ten inches from the ground to jump over.
* A large inflated inner tube to climb over.
* Large cardboard cartons with one end open & a hole cut in the other end or the top for the children to crawl into & climb out of.
Be creative. Look around your yard or garage for additional ideas. Be sure the materials are free of slivers, nails, or other hazards & are on a safe surface so the children will not get hurt if they fall. Caution the children against pushing. Everyone should go in the same direction.
Care of the body.
1. Show children pictures of two people: One an “In-shape” athlete, one a sagging, out-of-shape person. List the things one does that the other doesn’t do: Exercises, eats good food, keeps himself clean, gets enough sleep, etc.
2. Identify “healthful” & “sometimes” foods. You will need a flannelboard, a piece of yarn to divide the flannelboard into two sections & several food pictures cut from magazines (coloured ones are best). Prepare each picture for the flannelboard by gluing a piece of flannel on the back. Put the pictures in a box.
Ask the children to tell you some food that helps them to be well & strong. Then ask them to name some foods that taste good but that we should not eat too often (cake, cookies & other sweets). Then say, “In this box I have some pictures of foods that are very good for you & also some foods that we will call `sometime foods’, those that we should not eat too much of. This side of the flannelboard will be for the healthful foods & that side for `sometime foods’.