All the right moves

All the right moves
When kids play at daycare, they crawl, walk, run, and jump. These skills help them discover their bodies, become more agile, and even get ready to go to school.

When kids play at daycare, they crawl, walk, run, and jump. These skills help them discover their bodies, become more agile, and even get ready to go to school. 

For Anne-Marie Lavoie-Pilote, there’s no doubt her 14-month-old son Louis is becoming more coordinated since starting daycare. “He started walking at 13 months at daycare,” says Anne-Marie. “I think seeing other kids in his group walking gave him the nudge he needed. At home, he was already standing, but he was afraid to take that first step.”

Studies, however, have shown that children aren’t physically active enough at daycare and that they spend a lot of time doing quiet activities that don’t get them moving. But that’s changing. “Educators are encouraged to do more physical activities with their groups,” says Nathalie Bigras, a professor at UQAM. “If children are to be active, it’s important that they move so they know how their bodies work.”

Being active at daycare helps children learn about movement and build confidence in their abilities.

At Louis’s daycare, the educators often set up obstacle courses for the kids. “They get them to walk around cushions and other obstacles,” says Anne-Marie. “It’s helped him get better at other things, like climbing! Now he can get up onto the couch on his own and climb the stairs on all fours.”

Developing motor skills

When kids play tag, go through obstacle courses, play with balls, or ride a scooter or tricycle, they’re developing their balance, coordination, and endurance. They’re also building muscles, burning off energy, and releasing stress.

What about fine motor skills? Kids will, of course, develop these through activities such as puzzles, drawing, and arts and crafts. We tend to forget that physical activities also help kids improve their fine motor skills.

“When toddlers are collecting rocks or drawing in the sand with their fingers, they’re using their fine motor skills,” says resource teacher Karine Busilacchi. “The same goes when they pull out a mat to take a nap, wash their hands, or do up their jacket.” Little by little, all these activities are getting them ready to hold a pencil and will help them later on, at school, when they’re learning to write.


Say yes to outdoor play!

“Every day, my daughter Elizabeth’s group goes outside to play,” says Julie. “There is a big yard with grass, sandboxes, shovels, buckets, balls, tricycles . . . The educators also take them on short walks. When I pick her up at the end of the day, there’s sand everywhere—and I love it!” Playing outside is extremely beneficial for toddlers. “Kids tend to be more active when they’re outside,” says Bigras. “Being outside gives them a chance to take small risks, explore their physical capabilities, and build confidence.”


Things to keep in mind
  • Attending a quality daycare centre can be beneficial to a child’s development.
  • It’s important that the educators are caring and attentive to children’s needs.
  • At quality daycare centres, toddlers develop their language, social, and motor skills.

Photo: Nicolas St-Germain


Source: Naître et grandir magazine, March 2019
Research and copywriting: Julie Leduc
Scientific review: Christa Japel, full professor, Department of Special Education and Training, UQAM