Friday, May 6, 2011

Strength and Endurance Play for Toddlers

Have you ever watched a toddler unexpectedly lift something heavier than anything they had experienced before?  Part of a toddler's developing physical awareness and motor development is carrying objects. Most toddlers will experiment with how to hold things in different ways and eventually carry them around.

We recently designed and created a heavier version of a classic push-pull toy for toddlers. This popular toy in our Young Explorer area had to be replaced often due to the amount of usage it was receiving. Although it was intended as a pushing or pulling toy, our young visitors liked picking it up, and when they inadvertently set it down, it would crack. Mark Wickart, our Exhibit Fabrication Manager, was given the challenge to build one that would last longer than the lighter-weight version. He crafted the main body out of Baltic birch plywood and the trim from scrap pieces of butternut, oak, walnut, pine and maple woods.

Yes, children can push and pull the new version! They still attempt to pick it up and they sometimes succeed. Even at such a young age, children show determination to carry it and pride when the task is accomplished, even if only for a few seconds. Physical activity is critical for healthy brain development and cognitive functioning in children.

Pushing, pulling and carrying objects also strengthen a child's muscles and joints. The fact that toddlers will inherently challenge themselves for greater strength opportunities in play tells us the importance of physical movement. Our role is to provide the right materials for them to challenge themselves! 


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