If you close your eyes, do you know where your body is? You may be reading this while sitting in a chair, standing, arms bent/ straight, laying down? Much of the time, we don’t even think about our body position during specific tasks.
What is body awareness?
The mental picture of one’s own body parts, where they are, how they interrelate, and how they move. Body awareness is a combination of our proprioceptive and vestibular sensory systems. Our proprioceptive input is the unconscious awareness of sensations coming from our muscles and joints- telling where our bodies are moving and how. Our vestibular input is the sensory input that responds to the pull of gravity. This form tells us about our head’s position in relation to the surface of the earth and coordination of movements that affect our equilibrium, (Kranowitz).
Why is this important?
This kind of information is important for every move we make! Children who have difficulty with body awareness and proprioceptive input, may have difficulty learning new tasks. For children who do have difficulty with body awareness, another approach for learning may need to be considered. They may have difficulty completing movements or even sitting still. Body awareness can also affect your hands, impacting your child’s ability to complete fine motor tasks. Your child may even have difficulty-grading his/ her movements for hugs, grasping objects (feeding utensils or pencils), and playing with simple toys.
5 Ways You Can Improve:
Increase the understanding of directional terms (up/ down, beside, over/ under). Have the child set up an obstacle course to complete. Discuss the actions/ movements that the child is completing. Have the child describe the movement verbally and complete the movements!
Play fun games like Twister, “Simon Says”, or even movement imitation games like the Hokey Pokey! You can decrease the difficulty of the task with providing basic movements for your child to imitate. Left/ right discrimination will also be important for such activities.
Play games that involve children identifying specific body parts. Start with the basics, and then add more detailed features. For example, have your child close their eyes and touch their head, arms, body, legs, hands, toes, etc. You can also increase/ decrease the difficulty of the task with adding various components. For example, touch right hand to your right foot, or touch your left hand to the floor, or touch your left elbow to your right knee. Also engage in drawing a picture of themselves and identifying the various body parts.
Provide increased movement for kids who have difficulty with body awareness. Movements of importance are “heavy work” tasks. Some suggestions for heavy work in the home include: pushing a heavy laundry basket, carrying the groceries, changing the loads of laundry, marching, animal crawls, and jumping/ crashing on the bed. In the school environment kids may move chairs/ desks, carry books, pushing/ pulling gym equipment, jumping, opening heavy doors, and wall push ups.
For increased body awareness to hands provide playdough, modeling clay, cutting thick paper, exploration of various textures, digging, and tug of war.
Compass Program. (2013, September). Fact Sheet: Body Awareness. Retrieved from http://sydney.edu.au/compass/documents/Body_Awareness_Factsheet.pdf
Isbell, C. Isbell, R. (2007). Sensory Integration: A Practical Guide for Preschool Teachers. Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, Inc.
Kranowitz, C. (2005). The Out of Sync Child. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Movement and Body Awareness. Retrieved from http://school.familyeducation.com/sensory-integration/growth-and-development/40188.html