Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tatty Bumpkin's Starfish Pose - Reach out and Embrace the World in 2017

By Sue Heron programme co-ordinator at Tatty Bumpkin and paediatric physiotherapist.

We can feel bombarded with exercise and ‘life improvement’ advice at this time of year. Maybe, instead of being daunted by the challenge ahead, we should aim to take little steps to enhance our own and our children’s well-being.  

At Tatty Bumpkin we believe it all starts with playing and having fun. Frequent bouts of exercise are vital for a young child so keeping the enjoyment and motivation is key. Little and often movement breaks can build up throughout the day.

Chief Medical Officer's Guidelines on Activity

The Power of the Stretch

A young child’s bones will grow ‘automatically', at specialised areas in their bones called ‘growth plates’, but their skeletal muscles need movement to lengthen and grow. 
  • Skeletal muscle (the type of muscle which moves our body and limbs) is composed of spaghetti-like structures called myofibrils. These bind together to form a cable-like structure - our muscle fibres. 
  • At birth, a baby has their full complement of muscles. However, during childhood, their muscle growth does NOT happen automatically – it occurs by: 
    • Existing muscle fibres growing in size – main cause 
    • Addition of myofibrils to increase the muscle mass 
    • Addition of further groups of myofibrils at the ends of the existing muscle fibres to increase the muscle's length. All these processes are powered by physical movement in ALL directions
  • In modern life it can be a challenge to stretch and move muscles regularly in every direction. Even from a very young age we can spend a long time sitting. This leads to certain muscles not having their daily dose of movement. 
Let’s remember though - we are going to start with little steps …. This week in Tatty and Baby Bumpkin classes babies, children and their parents will be doing starfish pose. This pose takes full advantage of the space around us and challenges us to see just how far we can stretch our muscles. 

Tatty Bumpkin’s Starfish Pose

Stretch out as a starfish!
Find a space on a carpet, or mat, where you and your child can safely move and balance without being in danger of falling on anything. 
Ideally, try to do Starfish pose with your young child, or encourage brothers and sisters to join in, as: 
    • Children under 3 years mostly learn new movements by copying the actions.
    • Research shows young children bond with their parents and ‘key people’ not only through touch but also by moving with them.
    • Starfish pose will give you a chance to stretch out your upper chest and shoulder muscles! Remember if you have issues with your muscles or joints - do check with a health professional first to make sure that this pose is appropriate for you.  
  • Take off your shoes and socks. From about 4 years, children start to use their ‘body senses’ to balance. If your child does starfish pose with bare feet they will get accurate, sensory information though the soles of their feet to help them to balance. 
  • Start standing opposite your child with your feet hip width apart and your arms by your side. Imagine you are on a beach and take a few deep breaths of the sea air. Encourage your child to copy you. These deep breaths help your child to focus their attention onto their body, they also support your child to activate their deeper postural muscles – helping them to do the pose.
  • Start active, making it fun. Encourage your child to walk, or jog, on their mat/carpet area for a few seconds (30 secs is fine) by pretending to ‘go for a walk (or run) on the beach’.
  • Then imagine you see a starfish lying on the sand! Count 1, 2, 3 and jump or step your feet apart, stretching your arms out to either side in starfish pose. Use your voice, body movements and facial expressions to encourage your child to copy you and be a five limbed starfish stretched out on the beach! 
  • You may find your child does not fully stretch out their arms. If this is the case, repeat the pose a few times making your movements very clear. You may have to gently straighten your child’s arm if they are still unsure. I remember a four year old having great difficulty straightening one arm in a Tatty Bumpkin class. This was not because they could do it – rather they had never done this movement before, or at least not very often. I suspect their mental body image in their brain (their body schema) just did not have this shape.
  • Try to hold the starfish position for at least 10 – 20 seconds - so you both get the benefit of the stretch. Remember muscles need movement to stretch and grow!
  • After the stretch bring your legs and arms back to the starting position. Walk or run on the spot for a few seconds as before, and imagine you see another starfish on the beach - ‘1, 2, 3’.. spring, or step, into starfish pose again. Repeat the walking and starfish pose sequence a few times so your child gets the idea and you both have a gentle, stretchy workout!

To Progress Starfish Yoga Activity 

Imagine your starfishes want to say ‘hello’ to one another by waving their starfish arms. 
  • Start facing each other in starfish pose.
  • Wave your hands one at a time. These are two of your five starfish arms. 
  • Then gently nod your head to one another – this is your third starfish arm. 
  • Finally, wave your feet at each other by standing on one leg and then the other – these are your fourth and fifth starfish arms! This is a great way to develop your child’s balance skills and gently activates your own core muscles. 

Why Starfish Pose is Good for Your Child

As your child does starfish pose they will: 

1. Gently stretch their back, arm and leg muscles for lifelong good posture 
Starfish pose will give your child (and you) that lovely ‘whole body’ stretch. It’s a great Yoga activity to do after sitting for a while or after a long car journey. 
Remember, our muscles need movement to stretch and grow. A big 'starfish stretch' targets your child’s arm, chest and hamstring muscles.These muscle groups can be prone to tightness because when your child is sitting, they are held in a shortened position.

2. Develop their body awareness for body confidence
Starfish pose gives your child to a chance to feel a different body position – one which they rarely do during their day. 
Variations in body position stimulate the ‘proprioceptive sense’. This sense tells us if our muscles are ‘stretched’ or ‘squeezed', whether our joints are ‘bent’ or ‘straight’. Using information from their proprioceptive sense your child will create, and update, an accurate
image of their body shape in their mind - their body schema. Having an accurate body schema - knowing where their body starts and finishes- is deeply reassuring for your child – giving them ‘body-confidence'.

3. Gently alert or calm them-selves for learning
Stimulation of the proprioceptive sense can gently calm or alert but mostly it's ‘organising’ for young brains. If your child is feeling drowsy, battling with their homework or to concentrate on getting dressed in the morning, a few starfish poses will help them to raise their alertness levels to focus. The great thing about this pose is it does not tend to lead to over excitement. Alternatively, if your child is finding it hard to settle down to their homework or to eat supper, doing a few ‘runs and the beach’ and ‘starfish stretches’ can help them to feel more grounded and calmer.

4. Progress their balance and attention skills. And the art of persistence!
Waving starfish arms is a fun way for your child to practice standing on one leg, with-out feeling too daunted. Remember taking some deep breaths before doing the pose can help your child’s balance skills. As your child attempts to balance in starfish pose they will have to focus and ‘attend to their body’. This is a direct and playful way for your child to develop their attention and this skill can be carried over into mental tasks.
If your child finds it hard to stand on one leg, place a small sturdy box, or a small pile of books, in front of them and guide them to place one leg on top. By doing this, their brain will learn the ‘pattern of the movement’ quicker. 
Even if your child has difficulty standing on one foot to start with, they will be progressing their self-regulation and persistence skills. Keep it fun and don’t over-challenge - support them to stay calm when they fail, and gently encourage them to try again.

5. Progress their counting skills 
Bring some fun maths games into starfish pose by encouraging your child to count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, as they wave their starfish arms. 

Love Tatty Bumpkin

Tatty Bumpkin Sessions - The Tatty Bumpkin Adventure this Week

Remember, for you and your child to gain the full benefit of the Tatty Bumpkin Yoga and multi-sensory activities, find your local Tatty Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html. Or, ask your child’s nursery if they
are doing Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activity sessions as part of their day. 

Our qualified Tatty Bumpkin Teachers are fully trained in child development and Yoga and are kept fully up-to-date by our professional team of paediatric physiotherapists, Yoga teachers and musicians. All Tatty Bumpkin stories are aligned to the 'Early Years Foundation Stage'(England) and the 'Curriculum for Excellence' (Scotland), they not only enhance your
child’s physical skills they develop their communication, social and thinking skills.

If your child is going to a Tatty Bumpkin class this week they will go on an adventure with Tatty Bumpkin to the seaside to visit Starfish. Your child will have a chance to: 
  • Stretch their muscles in all directions and refine their sense of balance - as they move in and out of starfish pose and jump as frogs in Tatty Bumpkin frog pose. 
  • Progress their speaking and listening skills as say ‘hello’ to their friends and jump in time to the Tatty Bumpkin Frog song. 
  • Develop their imagination and thinking skills as they come with own ideas on how to help the starfish choose his shoes!! 
  • But most of all, your child will have fun with others as they stretch as starfish, jump as frogs, buzz as bees and finally swim with the dolphins!
Our multi-sensory Yoga inspired sessions capture young imaginations

Or A New Start with Tatty Bumpkin in 2017? 

Maybe, you are thinking of a new career for 2017, which gives you:
  • The opportunity to work with kids
  • A great sense of job satisfaction and
  • Flexible working to fit around your own family
Find out how you could be trained to deliver Baby and Tatty Bumpkin classes in your area at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/business/index.html

Leading a Baby Bumpkin session

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