Secret Marchers Unite
When my daughter was a toddler, I often found myself marching around the house with her. Who could resist that rhythmic beat of the Barney theme song? My neighbors probably got a good laugh out of us marching to the mailbox or marching in circles in the driveway. And secretly, I really enjoyed high-stepping around the house having my daughter following behind.
Silvana Clark has a secret too. "I have a confession ... because I work from home, I actually 'march' through the house as I go from my office to the kitchen to the laundry room," says Clark, the author of 301 Bright Ideas for Busy Kids . "I figure raising my knees and swinging my arms gives me more exercise. Naturally I only do this when I'm alone!"
The Rhythm of Marching
Toddlers love to be active, Clark says. "They're just getting stability walking, so running or skipping isn't quite in their developmental capability yet," she says. "Marching is the perfect way for them to take walking to the next step. Parents are so quick to tell toddlers, 'Slow down, you'll fall, and get hurt.' Marching doesn't let your toddler get moving too fast, so the chance of falling is less."
"Children just seem to get a kick out of marching," says Rae Pica, children's physical activity specialist and author of A Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child. "It's like an exaggerated walk, and young children love anything that's exaggerated or silly. And, of course, the rhythm of a march—and of marching music—is nice and steady and resonates with the rhythm of their hearts."
The Benefits of High Steps
Start by having your toddler raise his knees as he walks, which turns into marching, Clark says. "After a while, get him to swing his arms while he marches," she says. "You can even practice marching backwards. Not only does it help your child's physical coordination, but she learns a new word, 'backwards.'"
"Balance and coordination are certainly developed when a child is marching," Pica says. "There's also cross-lateral movement involved (the use of the right arm and left leg at the same time, and the reverse), which requires both hemispheres of the brain to communicate across the corpus callosum," she says. "This stimulates the brain and is critical to a child's later ability to read and write with ease."