Marching also encourages and promotes physical fitness. "Because it's an exaggerated movement, it uses more of the child's own weight than does walking, which means it promotes muscular strength, one of the five health-related fitness factors," Pica says. "And if it's a lively bout of marching (lasting for several minutes), it can also promote cardiovascular endurance, another of the fitness factors."
Pica suggests practicing marching in place, then challenging your child to see how high he can lift his knees and swing his arms. "While marching, turn in one direction and then the other," she says. "Pretend to play a musical instrument typically found in a marching band, like a slide trombone, or cymbals. And, of course, you can put on a recording of a march, or break out the pots and pans and hold a parade around the house or yard. It doesn't matter if it's only a two-person parade!"
Clark offers these five activities:
- Make your own marching streamers. Let your child help you glue two paper plates together so they are sturdy. Cut a hole out of the center, creating a doughnut shape. Let your child glue or tape ribbon, crepe paper, or strips of paper to the paper plate. Your toddler can wave the streamer as he or she marches.
- Play some Sousa marches or other loud music. Have your child march around the room. When the music stops, your child "freezes" in place. When the music begins again, your child continues marching.
- Here's a great way for parents to relax while toddlers march. Simply sit in a chair and tell your toddler, "Can you march to the refrigerator?" After they reach the refrigerator say, "Now I'd like to see you march to the TV room and touch the green chair." Your child marches all over the house while you get a few minutes to rest your feet!
- Try going outside and marching around the neighborhood. Your toddler exerts extra effort and might just take a nap. While you're outside, incorporate some learning activities. Say something like, "Let's walk to the mailbox." "Now let's march to the blue car." "Time to walk to the street light." Continue to alternate walking and marching, which helps your child develop listening skills.
- Find an area that has some space to move. Play a game of follow-the-leader, where you march and your child follows you. Try marching with your hands on your head, march while crouching down low and march sideways. Then let your child be the leader.