As the weather turns colder and outdoor time becomes shorter, indoor gross motor time becomes a much more important part of the early childhood curriculum. If you are lucky enough to have a large indoor space that allows for running and climbing, jumping and riding, then count yourself among the lucky. Children (all children, not just young children) need sufficient time and space to move their entire bodies. Physical development, just like the other domains of development, is encouraged through positive opportunities for practice in supporting and engaging environments.
Over the next several Thursdays, I am going to write about an indoor gross motor activity that supports the physical development of the young child while providing additional opportunities to encourage mathematical thinking.
Simon Says is one of those games that grows as the child grows. Even two-year olds can play a simplified version of Simon Says, one without consequences, right or wrong, or a set of rigid rules. This game is exactly like Follow the Leader, but Simon gives verbal directions rather than modeling the action. The rules are simple. At first, the teacher is Simon. The teacher gives directions that begin with the words Simon Says and follows with what the children should do. Once in a while, the teacher gives a direction without preceding it with Simon Says, and the players are supposed to ignore the directions because Simon didn’t say. When children are older, Simon Says becomes a game of elimination, but I wouldn’t play that way during the early years. (Sitting out because you failed at preschool is simply not an option for me.)
When playing with preschoolers, try to include numbers in your directions. “Simon says, jump 3 times.” or “Simon says, stand on one foot.” You can include notions of spatial awareness. “Simon says, walk to the edge of the rug.” or “Simon says, spin in a circle.” You can also include some simple counting. “Simon says, count to 5.” or “Simon says, count our friends.” The whole game doesn’t have to include math, but some of it can. It is a natural fit and works well.
Once the children in your group become familiar with the game, be sure to encourage the children to take turns being Simon. The opportunity to give the directions, rather than following them, is quite powerful, so let them try.