Monday, January 7, 2013

"My Six Year Old is Out of Control"

Said myself recently while on the phone with a friend, as I watched 6yo Lark teasing and snatching and giggling and running into walls in effort to escape the (well deserved) rage of her older sister.

My friend asked me how much big muscle movement she'd gotten in the past few days. Oh. I always forget that about six year olds. 

Mirth at six
They need (in my opinion) 4-5 hours of big movement a day, most days, more than that. That's a lot of movement. They need it like air and food and water and anything else we wouldn't blame them for losing their marbles over not getting; mine tells me on a regular basis "I just feel FEISTY inside, and I have to move my body!!" It's true. They literally need to. Otherwise, you get that wild-eyed, "I can't hear you, I'm too busy looking completely INSANE" thing that people that age have going on when their parents are too tired to remember that they need to move like mama needs cream in her chai. 

Feed them real food, keep them in a predictable routine and give them AMPLE opportunity to let their muscles do hard work and they're completely different creatures. No joke. They won't be docile (what fun would THAT be? ;oP), but they will be more likely to be able to hear basic instruction and settle themselves at bedtime. I'll take that, please! 

So, back to Lark. After a good hike, a wrestling session with Barefoot Man, several rounds of giant floor puzzle, 3 hours in the play tunnels at a local restaurant and 2 hours digging/hauling in the dormant garden, she's starting to find her bearings again. That's in the past 24 hrs. Yep. Let that sink in, self. That's how much it can take. 

If you have a child with a naturally physically oriented personality, it can be even MORE. For you myers briggs geeks, if your child is ESTP/ESFP/ISFP/ISTP (aka, the "experienceres/artisans"), they're going to pretty much spend that year in perpetual motion. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that providing enough physical outlet for naturally physical kids during this year may be one of the most important things you do for them as a parent.

If you find yourself (like me) saying, "Be still!! Settle down!! Be Calm! You're getting wild/crazy!", take note and realize what they *actually* need to hear is, "put on your shoes and let's GO!" Those words and that exasperated feeling can cue us to the fact that what they desperately need is an arena to unleash all that big, intense, boundless energy. Sitting still is NOT going to help. This pretty much applies to any age, really. 

wrestling with Papa
So, here's my best list of gross motor activities for 6 year olds: 

-pillow diving (for the coordinated among them): jumping from coffee table or couch arms into a giant pile of couch cushions and/or pillows
-digging holes. Yep. Just in the dirt. 
-carrying grocery bags
-hammering big nails into wood (supervised)
-swimming (my personal favorite, because it really wipes them out FAST with all the resistance from water) 
-rolling downhill
-racing up stairs on all fours, sliding down on rear (Who can do it the most times? Not you, I bet!!)
-collecting sticks
-building dams in streams with sizeable rocks
-jump houses
-play places
-indoor obstacle courses
-cardboard tunnels with flashlights
-indoor hide and seek (write your own rules to suit family needs/limits)
-switching the laundry over for mom (wet clothes are HEAVY ;o) )
-building forts in the woods
-indoor hammock/outdoor hammock
-carrying a sib on their back
-swings/being swung around in a sheet/rebozo/sturdy afghan
-pillow fights
-weed pulling
-carrying watering cans in the garden
-yoga (there are lots of nice free kiddie yoga workouts on youtube!)
-locking arms and pushing against mom or dad's back while sitting
-tree climbing 
-pushing the baby stroller on walks
-indoor trampoline (this was a joint Christmas present from a year ago that gets a lot of love)
-Hippity Hop jumping balls (with handle...this SAVES us in the winter right before dinner, she goes at it for the better part of an hour while I cook!) 

Also, during this year, I just don't give them a lot of grief about the state of their clothes. I buy sturdy stuff and don't sweat it if it gets worn/stained/whatever. Clothes are for living in. Better to have confident hearts and competent bodies than perfectly consign-able duds. 

On a similarly pragmatic note, it takes a lot of decent fuel to move as much as they do, so I try especially hard to make sure lots of fruits, veg, protein and complex carbs are available to them about every 2 hrs or so. Lots of water, too. This is a lousy time for me to try and make a point about food; when they're hungry they're RAVENOUS, and, again, the kids who move the most are often the ones who are going to notice weird textures/tastes more. If they don't love something, other acceptable options are available. (our current obsessions are dill carrots, peanut butter, oat squares and jerky, lol)