Body awareness is the awareness of how our bodies move in space. It involves knowledge of body parts and an understanding of how our body parts move in relation to one another and in spThe development of body awareness is influenced by sensory processing in particular proprioceptive processing. Proprioception is an internal awareness of the position of our body parts, knowing where our body parts are positioned without looking at them, through feedback we receive from the receptors in our muscles and joints.
Children who are still developing body awareness may have difficulty learning new tasks, rely on their visual system to help guide their movements, seek proprioceptive input to their joints and muscles e.g. seeking big “bear” hugs, struggle to copy movements and/or appear clumsy.
Why is body awareness important?
✔ It helps us to coordinate movements
✔ It helps us to use the right amount of muscle strength and body position required to perform a movement.
✔ It helps us to control our pencil and scissors later on.
✔ We develop our body scheme with body awareness.
✔ It allows us to move around safely without bumping into obstacles.
✔ We develop an awareness of our own abilities or capabilities.
How can we encourage development of body awareness?
✔ Proprioceptive input (heavy work activities). This includes weight bearing, pushing pulling and resistance type activities e.g. animal walks/hops, wheelbarrow walks, tug of war, pushing/pulling a small shopping trolley/pram/laundry basket, carrying heavy objects.
✔ Identifying body parts. This can be included in games such as Simon Says, Do the Hokey Pokey, while building body puzzles, and naming body parts as you draw around their body onto a large piece of paper or during daily activities such as bath times, naming body parts being washed or dried.
✔ Copying movements. This can be done in front of a mirror, during games such as Simon Says or trying to copy movements on picture cards.
✔ Develop spatial concepts in language and movement e.g. climbing over, under, through, in and out of obstacles to develop body and spatial awareness.
✔ Encourage physical gross and fine motor activities they enjoy e.g. jumping, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, squeezing dough, construction activities or toys that need to be pushed or pulled apart.
✔ Encourage sensory play e.g. sand, water, squeezing dough, rough and tumble play.
✔ Break down tasks into simpler steps when learning a new task or movement.
✔ Use visual cues to support learning new activities.
✔ Complete tasks with and without vision where possible and safe to do e.g. drawing circles in the air with your arm with eyes open and then closed.
Did you know body awareness develops throughout childhood?