Big Body Play

Think back to your childhood play experiences. You probably played games with siblings or children from your neighborhood. You most likely experienced some level of freedom to explore the environment and navigate social relationships through your play. Things are a bit different for some children these days. Opportunities to roam and explore have decreased while organized activities have become predominant.

One element of play that has also become increasingly rare is the opportunity to engage in big body play. Big body play includes rolling, spinning, pulling, pushing, tumbling, wrestling, tagging, climbing, and risk-taking.

Big body play activities are often discouraged in early learning environments because they sometimes appear aggressive or dangerous. Yes, children engage in fighting and aggression and these instances should be addressed. However, big body play proponents advocate for children to have the chance to use their bodies in ways that can actually decrease the amount of aggression in the learning environment.

Frances Carlson M.A.Ed., the author of the book Big Body Play, cites the following benefits of big body play:

  • Opportunity for intense physical exertion
  • Chance to release stress or “blow off steam”
  • Release of brain chemicals that benefit development
  • Increases communication with peers
  • Recognition of nonverbal cues
  • Practice turn-taking and following rules
  • Builds empathy and respect for peers

Carlson says that one way to distinguish between big body play and aggression is to look for signs from the children.  She states that, generally, children want big body play to continue for as long as possible, meaning they will negotiate and adapt activities so that everyone remains engaged.  Children engaged in big body play will maintain laughter and a willingness to engage with their play partner. With aggressive acts, one or more children will want the interaction to end and will communicate that fact.

If you are interested in learning more about big body play and how to introduce elements of this type of play into your environment, consider visiting Carlson’s website.

ChildCare Education Institute Offers No-Cost Online Course on Active Learning Experiences in Early Childhood

ChildCare Education Institute® (CCEI), an online child care training provider dedicated exclusively to the early care and education workforce, offers CUR124: Active Learning Experiences in Early Childhood as a no-cost trial course to new CCEI users November 1-30, 2021.

Young children are experiential learners who acquire information with all of their senses. The more senses used in the learning process, the more information children retain.  For young children, movement is their preferred mode of learning. During the early years, the brain is closely tuned to the body′s actions; with each movement and sensation, the brain creates new neural connections and builds on previously acquired skills and knowledge.

Skills developed during early childhood can be separated into distinct developmental domains: physical, cognitive, emotional, and social.  Although the developmental domains are distinct, children learn skills across all domains concurrently; when children learn something in one domain, it impacts the other domains. For example, an improvement in gross motor skills (running, jumping, climbing) can boost a child′s confidence (emotional domain), which in turn can impact his social interactions on the playground.

Active learning involves the use of physical movement and sensory experiences to promote growth across all developmental domains. Active learning promotes skills development and knowledge acquisition through movement, exploration, and discovery.  Rote learning involves memorization through repetition. Rote learning plays an important part in learning certain types of information, and it also provides important “exercise” for the brain. However, rote learning plays a very limited role in early childhood education.  In later years, rote learning will be used to memorize the multiplication tables, tricky spellings, grammar rules, and historical facts, but young children (infant through age 8) do not have the cognitive abilities or the developmental need to engage heavily in rote learning.

Active learning leads to authentic learning, in which the purpose is to demonstrate comprehension and the mastery of skills. Active learning is used when a toddler plays with a shape-sorting toy; using trial and error, he gradually learns where various shapes fit and he becomes more efficient (skilled) each time he plays. Another example involves the child′s acquisition of language; over time, a child learns language by listening to other people speak and, little by little, he puts this knowledge to use.

This course presents practical methods for integrating movement, active involvement, and group games across all curriculum areas, including art, language arts, mathematics, music, science, and social studies. Students will have the chance to discover best practices and effective strategies for engaging in active learning and game play with children of various ages.

“Movement is the preferred mode of learning for young children,” says Maria C. Taylor, President and CEO of CCEI.  “Active learning that combines elements of cognitive, social/emotional, and physical domains builds a bridge between mind and body.”

CUR124: Active Learning Experiences in Early Childhood is a two-hour, intermediate-level course and grants 0.2 IACET CEU upon successful completion. The course is also offered in Spanish.  Current CCEI users with active, unlimited annual subscriptions can register for professional development courses at no additional cost when logged in to their CCEI account. Users without subscriptions can purchase child care training courses as block hours through CCEI online enrollment.

For more information, visit or call 1.800.499.9907, prompt 3, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. EST 

ChildCare Education Institute, LLC

ChildCare Education Institute®, a division of Excelligence Learning Corporation, provides high-quality, distance education certificates and child care training programs in an array of child care settings, including preschool centers, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, nanny care, online daycare training and more. Over 150 English and Spanish child care training courses are available online to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start Requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credentials.  CCEI, a Council for Professional Recognition CDA Gold Standard™ training provider, is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and is accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).