By ROBIN CAUDELL
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Dr. Diane Craft leads a unique one-day conference, “Active Play! Fun and Physical Activities for Young Children,” on Saturday, Sept. 29, at Family Connections.
The conference’s title is taken from Craft’s book of the same name that she co-wrote with her husband, Craig Smith.
“What prompted this conference is obesity prevention and the need to get very young children, toddlers through 5 years old, moving and active physically,” said Jamie Basiliere, executive director of the Childcare Coordinating Council of the North Country.
“We hope to draw preschool teachers, childcare providers and kindergarten teachers to this all-day program, offering a day of fun, physical and developmentally appropriate things to do with children 18 months to 5 years,” Basiliere said. “The activities require readily available and inexpensive equipment. They are simple-to-lead activities to get children the practice they need for proper movement, skill development and obesity prevention.”
Craft is a professor in adapted physical education at SUNY Cortland, past president of the National Consortium of Physical Education and Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities and a past chair of the national Adapted Physical Activity Council.
She was always a strong advocate of inclusion in preschool physical activities, including students with special needs.
“It quickly became apparent that there was little information on developmentally appropriate physical activities for preschoolers,” Craft said. “My husband and I decided we should write a book to address and overcome a number of barriers to physical activity.”
At the heart of the activities is inexpensive equipment that can be purchased at a dollar store or is readily available around the house.
“We tried all the activities in several different family-childcare settings. The ones in the book are the ones that worked. We tried it in family childcare where students of multiple ages are together. These activities tend to work well with children of different ages and abilities. We thought it would be helpful to have a DVD showing children doing the activities,” Craft said.
“Swat the Fly” is a favorite.
“The intent is for kids to develop their cardiovascular endurance. The idea is to motive them to run and run. So, some of the children drag a plate with a picture of fly taped to both sides. Pool noodles cut in half become the fly swatter. They go running to swat the fly, hit the plate with the pool noodle. It was my husband’s idea,” she said.
The activity can be changed to “Beat the Drum” for religious or ethical reasons, Craft said. A picture of a drum is pasted on both sides of the plate. Halved pool noodles become drum sticks.
“Children love it, and adults don’t mind it. It’s one of those few times it is OK to hit something. That’s highly motivational for most children,” she said.
In her research, Craft found most childcare providers receive little or no preparation for leading children in physical activities.
“The reception to these ideas has been very, very positive,” Craft said. “It’s been really well-received because it’s evident the children enjoy the activities. The equipment is not a barrier, and the space is not a barrier. There has been a gratifying number of childcare providers starting to lead these. It’s likely the children are getting more physical activity. The best thing, the childcare provider takes the activity and changes it and comes up with their own version or a more original activity. It sort of gives a person a jump-start.”
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IF YOU GO
WHAT: "Active Play! Fun and Physical Activities for Young Children" with Dr. Diane H. Craft. WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. WHERE: Family Connections, 194 U.S. Oval, Plattsburgh. COST: $50. Participants receive a nutritious breakfast, lunch and certificate for six hours of training. PHONE: 561-4999 to register.