MonkeyPlayTM is a brand new adventure in family health and physical literacy–the “ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life.” It is a program that involves fundamental locomotor skills, imaginative play and free association while encouraging movement through the mimicry of animal behavior. Lessons are centered on the total child within a nurturing and accepting environment. Both instructional direct methods, and indirect methods–where children are free to explore and discover a range of movement possibilities on their own, are incorporated into the program. Each week we focus on various components of movement vital to childhood development; e.g., balance, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility, strength, endurance, manipulative skills, non-manipulative skills, and various combinations of each. Broad skill areas such as balancing, rolling, jumping and landing, climbing, and weight transfer are presented in a variety of situations appropriate to a child’s ability and confidence level. Within each 35-40 minute session specific blocks of movement will feature unique animal attributes such as: the world’s fastest, the worlds strongest, and those with the best balance. This focus will allow children to develop a deeper appreciation for unusual animal behaviors affording greater freedom for creative play and mimicry. Healthy eating tips will also be covered in every session using animals as the role model to convey the best way to refuel the body. Each unit concludes with take home educational activities for parents and children.
1. Why is MonkeyPlay so important and why was it created?
Childhood obesity and physical inactivity are epidemics in the United States and they continue to rise. 33% of children today are overweight or obese and inactivity increases all causes of mortality, doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. This has profound, negative impacts on the physical and emotional health of children, their families, and society as a whole. Children do not have to be obese or overweight to be categorized as “unfit”. If they are inactive or “unfit” they may face life long risk factors that stem from sedentary lifestyles. MonkeyPlayTM was created in response to the alarming trend in childhood obesity and its roots in inactivity, poor nutritional choices, and disengagement from nature. By engaging in MonkeyPlayTM children can begin to develop positive attitudes toward active lifestyles. This is an essential component to combatting childhood health issues.
2. Who supports and reviews the program?
MonkeyPlayTM has been in development for close to two years. It is based on science and research and incorporates the successful pieces of previous programs as well as unique innovative ideas. Several of the University of Michigan sports medical doctors, pediatricians, kinesiologists and senior dieticians review the material.
3. What makes MonkeyPlay so different from other activities like dance and karate?
Dance classes and karate classes are wonderful activities for children! They provide an opportunity for physical activity. MonkeyPlayTM is not like either of these examples. MonkeyPlayTM is designed to evoke behavior change for the purpose of lifelong well being. With the goal of achieving the three components of physical literacy (ability, confidence and desire) we introduce the “joy” of movement by inviting children to engage in the pure pleasure of active play and exploration. Children are kept moving for 35- 40 full minutes, there is no waiting to take a turn, and there is no exact movement to master-no specific kick or plier. The opportunity for failure is almost nonexistent. Because the program focuses on animal behavior there are underling science lessons in every session as children are introduced to animals from all over the world.
4. How does MonkeyPlayTM help parents? Why young children?
Research is definitive; children develop competency through their fundamental motor skills during the early childhood years; from the end of infancy to about 5-6 years of age. It is during these critical foundation years that movement has the greatest impact on development, not only physically but emotionally and socially as well. Often many children do not receive the appropriate kinds of experiences to develop these skills and may not only start kindergarten with developmental delays, but also, with premature onset of health related problems.
Children need opportunities to practice motor skills and to have interested adults and other children participate with them. MonkeyPlayTM provides simple weekly positive role modeling activities along with nutritional guidance. We refer to these activities as MonkeyPlay Parent PowerTM. By targeting children in their early developmental years along with the family members who guide them the program aims to help children establish a positive attitude and appreciation for a lifetime of participation in health related physical activity, as well as provide support for parents on their quest to becoming the best role models during this vital time.
5. How does MonkeyPlayTM work?
MonkeyPlayTM is divided into 6 blocks of movement. We start with a warm up to rhythmic music and animal images. We then move to the animal stations and explore specific animal behaviors. Next, we incorporate random “MonkeyPlay Time”– free form expression. In Block Four we transition to game play. There are over 50 active animal games in the MonkeyPlayTM program manual. During Block Five we introduce specific animals and what they are best at. For example, children may mimic the amazing balancing abilities of the best balancers in the animal kingdom. The handouts at the end of the session coincide with the specialty animals. Block Six is cool down; stretch and catch time. MonkeyPlayTM is for children 2-8 years of age.
6. What are the benefits?
Physical activity, among all ages, is associated with improvements across numerous areas of health. It is vital to give young children a healthy start as early as possible so they may develop the skills to become vigorous adults. Cognitive learning and physical activity go hand-in-hand and reinforce one another in early childhood development. Research studies have determined that daily physical activity among children is associated with:
- Increased overall fitness
- Improvements in cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk profiles
- Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease in adulthood
- Decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in childhood and adulthood
- Enhanced bone health and development
- Improvements in mental health and well-being
- Advancements in cognitive and academic performance
- Finer development in motor control and physical functioning
- Increased school readiness skills
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Increased learning capacity
- Healthier social and emotional skills
7. How do I sign up my child or get my daycare or school to sign on?
MonkeyPlay runs in 8-week sessions and any daycare or primary school is eligible to participate. We send an instructor out to the facility bringing all the equipment needed to run the program. We set up, bring in the kids, run the program, send home activities and handouts each week, and take down all the equipment when we leave.
8. Who do I contact?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248 891 3249 to arrange a presentation at your facility.