Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mat Slamming

We have a group of 3-year-old boys who, as three-year-old boys do every year at around this time, are letting me know they're ready for wrestling. You know the ones, the guys who just can't keep their hands off of one another, who spontaneously wrestle with one another as readily as they say, "Hi." I've already written quite a bit about the wrestling part of Woodland Park's curriculum (Why We Wrestle, Wrestling 2010, They Went Home Tired), and this post isn't even about wrestling, so I won't go into it here any more than to say that many adults see "fighting," but these 3-year-olds know it's not.

I like to start by introducing wrestling first with our older, bigger Pre-K kids with the idea that they can help me remind their smaller, younger classmates of the rules and expectations when we lay down the mats for the whole class. This in mind, I had our gym mats ready on Tuesday, leaned against the wall. Typically, we arrange one group of mats in a rectangle for wrestling, while we put the rest in an end-to-end strip for those not inclined so that they can practice their "tumbling." Instead of introducing it as a pre-determined activity, I merely said, "Today we're playing with mats."

As the kids eagerly unfolded them and arranged them around the floor according to their own ideas, I suggested as casually as I could, "Hey, maybe we could wrestle," which was met immediately with a chorus of "No!" Okay then. I offered instead, "Maybe we should practice our tumbling." We agreed to this and set about arranging the mats in a long end-to-end strip.

During this process one of the mats got turned up on its end for a moment, the way we do for our annual mat maze. One of the children, I think it was Sylvia, launched her body into it, slamming herself and the mat to the floor together in one loud slap. As a boy, my brother and I used to build cardboard block structures at the end of a long hallway, then charge into them. Sylvia brought that back to me and the idea was born.

I stood a mat up at the end of the tumbling strip and called, "Who wants to knock it down?"

Soon the children were lining themselves up at one end of the room, taking turns running full speed, then slamming their bodies one at a time into the mat. What fun!

We tried two, then three mats, creating a sort of domino effect. And as you can see from these photos, we had a lot of fun experimenting with launching ourselves into them backwards, rolling into them, and detouring around them to hit them from the other side.

I tried out the term, "body bowling" to describe what we were doing, but I believe the kids are calling it "mat slamming." 

We did it again the following week and we still haven't gotten around to wrestling.

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Pauline said...

So awesome. That full stop action is actually a need a lot of kids have: run, run, run and then sudden stop against a mat, it feels great when done safely...OT's often look for ways to facilitate this safely for some kids. great post!!

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

This is a wonderful idea - children do love to throw themselves, and I do think This provides some good sensory integration needs.
Thanks for the reminder, especially now that it's winter, this is something I need to let my children do.

Mullin Avenue Workshop said...

Oops, that didn't look right - I think that this would fulfill sensory integration needs, (for all children).

Bonnie Hacker said...

I love the references to OT and sensory processing. This is a great activity to provide vestibular (running), proprioceptive (crashing into mat) and touch pressure (mat falling on top of child or visa versa) input. And all children need this type of input, although obviously some need it even more. Great activity!!

Shellee said...

I love that you keep remindng me (and especially my husband who seems to forget what little boys do physically) that kids need to throw themselves around and not to fear them getting hurt.

And the wrestling part...yes, it's not fighting. Do you hear that my wonderful husband? :) Thanks Tom!

Males in Early Childhood said...

I have to say Tom that it's not just young children who like that type of play. You're never too old.

ShrekTheTeacher said...

Fantastic! I used to do the same with pillows as a child. I'm 1 of only 48 men who teach in Nursery (age 3-4) in the UK and I find your stuff inspirational...just got to get a super hero outfit now!!

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