(Chelsea Update would like to thank Bob Milbrodt for the information in this story.)
Last Monday, the Chelsea Kiwanis Club heard from Ruth Habrecht from Bob-a-loo, an adventure-based movement and learning program for preschool and kindergarten children.
Habrecht directs the Hutan non-profit organization, which created the program in collaboration with pediatricians, nutritionists, psychologists, school principals, educators, and parents. Since children ages 2-6 tend to enjoy mimicking animals, Bob-a-loo uses that to increase physical activity, improve social skills, and achieve better learning outcomes.
Engaging with children, especially with introverts, to tackle and overcome motor tasks and challenges just above their current level of mastery, builds self-confidence. The children then are more likely to believe they have the skills to help them navigate life.
Bob-a-loo was originally designed to reduce childhood inactivity and sedentary behavior, which is directly correlated with obesity and early developmental delays, (e.g. staring at computer screens). For the past four years its aims have expanded to also unite families and the community in addressing educational disparities that stem from lack of opportunity and resources, and the disadvantages facing low-income families.
Using colorful posters of each animal’s different body positions, the teacher relays facts about the behavior and gets children to imitate the motions to mimic the animal. This includes running, jumping, crawling, etc.
Children also use small replicas of animals to toss to a target, and playing catch with soft inflatable balls. Obstacle courses are set up in classrooms for kids to navigate. Hesitant children soon overcome their reluctance and dive in. Manuals for teachers are included, as well as 2-minute videos to help work the program.
Since 2014, Hutan has implemented its Bob-a-loo program to over 700 different children at 11 preschools across Southeastern Michigan. In an evaluation of 70 children who completed the program, significant increases in self-confidence, improved balance, and increased agility were observed. Most of their parents reported their child had increased physical activity and a better understanding of the importance of being active. The program began in Chelsea, Dexter, and Ypsilanti as Monkey Play; and now has expanded to Manchester, Stockbridge, and Grass Lake, in partnership with 5 Healthy Towns.Bob-a-loo