Throughout the month of April, UMKC student-athletes teamed up with the Edgar L. & Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center (Berkley) to celebrate “Month of the Young Child,” an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children which occurs every April and focuses on promoting the benefits of outdoor play and/or recess in schools, preschools and early childhood programs. A new report compiled collaboratively by Berkley and the UMKC School of Nursing and Health Sciences, explains the alarming trend toward limiting outdoor play/recess during the school day and how the act of outdoor play “is a crucial component in the growth and development of the brain, body and intellect.”
Student-athletes from the Women’s Soccer team visited Berkley twice in April to interact with the children there and engage in sports and outdoor activities during afternoon recess.
“The children absolutely love running and playing with the athletes, said Polly Prendergast, senior director at Berkley. “While being loads of fun for the children, outdoor play such as running, playing soccer or basketball has a positive impact on brain development.”
Kara Priest, a sophomore in the UMKC School of Education said, “Volunteering at Berkley ties into being an elementary education major because kids are my passion, so it is always awesome to get the opportunity to just hang out with some kids. It also ties into being a student athlete because we are looked up by the community, so we always want to involve ourselves with Kansas City outside of our sport.
“My favorite part was playing with a group of girls on their ‘farm’ where they pretended they had to milk cows, get eggs from chickens and produce crops. Playing with the kids was really awesome because they were so excited to have us there.”
Another sophomore, Sydni Young, also enjoyed the visits to Berkley. “Since the children were fairly young and I’m aiming to teach early childhood education, this activity tied in perfectly with my major! In relation to being a student athlete, we must be involved in volunteering, and once I heard this opportunity was available, I knew this is the volunteering I wanted to be a part of.”
She particularly enjoyed getting to know the children on their own turf.
“They showed me around the playground area, proud to take the role as leaders,” she explained. “I really enjoyed being able to be with them at recess even more so than in the classroom because you really got to witness them as kids, playing, laughing and enjoying themselves. I think that’s important to remember, that even though they’re students, they’re still just kids who want to have fun.”
Additionally, the UMKC Men’s Soccer team welcomed one of Berkley’s pre-school classes to join them after a morning practice at the Durwood Soccer Facility. The student-athletes played with the preschoolers by chasing soccer balls, shooting goals and practicing their kicking skills.
Prendergast noted that “Games using balls help children develop anticipation and prediction skills. Figuring out which way will the ball roll or bounce relies on a child having many experiences with different shaped, sized and textured balls.”
“We always look forward to Month of the Young Child,” notes Amelia Howard, assistant director of Academic Support. “The student-athletes enjoy being able to interact and play with the children at the Berkley Center and show them how much fun playing sports can be.”
Since 1993, Berkley has been part of the UMKC School of Education and serves as a learning laboratory for early childhood education students.