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The Benefits of Scarf Play

Scarf play is a wonderful sensory activity that can benefit babies, toddlers, and children of all ages. At every age of a child’s development, there are scarf activities that can help with that child’s advancement to the next developmental milestone.

To understand why and how scarf plays are so beneficial, it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand two chief axioms of child development. First, as infants, children begin to learn about the world around them through their senses. Second, as they mature, children learn through movement and exploration. Since scarves are colorful, tactile, easy to grab, and fun to manipulate, it’s no surprise, then, that scarf play is so attractive - and so beneficial - to children!

These are the reasons scarf play plays such a seminal role in my toddler music classes. My students love “scarf time” and have no idea they are learning so much. What are some of the things they are learning? Below is a partial list of the sensory, motor skill, cognitive and other skills they acquire as a result of repetitive scarf play in my classes:

  • When scarves are moving, a baby’s sense of sight is stimulated by tracking the scarf with her eyes. An infant’s sense of touch is similarly activated when the scarf touches her skin.

  • By learning to grasp a scarf, a baby is developing her fine motor skills in preparation for learning to grasp a ball, a crayon, and, later, a pencil.

  • Peek-a-boo games with scarves develops an understanding of object permanence, which is the understanding that an object still exists even though it is temporarily unseen. This skill is notably in play when children are learning how to separate from their parents and caregivers. As they learn object permanence, they comprehend that a parent or caregiver who has left the room or home temporarily still exists and will return.

  • As a child swooshes and moves her scarf from left to right and alternates between her right and left hands, she learns how to cross the midline of her body, which is a seminal pre-reading and pre-writing skill. Ability to cross the body’s midline is also critical for success in learning a musical instrument later on.

  • By manipulating a scarf to go up or down, side to side, around and around, figure eight, and in an array of other directions and patterns, children are acquiring kinesthetic awareness (a subconscious sense of how the body feels when it moves in a certain way) and developing their sensorimotor systems, both of which are prerequisites to cognitive learning. For instance, when a child throws her scarf up in the air, she is learning the mechanics of raising her arms and releasing the scarf into the air. She also discovers how the scarf moves as it floats down to the ground.

  • By emulating objects in nature (animals, trees, leaves, rain, snow, etc.) and dancing free-style with their scarves, children are exploring the many intricate and nuanced ways in which their scarves and their bodies can move. They begin to master their vestibular system, which is the system that regulates balance and coordination. They also engage in imaginative and creative play.

These are just some of the ways in remarkable ways in which scarf play can facilitate children’s sensory, cognitive, motor skill, physical, and emotional development – critical building blocks they need to grow and have success in school.

No matter where you live, I hope you’ll consider taking your child to a music class that includes scarf play. If there is no such class in your area or you prefer to homeschool your child, please incorporate scarf play into your daily routine.

Marlene Markard

Owner, Markard Music, an early childhood music education studio

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