Movement play in the early years
Movement play in the early years
Babies must be enabled to move their bodies freely as they develop
This encourages physical, social and emotional well-being, better communication skills and healthy physical development.All that spinning, crawling, jumping, falling over and running is essential. It may be tiring to keep up with, but without these essential movements, children cannot develop into healthy, happy and confident individuals.
Why is movement play so important?
Free movement play supports the development of proprioception, which is essential for control of the body and spatial awareness
In our risk-adverse world, children are being denied opportunities to learn how to safely manage risk. This starts with being denied opportunities to move freely. Small children need to have the opportunity to fall over so they can learn how to fall safely
It can help to compensate for too much time spent strapped into chairs, high chairs, car seats and bouncers
To better enable children in decision-making skills and independence
To support key communication skills: body language is an essential language to understand and master in order to be an effective communicator. Non-verbal communication makes up a large percentage of all communication
It is predicted that by 2025, nearly half of all men and a third of all women will be obese. We have to act now to protect children from this growing risk. One in seven children was obese in 2008, which is the latest year with available figures
Being physically active supports good mental health as well as good physical health
What can adults do to support children’s movement play?
Cuddles and physical contact
Enjoy physical contact with your child. Cuddles, tickling, rough-and-tumble.
It’s healthy and fun and can support your bonding with your child. It’s really important that from a young age, children have a positive experience of touch and body contact.
Do be aware, however, that for some children on the autistic spectrum, tickling is not pleasant if they are hyper-sensitive to touch.
Challenge the ‘rules’
Have you ever told a child off for ‘being silly’ when they are jumping, spinning or moving very boisterously?
Perhaps there are rules about movement in your house or early years setting?
Consider what ‘rules’ you have about movement and then really think about what messages those rules convey. Why do these rules exist and could they change?
For example, why are the children forbidden from running and jumping indoors? Could this be made possible somehow?
Set up an indoor movement area
In early years settings, consider setting up an indoor movement area where children can move in the ways they choose to.
You might separate this area off from other parts of the room, and have soft cushions, voiles, lycra and exercise balls available for physical play.
Sometimes we adults communicate negative messages about movement without realising it. Do you dance, jump and spin? Many adults don’t move in the same ways as children unless they have had a drink or two (!), and can feel self conscious about their body image.
Wouldn’t it be great if we did not pass these negative associations about our bodies onto our children? Try to value your child’s non-verbal communication as highly as their verbal communication.
When a child chooses to spin and spin and spin some more, it is because they need to.
Setting boundaries is important to ensure safety and consideration for others.
For example, you might decide that if your child is sitting on a sofa by themselves it is ok for them to wriggle and jiggle however they need to, but if they are sharing a sofa, they need to sit still.
In an open space, is it ok to run indoors, or is that always forbidden?
Perhaps belly-crawling on a cleared carpet space is fine, but crawling all over someone’s carefully set out train tracks or puzzle is not?
You will need to think about your setting or home and decide what your rules are for movement play.
In movement games, I say that it is ok to move your body however you like, as long as you do not hurt yourself or anyone else. There are usually limits on numbers depending on the space and staff who are supporting.It is important to be consistent in these boundaries and rules, especially in an early years setting with lots of children sharing a space.
The best resource is you, and that is all you really need.
I do use the scrunchy (pictured) and lycra for movement play, as these props help to focus a group of children in a shared activity and experience.
It is also possible for the children to explore a fuller range of movements in a smaller space with these resources.
You can make the middle of a scrunchy ring the dance floor for children to take turns on.
Lycra is great for push-pull explorations and full body skin contact.
Providing more movement opportunities for the children in our care is a big part of the Terrific Twos at Riverside project.
Jabadao have some excellent research and publications about developmental movement play (DMP). They also deliver excellent training which I would highly recommend to anyone working in the early years.
Hopping Home Backwards:Body Intelligence and Movement PlayPenny Greenland (Published by Jabadao, 2000).
Everything which is written here has been inspired by Penny Greenland and her team at Jabadao. I have learned so much from attending Jabadao courses and reading Penny’s book. I recommend anyone working in the early years to do the same.
 Proprioception: The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself. In humans, these stimuli are detected by nerves within the body itself, as well as by the semi-circular canals of the inner ear
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