Why movement matters in child physical development By Kim Pott, Director of Funky Feet Music
Consider for a moment the skills a child needs when they enter the formal learning environment and begin to read and write. They must control gross and fine motor muscles and have good core and neck strength to control their posture and sit comfortably in a chair. They need eye strength to shift focus from the whiteboard to the paper in front of them. Sequencing and memory skills are necessary, not only for reading, but for putting their ideas into a logical order and transferring them to paper. Finally, they need confidence in themselves, their abilities and their imagination.
Too often, children arrive at school without these skills in place, and it is our job as educators to provide opportunities to change this. Movement is fundamental to humans: it begins before we are born and can be incorporated into musical learning activities that practise basic skills in a stimulating environment.
Child physical development and spatial awareness
Motor development comes from being aware of our bodies, learning how to control them and stimulating the vestibular system and. As they grow, children must adapt to their changing bodies, using the proprioceptive sense to learn where they are in relation to others and how to move through space without collisions. This spatial awareness translates to spacing out letters and words as they put pencil to paper.
Movement improves muscle strength, fitness and agility. Weight-bearing activities (e.g. jumping, hopping, and crawling) help to increase bone density. Development of large muscles is important for fine motor skills: the body develops inside out, from the top down, and the fine motor muscles needed to hold a pencil will be amongst the last to develop.
Visual strength and brain development
When reading, we need good eye strength to remain focused and build proficiency. In reading left-to-right, the right side of the brain is in control until we reach the middle of the line, when the left side takes over. The brain’s left side also processes the printed words, whereas the right side visualises pictures and understands the overall meaning of what we are reading. In writing, the left side of the brain tells us how to form the letters, and the right side tells us what to write.
We need billions of connections in the brain to integrate all of this and through movement that crosses all three mid-lines teamed with rich multi-sensory experiences we can achieve this. Visual strength and skill can be supported by activities such as bouncing objects in a parachute, popping bubbles or batting balloons, give children opportunities to track unpredictable 3D objects moving in all directions and develop both their brains and their visual strength.
Language and literacy
Movement is our first language, and it can help children expand their vocabulary. Common sense tells us that if you add an experience to words or phrases, the meaning will be clearer, and understanding greater. For example, positional or directional language will have much greater meaning if a child moves inside, outside, above, or below, as they sing the words. Rhythms in lyrics show how to break words into syllables, a skill essential for reading, spelling and remembering vocabulary.
Memory and sequencing
Musical activities are filled with sequences of words, actions, or a combination of the two, and support the development of memory. Think about learning the days of the week: a song with simple repeated phrases using alliteration such as “marching on a Monday, tiptoe on a Tuesday, wobbling on Wednesdays, throwing on Thursday” engages the senses and is much easier for a child to learn, remember and repeat.
A child engaged in active role play has the opportunity to try new things in a safe place. They take on hierarchical roles, practice language, and perform actions. Take a pirate, for example. Climbing the rigging, digging for treasure, scrubbing the decks, and using language such as “pieces of eight” enable children to gain a better understanding of this character. Additionally, vocal exploration in musical activities can help them tune their ears, and build confidence in other skills, such as picking out a melody from a background of other sounds.
Role play can be an opportunity to see what it feels like to be someone else, practice different language, dress in unusual clothes, use props and swap hierarchy.
Movement and musical activities are vital for practising skills fundamental to further development. As educators, we should be providing multiple opportunities for our children to experience movement, and so better prepare them for formal learning.
Download a free song from the Funky Feet Music website to inspire children to move
About the author
Kim Pott, Founder and Director of Leicestershire based ‘Kimble's Music & Movement’. and ‘Funky Feet Music’.
The importance of music and movement cannot be emphasised enough, and I strongly believe that multi- sensory activities linking both body and brain provide an excellent foundation to prepare children for formal learning. Funky Feet Music support early years physical skills teaching adults why early years movement matters. Book a training course with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.funkyfeetmusic.co.uk
• One of the best INSET workshops to date! Thank you for coming and giving us such a lot of great ideas. Ann Pelek – Head of pre-prep Foremarke School
• Thank you for a really informative and fun-filled course. You packed loads in and I think the content was pitched just right. Your knowledge and passion for the subject shone and it has inspired me to extend and expand the content of my song and rhyme time within my working practice. I will be “singing” your praises to anyone who will listen.
Fiona Percival – Early years SEN Inclusion Practioner. Leics Specialist Teaching Service
• I attended your course last time and have found it not only valuable but it is a fundamental part of my P.E lessons now. Really looking forward to attending this next one. Sy Ambrose Teacher Ashfield School – Leicester
• Resources include CD and teachers’ guide to inspire, engage and motivate children to move, developing both the body and brain.
• ‘Learning through play’ Imagine driving a police car over the rainbow, stop off to help Mick to fix an aeroplane, go spinning, flying, jumping with friends and dancing with clowns as well as singing the days of the week.
• ‘Lark in the park’ use your memory and sequencing skills to help out in the garden, raise your heart beat on the pogo, imagine riding horse back to Grandpa Joes or dancing like a cowboy.
• ‘Going on a journey’ Parachute fun with a ride on the magic carpet whilst we travel around the world to the rhythm of the jungle, the tropical island, the animals of Oz and count the fish in the sea.
• ‘Chase the rhythm’ Where we dance like a chicken, catch the flavour of the ice cream, enjoy splashing in the puddles, be a rock and roll star, move with the groove to the disco with dough.
• ‘Pop like popcorn’ will you be biped or quadruped as a dancing dinosaur, sway to the reggae play dough, move like a crab to build upper body strength and don’t be fooled by the crocodile’s smile…
LinkedIn: Kim Pott