The fact that very few early years settings have a movement corner - a dedicated place for children to go when they choose to move - says a lot about how we think about movement and learning.
A movement corner is a simple way to let children know that moving is an important part of their learning and a way of supporting their spontaneous need to move at various times during the day. There is a tendency to think that movement equals chaos, but many young children, given clear guidelines and support from adults, can organise their own use of a movement corner safely and appropriately.
Of course, babies and young children will always need an adult with them; and some older children will also need extra support, even if it is only through being watched.
Why set up a movement corner?
* To give movement an equal place within the learning opportunities you provide.
* To make a place where children can move spontaneously at times they choose, as well as at specified times.
* To make a place where children can focus on their body-felt experience, where inner focus is as acceptable as outer focus.
Setting up a corner
Make a movement corner (a particular place that children can go if they want to move or focus inwards on their bodily-felt experience) in the same way as you make a special place for painting, or sand and water play.
* It can be permanent or temporary, available all the time, or only at specified times.
* It needs to be clearly marked - with a floor mat, a chunky rope laid out around its edges or with chairs placed strategically - anything you can manage.
Any clear space will do. Ideally, however, it will have some of these elements as well:
* some clean floor space with a slippery surface children can slide on
* a soft surface that children can curl up on comfortably
* some props that support different kinds of movement (hoops, beanbags, lengths of fabric, scarves and so on)
* some props that support different kinds of tactile experience (fabric with different textures, make-up brushes, natural objects like fir cones and sweet chestnut shells).
* If you want to support developmental movement patterns (belly crawling and crawling on all fours) have a length of vinyl flooring available to provide a clean, slightly slippery surface.
* Have an easy-to-use cassette or CD player available and a small selection of music (some slow and some fast).
* Have drawing things readily available so children can change from moving to drawing.
Create guidelines with all the children before anyone uses the movement corner.
* When can they use the corner? At any time, or only at specified times?
* Are there times when they may not use the corner?
* Do they need to ask an adult before they go there?
* Is it possible for children to use music at all times? Help them to understand an acceptable volume.
* How will you ensure that children use the corner and the props safely?
* Remind children to leave the corner as they found it.
Although this is a space in which children themselves organise the play, they may need help in the early stages as they discover how to make use of it. Start with whole group sessions in which you discover together some of the possibilities for playing in the movement corner, including stillness, quiet moving, more boisterous moving, playing with different props, playing with one or two other people and making up movement games.
Create guidelines together about what level of the boisterous and energetic movement play the corner can contain. Once the movement corner is established as a regular part of your activities, children may be keen to tell you about things, or show you things they have been doing there. Make time for showing movement, talking about sensation, feelings, movement and image and celebrating the experiences that the movement corner prompts - by making wall displays using words and drawings gathered from group feedback times.
* Hopping Home Backwards: Body Intelligence and Movement Play is by Penny Greenland and published by the Jabadao Centre for Movement Studies (0113 231 0650 e-mail: info@ jabadao.org).
Jabadao also sells a movement corner kit (160) with colourful props including a large fleece rug, mats for sliding and crawling games, glittering scarves, softie balls, music tapes, a kit bag and information booklet.