Research by Loughborough University found many four-year-olds were not physically ready to start school, with 30 per cent children found to be ‘of concern’, and almost 90 per cent demonstrating some degree of movement difficulty.
In response to these findings, a team of academics from Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS) set up the Early Movers website to provide information on the core principles underpinning physical development in children.
The website includes four videos (see below) and is split into two sections: core skills, and activities.
Core skills are broken down into categories, such as rolling, balancing and catching, and gives examples of the movements that would be expected to be seen emerging in babies and young children.
The activities section features suggestions of games for parents and early years practitioners to play with children.
Ideas range from ‘Feed the Fish’, a game that sees youngsters test their balance and throwing skills by walking across a bench and throwing bean bags, to ‘Treasure Baskets’, an activity that uses a box and simple household items to help with hand-eye co-ordination and picking up objects.
The website also provides a glossary to help users understand technical terms relating to physical development.
Dr Janine Coates of SSEHS, who led development of the website, said she hoped the tips would give early years practitioners more confidence with monitoring and assessing physical development.
‘When we started to develop Early Movers, we talked to a number of early years practitioners who made it quite clear that there was a need for a resource that broke down physical development skills into more understandable chunks because official guidelines are often quite broad.’
She added, ‘We wanted to take a skills-based approach rather than an aged-based one as the age at which children acquire skills is greatly influenced by the child having regular, daily opportunities to access to a wide variety of kinds of movement play. It is also influenced by their physical and emotional health.
‘A child with delayed personal development may catch up, especially with an appropriate intervention, but young children need to be given regular opportunities and encouragement to practice and refine their physical skills through being active.’
Loughborough Campus Nursery is already using the website as a resource for its early years practitioners.
Karen Walker, deputy manager at the setting, said, ‘It’s a very useful tool as it underpins a lot of the knowledge our practitioners already have and explains why children need to learn such skills to reach their full potential and teaches the full sequence of a skill. We’ll be it using a lot and we’re very impressed.’