Coming through lockdown



September 2020


Interesting listening on the radio this evening - talk about children going back to school, and especially what they’ve been missing during lockdown. The invited guest gave two examples he was worried about … some children have forgotten how to use a pencil, he said; and some have forgotten how to use a knife and fork.


These are both things we talk about in Developmental Movement Play training - as they both require specific pieces of physical development to work well. And because they are both things that are intimately connected to our physical development. 


Picture the scene. It’s lunch time in a rural English nursery on one of the last occasions I visited a nursery before the first lockdown. A lovely practitioner is helping those children who will shortly go on to school to use a knife and fork to eat their dinner. Some can do it already, some have food going everywhere and ‘lose’ the knife as soon as the lovely practitioner isn’t looking. She encourages, demonstrates, models, gently positions their bodies …  lots of different strategies to help.


And I make a mental note to see if I might join them in the Movement Play Area later in the afternoon … as another way to help.


The ones for whom it isn’t an issue are showing us that they can organise their limbs in a particular way. While one arm does one thing, (holds the sausage still), the other can move freely, (cuts that sausage). They will be using this basic functional capacity in lots of other parts of their life as well, from using a cup, to waving goodbye, to pointing at the cat, to hopping … mark making.


This body organisation isn’t something we can teach. It is a piece of developmental movement that has to be built in the body over time. Child led movement play is the perfect way to do this.


We organise our limbs in four ways. 

When we are first born we don’t even know we have limbs, we have to find our way into them, wriggle-kick-waving our way towards a sense of body. 


And then we have to organise all those limbs as separate yet connected things. 


This is not easy and it requires lots and lots of movement play to achieve - lots of rolling, rocking, slithering, pushing, pulling and preferably jumping and leaping about, in just the way each little body finds for themselves. Little body-brains are hardwired to seek just what they need to get the job done. So they know what they need. The adult's job is create environments where this can happen safely and to value the work children are putting in.


Back to the man on the radio and the concerns he was voicing about the effects of lockdown on children.


Having to restrict your movement because you live in a small space with lots of other people (all of whom are trying to make life work in difficult circumstances), isn’t helpful if you are a child trying to build foundation body organisation.


Climbing on and jumping off the sofa, bumping down the stairs in a sleeping bag, rolling around on the floor, running … running … running, a family bundle on a pile of cushions, these are all potentially helpful, but not available to lots of children recently for reasons we understand only too well. 


So as we talk, nurture or catch-up, (depending on where you stand on what children need from us at the moment), we need to look at what has been happening for little bodies over the last year. And recognise that many of the things we want for our children as they come through, are grounded in body experience, in movement play.


Supporting them to re-find, or find knife and fork skills, or pencil grip - and so many other aspects of learning and development - will be well served by including masses of free flow movement play within their day.