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Action Research: Child-led Movement

Senior Nursery Nurse - Peterborough Day Nursery

The issue


Before we embraced a DMP approach in our setting, indoor movement play activities were very adult-led and structured. Practitioners believed that this was important for children’s safety. They said it was easier to control sessions indoors when children followed a prescribed routine and that high-energy movement, like pushing and pulling, was appropriate outside, not inside. They also felt that restricting high-energy movement in some situations, but allowing it in others - in a movement area for example - might be confusing for younger children. 


Outdoor play was largely seen as a chance for children to ‘let off steam’. Practitioners saw indoor movement play as a way of occupying groups of children on a rainy day. This meant they were often trying to manage larger groups than was practical. 


Action research question 


With the aim of changing the kind of support our setting gives to child led movement play, I formulated this action research question to guide a period of change. ‘How can I encourage my colleagues to support more child-led movement play indoors?’ 


Taking action 


We started with team discussions about the ideas behind the approach and why it is beneficial for children. I also actively encouraged more child initiated movement within the continual provision for the toddlers. The team took on the new ideas and we started to support a different sort of movement play; children are now encouraged to explore their own movement agendas, with open-ended resources and music providing varying beats, tempos, moods and cultural influences. We regularly include movement play sessions in the planning for individual children’s next steps. 


The findings 


For children 

  • the children really enjoy DMP sessions and regularly ask if we can tidy other resources away so they can dance, spin, jump and move. They are more physically active and confident - indoors as well as outdoors - now

  • they are more confident about moving in the way they want to

  • they also show a good understanding of how to keep safe while exploring the movement they want to do

For practitioners

  • key workers say that their relationships with their key children are developing into closer, more trusting partnerships now they are using movement play as a means of communicating and building relationships

  • within the provision for toddlers we are more relaxed in our practice and feel better able to justify to parents and carers and other practitioners why we encourage children to take part in movement play opportunities 

  • some practitioners from other areas of the nursery are still unsure about the approach and think it may encourage ‘silly’ behaviour 

  • parents and carers are beginning to understand the importance of DMP, although some are still interested to see an end product to a session 

  • adults are becoming more confident in modelling movement play 


I feel that it is has been very easy to put the DMP approach into practice and we plan to deliver a wide variety of child-initiated movement opportunities in future. We used to spend a lot of time trying to stop the children exploring their natural desire to move because we considered it to be dangerous. Now there is a more relaxed atmosphere for staff and children and improved relationships between parents and carers, children and practitioners. 


Our next step will be to create a Developmental Movement Play policy for the setting as a whole. 


When we ran 5-day DMP Certificate courses, each participant undertook a small action research project. The format is simple. It begins with two sentences, the first states an issue or problem, and the second a research question. Here, a practitioner asks how they might support more child-led movement in their setting.