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Developing Practice: Parent and Child group

Free-movement sessions, without a sporting or adult-led games focus, can be daunting for we adults. Children so readily dive into movement play, but we can struggle. It is likely that we were told, over and over in our own young lives, that our wriggles and jiggles, spinning and jumping (our spontaneous movement play) was ‘silly’. So it’s not surprising if we still feel cautious.

This is a great account of creating successful movement play sessions in a Children’s Centre for parents and children together.

Assistant Manager, Children’s Centre, Leeds

‘You cannot get a stronger message to other parents than from the parents themselves.’ 

Movement has a high status at the Children’s Centre - everywhere you go there is something about movement. 

There are three movement areas - and three displays within those areas - giving information in words and pictures to parents about what movement does. We also have other beautiful creative displays that support the movement work. Anybody who is coming into the centre knows that we really value the movement work. 

We work closely with key workers and families, talking, and using leaflets to pass on information to parents about Developmental Movement Play (DMP). We have a resource box of props for parents to borrow to take home for DMP. 

We had run movement groups intermittently with parents - tagged DMP on to a toddler time and had a movement session in the studio, but it wasn’t continuous, embedded practice. Then I put a proposal on our nursery improvement plan to set up a movement group for parents to access and commit to attend over six weeks. 

I produced a leaflet and distributed it widely across the community. Six families attended - three parents with their children had not accessed any other groups or services at the centre before. The lead movement practitioner for the Leeds Authority and I planned and delivered the work. I will run the next group myself. The group ran in the Studio between 10.00 - 11.00 for six weeks. We called it Moving Together. 

We set up the Studio like a circuit. There were blocks of soft matting on the floor, tunnels, spinning cones, scrunchies (covered elastic rings), ribbon sticks, lycra, body balls, cylinder cushions all staggered around the room. The parents were invited into that space to explore with their children. Music was going – upbeat music then something more relaxing. We had a snack and a drink half way through. 

Then the props were all taken away and we used all the space to bring an ending to the session, covering the floor with a different material each week. We had bubble wrap, corrugated card, paper, paint, bubbles and feathers and fabric - just spread out all over. We did movement paintings so they could follow their movements in a bigger space and listen to their bodies. We encouraged movement on the floor and moving together. 

We invited rolling, crawling, spinning, tipping, tilting, mirroring, watching, imitating and lots more, picking up on the words on the leaflet advertising Moving Together. 

Across the weeks we found lots of parents getting more confident. At the end they were all crawling around on the floor getting involved with the children and taking the children’s lead. 

The whole aim of the sessions is to empower parents to support child-led movement play – we are not going to put any limitations on the play except basic ones for health and safety aspects. But generally speaking there is no right or wrong way of doing DMP. We are not looking for an end product, we are looking for the process of doing, of becoming engaged in, movement play. 

We use mirroring; as a facilitator of the group I mirror children. So I am giving that child the message that they are in charge, they are in control and when they see practitioners following, they see that they can lead. 

Lots of parents struggled with that, they wanted to take the lead. ”Lets go and do this”, or “No, you don’t do it like that you do it like this”. By mirroring the children, imitating what they are doing, commentating, valuing, parents could see that this is a way of empowering children to listen to their bodies and do what they want to do, whilst keeping themselves safe. 

We found moments to talk to parents about what the children are learning, what’s happening as they move, which body movements support which areas of development. Parents asked questions as well. 

We use books documenting projects to share the DMP work - they are a good record and resource for the centre as well as parents and children. One image gives many positive messages. A photo captioned “Daniel balancing with his mum” values the movement, shows that parents are able practitioners and highlights the quality of their relationship. 

One mum, Annie, is a real ambassador for the movement stuff - she reports that she has seen an impact on her child’s development through the movement opportunities in the group. She is asking when the next movement group is going to be held. She brought her friend along with her. Her friend was reluctant to come, so Annie said, “You are not getting out of it, I am calling for you”. 

I have heard her talking to a friend saying, “You need to get him onto his tummy”. 

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