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Infant Expert

Assistant Manager - Children’s Centre in Leeds

ONE DAY NATHAN (three) arrived at nursery feeling unhappy. All the adults tried to console him but he clung to his Grandma’s side reluctant to leave her. 


Nathan’s friend Danekah (three and a half) came over. ‘Are you all right?’ she asked.


‘No!’ said Nathan still clinging to Grandma.


‘What do you want?” said Danekah 


‘I need to dance!’ 


Danekah took his hand and together they went over to the movement area, took off their shoes and began to move separately. Then she turned to face Nathan and began mirroring his movements. Soon they were engrossed in a movement conversation, moving together, close but not touching. Their smooth dance looked like a choreographed duet. 


Being a facilitator at three and a half 


Danekah worked with strong focus, using the same expressions on her face as Nathan. At first he looked very sad, not his usual self. Danekah mirrored his expression. Then she smiled and began to lead the movement conversation, elaborating on Nathan’s movement - a little at first and then more expansively. He responded, beginning to elaborate himself. 


As an observer I felt Danekah’s mirroring said, ‘I am listening to what you are saying’. She was very aware of Nathan’s needs - in tune with him, responding sensitively. As they moved Nathan worked through his emotions and his mood began to shift. 


The pair moved intently for five minutes and then Danekah lay down on her tummy. Nathan lay down and snuggled next to her. She began to rub his back in a circular motion with her hand, just as she has seen adult practitioners do. Nathan became very, very relaxed. She jumped up, popped on a gentle CD and began to massage around his back and the outline of his body with the lemon fruit ball. Then they lay softly side by side for a time. Neither child spoke; they communicated entirely through body language. 


Nathan jumped up. ‘I’m better!’ he said. And they both went off in their own directions and didn’t play with each other again that morning. 


The adults looked on in awe. They had been asking Nathan what was the matter and why was he feeling sad and getting nowhere. But sometimes you don’t know why you are feeling sad or what you need. With movement you don’t have to have the answers; you just are who you are - you move as you feel and listen to your body. If you can’t find the words for feelings, the best way to express them is to move them. 


Danekah, at three and a half, was doing just what an adult practitioner would have done…


The potential of movement play 


This story shows just how powerful movement play can be. Both the children have had plenty of experience of movement play since they were babies, so it is second nature for them. Danekah at three and a half was doing just what an adult practitioner would have done; but Nathan responded better to his friend than he would have done to an adult. 


When I have shared this story with practitioners from other settings they have report similar incidents. For our children Developmental Movement Play is ongoing, available every day inside and outside for everyone. Our movement areas are the busiest areas of provision across the age ranges. Movement play is the area all children are drawn to. 


Using movement language breaks down barriers to communication for our children who have English as their second language – every body can move. In our EYFS profiles we have included movement in the learning journeys - to track movement development. If we notice gaps we can plan early support. Parents are confident recording observations and writing comments about their child’s movements. 


When our children go to visit their prospective schools and they see the home corner.. the book corner... they ask the teachers ‘ Where is the movement area?’ When children move on to school, what’s often missing? 


The movement area! 




This study of two children using movement as their shared language speaks volumes about how readily, and expertly, they use movement play to address the things going on in their lives. It also shows how a Movement Play Area  can support so much more than just motor development.