A movement play area in a Reception classroom

March 11, 2018

As Ofsted promise a new piece of research into the Physical Development area of the curriculum we thought we'd offer some insights from practitioners. We gathered over 1,500 pieces of action research - based on observation - when we were engaged in a detailed piece of research between 2002 and 2009.. We think it's still pretty useful stuff. We hope there will be much talk about different ways to support children's physicality in the coming months.. We hope to be part of it.


This article appeared in the JABADAO Developmental Movement Play (DMP) Journal. It reviews what had happened - over the period of  year  -following a Reception teacher's participation in a 5-day DMP training with JABADAO.



DMP in action 

The Foundation Stage Unit at our school is staffed by two teachers and two nursery nurses. The school has implemented significant changes in their practice in the Foundation Stage Unit (... since the course...) and reports that physical activity is ‘happening all the time and in all the spaces available’. The Foundation Stage Unit offers movement as part of a free flow approach and a key feature is to allow movement play to be child-led and not adult-directed – both indoors and outdoors. 


Outdoors there is a sizeable outdoor area with a playport, which acts as an extension to the classroom.


The movement mat

Indoors, children can choose movement play whenever and however they want, on the movement mat. Although short of space, this is a permanent fixture in the classroom. Children choose particular resources or props to use in ways that provide the body activities and sensations they seek. Staff observe them and find ways to encourage more movement. The teacher reports that the movement mat is in use ‘all the time’ and some children, arriving at school, express a need to spend time on the movement mat before doing anything else. 



All staff are encouraged to notice how most children risk assess for themselves and to work with them to grow this ability. Most of the time children play safely, observing the rule of a maximum of three playing on the movement mat at a time, happily writing their name on the waiting list. (There are usually already 10 names in front of theirs!) Staff have been struck by how readily children understand, accept and adhere to the safety rules. Some children, however, need to  revisit the safety aspects of the DMP approach. If they are unable to manage risk and staff have a clear role in making sure they are safe. 


What changes have we noticed since implementing opportunities for DMP? 

• the class with a predominance of summer-born boys, (who at the start were very boisterous), made significant use of the movement mat and outdoor play area and quickly became more focused 

• children’s problem-solving skills improved, especially noticeable in the outdoor play area where creating and navigating obstacles - whilst negotiating with others riding through on bikes - is a key activity 

• children become confident in both risk assessment and acceptable risk taking 

• children working on the movement mat demonstrate high levels of involvement (Wellbeing Scale) – ‘always 5 out of 5’ 

• children bring their life experiences from outside school into the movement play area, preferring this to the role play area; and they engage fully in creative, imaginative movement play 

• one child with Aspergers, who did not use the movement mat at first because he found it too difficult to accept the idea of taking off his shoes, is now fully engaged with movement activity and practitioners report they are seeing much more of this child as a consequence 

• the Year 1 teacher commented to the Foundation Stage Unit that she was, ‘blown away’ with the letter formation and handwriting skills, of those rising into her class – and particularly the boys. 


Parents response

Parents of children have fed back to school how much their children enjoy and value movement play ‘rave about’ the movement mat at home. At a meeting for parents on physical development and early reading and writing, also attended by senior management, the teacher took the opportunity to discuss the role of movement play in developing the brain. Staff are interested to explore ways of extending the DMP approach across all the Primary years. There are plans to set up an after-school club for older children to benefit from the approach. 



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