Essential resources: Physical development – Good sport

With children’s health at the top of the agenda, Nicole Weinstein examines daily and purchased resources and activities for gross motor development

Physical activity is vital for the healthy and full development of children. Children are now starting to recover from the ill effects of the pandemic, after months spent indoors with restricted daily movement activities, poor nutrition and disrupted sleep routines.

Practitioners can lay the foundation for a healthy body and for social and emotional well-being by providing children with repeated and varied access to opportunities to develop gross motor skills – through balance, core strength, stability, spatial awareness and coordination.

Dr Lala Manners of Active Matters, who was part of a team that wrote the Principles of Physical Development in Practice section of Development Matters, said: “The health of children at this stage is critical. Whatever the early childhood learning goals and program, getting children to move their bodies, in whatever ways they enjoy and are appropriate for their development, should be a key goal for early childhood professionals. over the next few months.


Balance and proprioception were two key areas of development that some children struggled with after Covid-19 blockages.

In the inner city neighborhoods, Dr Manners noticed many children cuddling in the corners of the playground, intimidated by a large space, after getting used to the confines of a small apartment. They struggled to sit on a chair at the table, after months of sitting on the floor in front of the television, eating with their hands. With no stairs to climb and no space to run or crawl, children also lost much of their lower body strength.

Practitioners can help children build abdominal muscles by encouraging them to ride seated tricycles without pedals or jump off soft play equipment.


Dr Manners uses daily resources to help children develop strength and agility, because that way, she says, “you get a much greater transfer of skills between environments.”

She adds: “The possibilities are greater because there is no agenda attached to everyday materials. If you give a kid a soccer ball it will only kick in, whereas if you have a crumpled paper bag you can do all the soccer skills with it – and it’s much more difficult. ‘

Despite this, Dr Manners praises the efforts of nurseries like Dicky Birds (see Case Study) to get children active and engaged in a wide variety of physical development activities.

Here are some tips for using daily resources to encourage movement:

  • Use a pair of tights for stretching activities and discuss length and measure – short and long – and strengths. Socks are great for encouraging ball skills – throwing, catching, kicking, and dribbling – and can be used safely indoors.
  • Boxes are useful for getting on and off and moving around. A tremendous amount of proprioception occurs when discussing how many people can get inside. Ask how many children can fit in a box sitting and standing or lying down.
  • Cushions of different sizes, shapes, weights, colors and textures are useful for pushing, pulling, stacking and falling on them. Have the children tap a cushion with both feet as hard as possible. Then balance yourself on one leg, then the other.
  • Stick a piece of masking tape horizontally and high enough on a clear wall for children to jump and touch. Then try in a sitting position, in a lying position and as fast as possible.


Nurseries and reception classes should provide equipment that builds strength, balance and agility, such as wheeled toys, wheelbarrows, tumbling mats, ropes, spinning cones, tunnels , tires, structures for jumping on and off, den building materials, logs and planks, A-ladders, climbing walls, slides and monkey bars.

For example:

  • The Early Excellence Red Crate Set, £ 84.95, helps kids develop gross motor skills, as well as movement and manipulation skills, while building towers, dens and vehicles. They can use the stacked cart, £ 120, to move heavy materials, or the pulley set, £ 45, to haul items.
  • For balancing and coordination activities, try Hope Education’s 6 Pair Giant Stilts, £ 39.49, or the Eyfs Scrambler – Large Outdoor Set, £ 899.99. Babies will enjoy the Millhouse – Rainbow Crawl unit, £ 265, and toddlers will enjoy rock climbing in the Gonge Play 3 Tire Set, £ 174.99. Hide N Slide Kinder Gym with Roof, £ 1,799.99, is ideal for any nursery or toddler room. The Balance Gateway, £ 164.99, is useful for practicing balance and weight distribution.
  • Try Cosy’s Super Twos’ Beefy Teeter Totter course, £ 169.99; Obstacle course for parts, £ 387.99; or Obstacle Course Starter Pack, £ 184.99.
  • For fixed structures, try Natural Balance resources like the Balancer Bar Trio, £ 104.99, or Stepping Stone Balancer, £ 72.99.
  • Community Playthings toddlers encourage core balance and strength. Sets start at £ 148. Or try the Outlast Tunnel, £ 710.

CASE STUDY: Dicky Birds Nurseries

In the year before entering school, the children of Dicky Birds, part of the Growing Up UK chain of eight nurseries in south London, participate in a play-based physical education program covering the fundamentals of key sports such as football, tennis, rugby and track and field.

Josh Candy, physical education and early childhood development teacher, who facilitates the sessions, says, “It’s not about providing formal sports education – kids have no idea when we play a game. game on the balance of a ball on a tennis racket that they develop the muscles of their arms and develop their balance and their coordination.

“For them, it’s just fun – and they like to handle new equipment, even if they just use it to run their fingers through the ropes or feel the leather on the strap at first. They also like to experiment with different uses of balls: how a tennis ball bounces differently from an unpredictable rugby ball.

“The goal of tennis sessions, for example, is not to be able to hit a ball with a tennis racket at the end of six weeks but to learn some fundamental physical skills that come with the sport, as well as become familiar with the preparation materials for primary school. They could use the racquet, for example, to push a ball to the ground in week four.

“I add some formal elements – I will add a net in the center of the ‘pitch’, drawn with cones. But the kids won’t necessarily record this, and I won’t spend the time going into too much detail unless they ask for it.

“Each session begins with a story about the sport in question. For tennis we read A True Champion from Puneet Bhandal. After 20 minutes of walking from the nursery to the local park, we settle down under the shelter that I have already installed and I introduce you to Colin the Crab, my assistant.

“Colin walks to the side and we spend the first few sessions learning to take side steps and ultimately take big side steps as the children gain confidence in their body’s capabilities. I’m going to explain that the side step is used in tennis, and we’re all going to move around the zone with a side step, and when I say “stop” the kids freeze. I also use Sammy the Snake for rugby, because when we run in rugby we squeeze through the cones like a snake.

“I also use games that help them develop their imaginations. They will work as a team, for example, to collect all the colored tennis balls – the “crabs” – and bring them back to their “beach”, the corresponding colored cones.

Mr. Candy’s sessions are part of a holistic physical development program within the nursery, which includes daily walks and woodland exploration sessions.

He says, “The results we have seen speak volumes. We have a child with severe autism who initially struggled to get to the park, but now he engages in the activities. And elementary schools tell us that our children are one step ahead of other children in terms of physical skills. ‘

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