I am delighted to introduce Sharon, who is an energetic and dedicated advocate for children’s physical activity in all forms. She is great fun to be with, as you might guess from the title of her article here.
She has some great advice on involving children AND their families, as well as some tried and tested techniques. So do enjoy the article, and then get moving!
The Sillier the Better
I am often asked what it is I actually do for a living and my answer varies depending on which project I am working on and who is asking the
question. The simple answer is that I deliver training to a range of professionals to develop their understanding of the importance of physical activity, enabling and promoting active play and physical development.
In addition, I develop and ultimately deliver programmes for parents and their children under 5, supporting and encouraging active play and physical development both in the home and within settings.
It is fair to say the work I do is not rocket science, in fact the hardest part of my role is encouraging parents and early year’s practitioners to value simplicity, in this age of evidenced based practice.
I am very passionate about the importance of Under 5’s and their parents/carers participating in physical activity, so I was overjoyed when Physical Development became a prime area in the Early Years Foundation Stage.
Also whilst I recognise current concerns regarding inactivity in the Early Years, its link to obesity and the need to promote healthy lifestyle options, for me physical activity is the bedrock for all areas of learning.
My current role at GreaterSport involves devising, delivering and facilitating the Let’s Play® programme. The main ethos is to engage families in physically interactive play by providing simple activities that can be included in their daily activities.
As I often find I have digressed from plan, so I should perhaps introduce myself.
Hi, my name is Sharon Skade. I am an Under 5’s Project Officer for GreaterSport.
For the last twenty years I have been working in various roles within the Physical Activity field as a Tennis Coach, Gym Instructor and Mini Movers Coach. All my qualifications were sport, fitness or play based but as my passion was working with under 5’s and their families. I initially undertook a level three qualification in childcare, which reaffirmed much of the knowledge I had gained through experience.
Therefore, in the search for more understanding, I enrolled on a BA Hons Degree in Early Years at Stockport University Centre. Whilst doing this I became aware of a Preparing to Teach Qualification, which I completed earlier this year, which has been invaluable in the training sessions I co-deliver for GreaterSport.
I am currently researching the main parental drivers when deciding to attend physical activity programmes, with a view to understanding how to market sessions to increase attendance and, in turn, what makes parents stay?
I have always used a little acronym to explain this F.U.N.
If they do not have Fun, U cannot follow up Next week.
This seems to work in the project I am involved in at the minute, delivering ten week Let’s Play Toddler® and Let’s Play Baby® programmes throughout Greater Manchester in various community buildings, church halls, schools, Children’s Centres and Libraries. I would like to share the concept of this programme with you:
Parents stay with their children and the aim is to encourage participation and interaction with their child. The sessions are planned with specific themes around basic movement skills, with lots of time for free play with positive role modelling.
The sessions begin with the Jumping bean song encouraging children to join in the action and, as a means of introduction, we sing for each child, to allow time to process the song and recognise names.
The sessions are all about participation and encouraging parents to find their inner child, ‘the sillier the better’, although there is a lesson plan, which steers the evidence based programme. I follow the children’s/parent’s lead as much as possible.
In one session, when singing the wheels on the bus, I asked one of the children what he wanted on the bus, his reply was a train, and mum said they don’t go on buses. My response was there are no rules on my bus so we walked around the room like a train singing, “The train on the bus is in the wrong place”.
In all sessions, we encourage parents to choose things to go on the bus, which their children like or are familiar with, also to pick challenging things that may stump me. Parents really enjoy this and one mum told me her and her family had been coming up with funny things to go on a bus all week.
When it was snowing, for example, we even had a snowman on the bus. Try and guess the song and action we did!
For me the best part is seeing the level of engagement and self-confidence of the parents grows, one parent commented that during the sessions “I was made to feel comfortable which allowed me to take part in all the activities with my child, giving me the confidence to share my ideas”.
The ethos behind the sessions is very much about encouraging positive role modelling and for parents and children to share the activities they have created with whatever equipment they have chosen to play with that week.
Often in sessions we will play with one piece of equipment for an extended time. One parent described this as “being given a sense of freedom and time to enjoy an activity for longer”.
A case study I carried out in Rochdale commented on this saying “Initially I found the fact you were asking us what we wanted to do quite hard, I had become used to being spoon fed, it was liberating to think I matter as well”.
Another parent commented on the fact that she had learned “I don’t have to be adult all the time, it is okay to be silly with my kids”
Although we use equipment, an important aspect of our programme is to encourage the use of household equipment and incorporate daily activities as part of physical activity at home and out and about. An old duvet cover was used as a tunnel by cutting the end off and removing the press studs was probably the one parents did most at home. There is no end to what you can use to turn into a physically active game – indoors or out and about.
Have a go and see what you can come up with, trust me it is great fun, challenging and like our programme links to all areas of the Early Years Foundation Stage.
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Thank You Lisa for your very kind words.
And Thank You Kathy for giving me the opportunity to write an article for your site.
What a great article! I have had the pleasure of working with Sharon and also attending a training course that she delivered. I have learnt so much from her passionate approach to engaging children in physical activities. She is a natural with children…and she makes me laugh and inspires me!
What a breath of fresh air! I often find that we live in a world of ‘what will people think?’ and this is sometimes reflected in practitioners and parents alike but as the title of this blog suggests the sillier the better is a must when working with young children! Yesterday I spent the morning with a colinder on my head and in a box as I was off to the moon with 2 year olds! Sharon I think your passion for physical development is infectious and I agree that it is the bedrock of learning, children naturally make things physical and as practitioners we should encourage this as much as possible!
Many thanks for your comments.
It is so true that, as a practitioner, you can learn so much about your children when you really engage and interact with them. And if that means crawling into a den or having your hair plaited, so be it!
Very pleased you enjoyed Sharon’s article.