Physical activity for the early years is vitally important for their health and development. Young children spend a large proportion of their time at nursery and so ensuring that they are active goes a long way to achieving the recommended 180 minutes of activity per day. George Perkins Day Nursery, Birmingham has strived to make physical activity a priority by providing opportunities for children to be active throughout the day, getting buy-in from staff and involving parents.
George Perkins Day Nursery use resources such as the BHF Early movers pack and an activity programme called Busyfeet to think of different activity opportunities for children in their care. The nursery provides free flow play opportunities for their older children and take babies and toddlers outside every day. This idea was initially met with resistance by some parents concerned about children catching colds, but they are reassured by key workers about the benefits of outdoor play for health. Research has shown that children are twice as active when they are outdoors compared to indoors so parents are encouraged to send wellies, sun cream and sunhats with their children, so that they can play outside in all weathers. The nursery has spare wellies and provides waterproofs for all children.
They also have 15 minutes of structured activity each morning and afternoon adapted to the children’s level of physical development. Staff have noticed that during ‘listening time’ (which follows the physical activity) children’s concentration levels have greatly improved and they stay much more focused.
Physical activity is encouraged throughout the day in a range of ways, for example:
using basic, cheap equipment, such as plastic crates to encourage creative play through climbing or building towers
incorporating activity into other areas of the curriculum. For example, when teaching numeracy, they chalk a line of numbers/shapes on the wall/floor and ask children to throw a bean bag at number five or run to the square etc
making existing activities more active, eg, adapt nursery rhymes to include actions
adapting the environment by removing some chairs. This encourages children to stand at tables when they’re playing with toys, painting, drawing or reading.
Engaging staff with physical activity
Keeping physical activity at the forefront of the minds of all staff is essential to ensure that physical activity continues to be ingrained throughout the nursery.
The key things that George Perkins Day Nursery has implemented to ensure buy in from the staff are:
completing Startwell Healthy Settings Accreditation - Startwell is a Birmingham based initiative designed for early years settings. The emphasis is to up-skill early years staff to improve their knowledge of health and wellbeing, specifically addressing the risks associated with obesity and build this into their individual day to day practices
adding physical activity to the agenda of every team meeting
staff share physical activity ideas that they have found online on websites such as Pintrest
asking staff about physical activity at their interview and telling them about the nursery ethos when they start work
creating a top down approach by ensuring that the management are engaged and committed to physical activity promotion.
Getting parents involved
The nursery encourages parents to come and join in with ‘toddles’ over to the local park. Parents have been very surprised by how far their children can walk without needing a pushchair which has been useful. Some parents have become more active themselves by starting to run, joining in with the local parkrun and taking their children to the junior parkrun. This is something that the nursery has promoted through poster displays.
Staff have held workshops and parent evenings showing examples of activities that can be done at home to encourage an active environment at home as well as in the nursery and they always include an article about physical activity in their parents newsletter.
3 top tips from George Perkins Day Nursery
Getting buy-in from staff is very important.
A whole setting approach is important for sustainability and to ensure physical activity stays on the agenda.
Make it fun!