08 Oct 2019

A regional Active play scheme targeting two to four-year-olds has been credited with providing a "wholly positive impact" on children’s attitude to learning – and their ability to follow instructions. The results achieved by the West Somerset physical literacy programme, created by the Youth Sport Trust (YST), has led to plans to roll the programme out across the rest of the UK. The early years physical literacy and social mobility project was designed to ensure every child in West Somerset received the opportunity to achieve a good level of physical development linked to their language and literacy skills.

Based on a programme of structured play, the pilot scheme was launched in October 2018 and aimed to increase self-esteem and wellbeing – as well as developing agility, balance and coordination.

Interim findings of the programme found that children as young as two were demonstrating improvements in speaking, along with managing relationships (55 per cent of the children taking part), understanding (64 per cent), and improvements in listening and attention (57 per cent).

Activities included chasing bubbles, balancing bean bags while moving, acting out stories in books and making children think how they can travel differently from one task to the next.

By also involving parents in stay and play clubs, 95 per cent of parents said they had been given ideas to help their child to be active and 90 per cent felt more confident in helping their child to be active at home.

“Movement in the early years is critical to a child’s development, and particularly for the children in nurseries and pre-school settings," said Chris Wright, head of health and wellbeing at YST.

“We have placed a huge amount of resource and research into training and mentoring parents, nursery and pre-school leaders to give them confidence and ideas around how to be active with their children and structure play in a way that supports their development.

“Not only are children developing the ability to sit for longer and have better object control to help them write and give them the skills they need to start school, but parents feel more confident to play with their children, they understand why it’s good to be active, and children are enjoying being more active which will mean they can develop healthy, active habits for good future physical and mental health.

"West Somerset is setting a great example of what could be achieved for young children all over the UK by getting them physically literate in their early years.”