Creative movement provides wonderful opportunities for young children to make independent choices and express their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Touch and movement are our earliest senses and provide learning experiences which have a huge influence on development and wellbeing, says Skye Reynolds, dance and creative movement artist.
As a dancer I instinctively use my body and movement for self-expression, and through my work with very young children I’ve really come to appreciate the power of non-verbal communication.
Children come to know themselves and the world around them through touch and movement. These are our earliest senses and provide learning experiences which have a huge influence on development and wellbeing.
Observe how freely and instinctively babies and young children express themselves through their bodies. As adults we often become self-conscious. In my work with early years practitioners we embody our creativity to explore ways of integrating movement within the heart of day-to-day practice.
This work is rooted in an understanding of developmental movement patterns. From the beginning in utero, babies are in motion all the time. They receive feedback from the wall of the womb and at birth they experience gravity for the first time. As babies grow, their movement patterns inform their neurological development, helping to create a foundation for more complex learning processes – emotional, physical, intellectual. These patterns include flexion and extension – opening and closing the body – as well as movements initiated from the spine; upper / lower body (homologous); right / left side (homolateral); and opposite sides (contralateral).
We can recognise and support a child’s movement progression through play, curiosity and taking a child-centered approach. The schema offer dynamic pathways for kinaesthetic exploration. Rotation, transportation and orientation, to name a few, heighten our awareness of journeying through space, inviting us to sense and feel the world from different perspectives. Using materials can also be helpful for both child and practitioner, shifting the focus away from the body onto the experience of moving objects through space. Twirling a ribbon can inspire beautiful, effortless movement.
Through play we open ourselves up to the power of movement as a tool for communication and connection. It’s then easier to experience how our physicality is effective in helping to build and strengthen relationships with young children, highlighting the importance of creating environments for children to discover and enjoy their own physical expression.
When I work directly with young children I use minimal language and non-verbal cues. I’ll observe and tune in to what they’re already doing. I’ll often join their movement and reflect this back to them. It’s a playful way to engage and let them know I’m noticing and listening. When they respond it becomes a somatic dialogue which can provide a wonderful dynamic to the relationship.
Within a nursery setting you need space to move, shoes off and a clean floor without obstructions (toys away!) Props such as scarves, ribbons, music and paper can be ideal for those who may need encouragement, as well as a willingness to get down low, roll around and have an open mind. We’re all individual so there’s no right or wrong way to move and no fixed outcome.
You can inspire children by example, offering up your own movement and seeing how they respond. Or join their play. Children also learn through copying, an exchange which can spark fresh ideas.
Let’s call it dance, let’s call it movement. It’s about creating an environment where children can express themselves in ways that are meaningful to them – because moving matters!
Skye Reynolds is a dance artist, performance–maker, educator and Starcatchers associate artist. She is also currently an early years specialist with the National Little Big Dance Project.
This blog was written as part of Starcatchers‘ campaign Making My Mark, a celebration of the role that arts and creative experiences can play in helping our youngest citizens learn about their rights.
Little Big Dance: Artist Commission
Little Big Dance is a major three-year national initiative created by South East Dance in partnership with DanceEast, Take Art and Yorkshire Dance, with more than £371,000 investment from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England. The programme supports choreographers and dancers to make captivating and diverse work for and with under-fives and their families, particularly those from marginalised backgrounds with little or no access to the arts. We want to revolutionise the way early years dance is recognised and to support more high quality dance work for the under-fives.
The voice of the child is at the heart of the creative process. Throughout the two 18 month cycles over three years, eight commissioned works will be developed, with four scaled for production in regional venues. With the guidance of choreographers, producers and dramaturges who specialise in working with very young children, Little Big Dance will support eight dance artists to gain valuable skills by working in a variety of pre-school settings in areas of England with little or no access to the arts. Four of the ideas will be selected for production and will go on to tour nationally to venues and pre-school settings, whilst the development of the remaining four will go on to be supported by the partners.
Little Big Dance is also supported by Dance Umbrella, Birmingham Hippodrome, Strike a Light Gloucester and English National Ballet School.