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Head's Blog

Motor Movers: Exploring Gross Motor Development with Professor Pat Preedy

By October 16, 2020No Comments

We are delighted to be introducing the Motor Movers programme into our school. It’s a fantastic initiative based on the foundations of the Movement for Learning Project – a range of specific exercises designed to be delivered to the whole class on a daily basis. Professor Pat Preedy and Laura Preedy-Maher developed the Motor Movers Programme to further support teachers in delivering a highly successful neuro-development fine and gross motor skills programme to young children.

Professor Preedy has had an extensive career in education, including being Headteacher of one of the first Beacon Schools in the UK, Executive Principal of a boarding school catering for pupils aged 3–18, and a reporting Inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). She is incredibly passionate about early childhood education and has led international research contributing greatly to our knowledge and understanding of the development and needs of babies and young children.

We asked Professor Preedy to tell us a little more about the importance of gross motor development from her perspective, and how this is supported by the Motor Movers Programme.

“Babies and children throughout the world should go through the same stages of development or milestones in order to get their bodies and minds ready for learning. Key milestones include gaining control of the head, hands and feet whilst on the back; rolling onto the tummy; gaining control of the head from a prone position; belly or commando crawling; crawling; full sitting; standing and walking,” says Professor Preedy.

“However, our modern way of living with the use of car seats, buggies and various baby seats often hinders the movement of children so that they do not pass through each developmental stage. In addition, the physical development of many young children is impacted further by reduced physical activity and play accompanied by increased screen time and the use of hand-held devices.

“Retention of the palmar reflex is an example of developmental delay. You will notice that when babies make a fist the hand is closed over the thumb. If retained, the palmar reflex can impact fine motor control. The child is unable to develop a pincer grip and the manual dexterity needed to hold and use a pencil.

“The impact of poor physical development is more wide-ranging than just affecting physical skills and the ability to participate in physical activity, PE and sport. A child who struggles with balance, gross and fine motor skills is also likely to struggle with concentration, reading, writing and personal skills such as doing up a coat, managing a knife and fork and independently going to the toilet.

“Teachers were continually saying to me that children seem to be less independent and ready to cope with the demands of school. This led me to develop the Movement for Learning Project in state and independent schools through Loughborough University. Using the ABC test for balance, fine and gross motor skills that had been standardised in 2007 enabled us to compare results ten years later to see if children’s physical development was declining.

“Analysis of the data indicated that at the start of the Reception Year, all of the children were considerably below the norms for 2007 and over half of the children had significant movement difficulties that could impact their learning. We believed we were seeing the impact of children moving less, eating more and spending excessive time using hand-held devices.

“The Movement for Learning programme is based upon children’s developmental movements, effective Physical Education (PE) practice and interventions used by occupational therapists. The intervention programme was delivered in class time by the class teacher (ten minutes a session) and is designed to be distinct from and additional to PE.

“After twelve months, analysis of the change scores showed significant changes in favour of the intervention group for ABC Balance, ABC Manual Dexterity, and ABC Total Physical Development score.  For these three aspects there were mean improvements in the order of 6-18 percentage points for the intervention group, while the control group showed either no change or decrements of up to 9 percentage points (indicating that additional intervention is required alongside the Early Years curriculum).

“Teachers reported improvements across four broad themes: academic, personal/social, physical and behavioural. There were some overlaps between categories, for example, improvements in handwriting were seen to be an academic advantage and also evidence that fine motor skills had improved.  Likewise, the ability to sit still (a physical skill) was seen to have increased the time children were able to sit still and listen.

“Following the research, teachers asked if the programme could be extended to include younger and older children. This led to the development of Motor Movers which covers early childhood (from six months) to seven years of age. There are seven stages, following the colours of the rainbow, enabling teachers to match the programme to children’s stages of development. Motor Movers Red, Orange and Yellow (stages 1–3) combines movement with nursery rhymes, with a CD and a book of rhymes to accompany each stage. This is to support children in learning the rhymes.

“I am delighted that The Mulberry House School staff have completed the Motor Movers training and are introducing the Motor Movers programme. Parents have an important job in supporting the physical development of their children – here are some starter ideas:

  • Increase play and physical activity, and reduce screen time.
  • Ask your child about his or her Motor Movers exercises – try them out as a family.
  • Look for opportunities to develop gross and fine motor skills and independence.
  • Provide opportunities to play outside whatever the weather. Think about shade when it is sunny and wellingtons if it is wet!

“I wish children, parents and teachers enjoyment and happiness as they provide young children with the building blocks needed for successful learning and life.”