This book is going to be very influential and will be a seminal text for all practitioners and students wanting to hone their knowledge about how children think and learn best. The authors are Iram Siraj, an academic of giant stature in the field of Early Childhood having been involved over the years in many influential research projects, and Carol Archer whose work as a hands- on practitioner, advisory teacher and academic brings the ‘street cred’ to this book that practitioners relate to. The importance of physical play and movement has been grossly underemphasised in the training of early years practitioners but this resource will undoubtedly redress the balance and lend academic rigour and authority to the place of movement in the curriculum for young children and what we offer babies and toddlers. It will give the reader an extremely helpful overview as it stresses the importance of movement play as the common denominator of all learning. Always backed up by convincing research evidence the first chapter explains in depth what is going on in the brain and the body when children move.
Vigorous movement is essential for health. Being overweight or obese in childhood is a predictor of later health troubles in adult life and yet in the case studies undertaken for this book, adults in pre-school settings were shown to be reluctant to plan for, engage or intervene in movement and physical play with the children. They were unaware of the Department of Health guidelines that children should have 180 minutes (3 hours ) of physical activity in the day and that all under 5s should minimize the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained in car seats or buggies or in sitting) for extended periods . Play is synonymous with movement and a play-based environment offers children what they need to grow and learn best. There is an emphasis on the importance of the outdoors throughout the book.
But knowing the theory is one thing, implementing it is quite another. The book is practical too. It is excellent in guiding practitioners and especially managers and leaders on how to implement a curriculum based on movement for children from birth to 6 years of age. These practical guidelines are clearly illustrated with helpful photos. Siraj and Archer have also devised a Movement Play Scale (MPS) as a way of assessing the quality of movement –play. The descriptors help to place the setting as inadequate through to excellent.
The last chapter is incredibly full and concentrated! It contains step-by-step support in devising a physical development policy where all concerned are given a voice including parents.
The references run to many pages and cover literature from national and international research, and experts in the field of early childhood, education, pedagogy, health, neuroscience, physiology, biological science, psychology, sociology and medicine.
I found this book extremely helpful and will use it in my work with teachers and practitioners and recommend it to all involved in the care and education of young children and their teachers and carers.