Ask the Experts – March
This year, we’ve launched a brand-new blog series – ‘Ask the Expert’.
This provides a platform for all Early Years (EY) professionals, where they can share their experiences and advice with the industry, on their chosen specialist subject.
So, whether you’re a policy expert, nutrition specialist, or knowledgeable practitioner, we want to hear from you!
This month, we welcome Tom Gavin, owner of TAG Sports North West, to talk about all-things physical development in children…
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background in the Early Years (EY) sector:
I’ve always had a love for sport and after I took on a teaching assistant apprenticeship, I knew I wanted tap into my passion for physical activity and use it to help children stay active. I went abroad to run EY groups of all abilities and that sparked a fire in my belly to go to college and get my teaching qualification.
This led me towards my dream of building a place where youngsters could enjoy a positive learning experience that develops their social skills, confidence, motivation, and resilience to succeed in adult life. With TAG Sports North West, it’s my mission to provide a fun and enjoyable environment via afterschool clubs, weekend sessions, holiday clubs, and the delivery of high-quality PE cover for Key Stages One to Four, and special education schools.
Q: How important is physical development for EY children, and what are the benefits?
Staying active means everything. It helps children to understand their own biology as well as provide so many wellbeing advantages. I’ve witnessed lots of youngsters come to our sessions and leave bursting with confidence and a new-found sense of independence. It’s about making physical development fun and sociable so they can enjoy being part of a dynamic team.
I love how sport and activity can pave the way for children to develop long-term friendships too. That’s exactly what’s happened with me – some of my best mates are from football clubs I joined as a youngster and I’ve never looked back.
Q:What tips can you provide for both EY practitioners and also parents looking to support children’s physical development?
It comes down to making things engaging for children so that they learn more in a way they want to digest information. During the climate as we know it, a lot of our sessions have taken place online via video calls and that’s been a bit of a revelation because we’ve had so many join us – parents and teachers too!
In addition, I’ve noticed that youngsters who might’ve felt scared to join clubs previously, have really thrown themselves into these Zoom classes because they don’t feel worried and they’re comfortable in their home environment. So, as well as making activity fun, it’s also important to provide accessible ways that meet every youngster’s needs.
My biggest tip would be to think about sport in the child’s shoes – and then build an exciting programme that’s full of short, sharp bursts of activity, alongside engaging, age-relevant resources.
Q: Joe Wicks has been a huge hit throughout lockdown. What did you make of his impact? And how do you think it will help children, parents and practitioners?
He’s been a bit of a saviour during lockdown, hasn’t he? I’ve loved his classes and can definitely see why he’s had so many views and people from all over the world joining in. He tapped into an area that we needed as a nation to lift us a little bit when times were hard – I’m so pleased he did it.
Since then, I’ve never seen so many people out walking! That in itself has been a fantastic way to not only keep active but really bring families together too. We’ve also made sure our PE sessions via video have become something of the ‘norm’ because we’re getting some huge attendances, so the appetite is clearly there. I don’t think online learning will go away any time soon – if anything, I think it’ll only become more popular.
Q: How do you engage EY children in physical activity – both within a childcare setting and at home?
It comes back to making things engaging and accessible. A child is going to react better to a class they enjoy, and therefore do more in terms of physical activity as a result.
For settings, they have some amazing spaces to be able to hold exciting sessions and practitioners don’t have to have a teaching or PE degree to do it. It’s the same with parents too – if they’ve got a garden or park nearby, they are both perfect areas to have fun without costly eq uipment or anything like that. It doesn’t always have to centre around a particular sport either, it could be gardening or going for a walk in the woods.
If anyone is struggling for inspiration, there are some amazing resources out there on YouTube and online. We can also come in and demonstrate lessons to help nursery staff, or host afterschool clubs to further develop their children’s fundamental movement skills, so they keep active and take part in a wide range of sports.
Q: What changes or developments do we all need to make to ensure children’s physical development is a priority once we come out of lockdown?
Although it’s been extremely difficult for the EY sector, parents and their children, I think – as a society – we’ve become even more aware of how important it is to stay active, get outside, and enjoy some fresh air.
I do believe video sessions are here to stay and will complement the face-to-face work that practitioners and parents are already doing to ensure each child develops their physical and social skills, both in settings and at home.
It’s so important that family time isn’t forgotten post-lockdown either. Spending those precious moments throughout such uncertainty has been so vital for many people in terms of wellbeing, motivation, and happiness.
When it comes to providing further sports support too, I’d love to hear from more practitioners who want help to shape activity programmes that ensure children are taking part in engaging sessions that boost confidence, improve independence, and develop team bonding.