The Nursery gym in action at Pen Green

A 20-minute video from Siren Films

With an introduction by Dr Margy Whalley and sensitive narration throughout, this 20-minute video can stimulate discussion about the importance of physical activity and positive risk for young children. Supporting healthy physical development is the primary function of the gym, but children’s spontaneous social interactions and their trial-and-error problem-solving show how this equipment serves all areas of learning.

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The whole philosophy of the babyness was about children being autonomous, masterful, able to make decisions, do things in their own time and their own way. And we've created a warm environment, in which the children feel very contained and supported, and it's emotionally safe, but also an environment where children can take measured risks with support from adults.

And when we developed a relationship with Community Playthings, it was really about wanting a more responsive way of working with people who were creating play provisions and work with the company to try and design and develop the physical resourcing that is good for us so, that it's aesthetically beautiful, but it's long lasting, and it's safe for children.

This film's going to show how beneficial the resulting nursery gym is to the children here in their babynest. Once children are mobile, they're constantly on the move, exploring and discovering their world. They learn through movement and play. It's the way their body and brain become coordinated.

They need the physical challenges of climbing and clambering, learning to balance. They need uneven surfaces to negotiate and a variety of textures to experience. They need to have slopes to walk up and down and places to slide, jump, and bounce.

They have a strong biological drive to seek out these sorts of experiences. And when they're inside, they still have these deep seated needs. So the gym has been designed to incorporate some of the features found outside.

Hannah is 16 months old. Like all young children, she learns through movement and her senses. Textures are of great interest to her. She feels the smoothness of the slide. She wants to tear her shoes and socks off to feel with her feet. The bottoms of her feet are very sensitive. She's beginning to understand the different parts of a body and what they are.

She's experiencing going up and over. Sliding down let's her feel what it's like to move quickly downwards, feeling the effects of gravity. She loves the gym and is pleased with what she can do on it. She has to tell all of us all about it.

Sophie is 19 months old. The spongy form surface of the sand dune gives way under foot. It's the unpredictable surface found outside that's just what's needed for practice when you're learning to walk and crawl.

I mean, the gym is a focused part of the nursery. And I think the children find that somewhat a secure base. And I think because when they stand up on the top of it, they can have an overview of the wholeness away from the hecticness of all that's going on.

And it gives them a chance to take a step back, have a look around. And they know when they come in, that it's somewhere that they can go to straight away and settle.

And you can see right over.

When they're standing up on the gym and you're bending down, they're higher than you. So that gives them a different feeling they're above you or they're at your level, which is nice for them.

Mastering physical skills takes many, many hours of practice. Sophie is determined again and again.

She's developing an I can do it attitude and practises on her own. Children like and need to do things over and over again. It's part of the way they're learning. Repetition gives the brain chance to make firm connections. Simon wants to place his feet carefully and walk down the slide.

[crosstalk 00:06:14]. I'm watching. Five, six. Wow, well done.

He wants to do it again, experimenting with his movements and controlling his body. He's proud of his efforts as well and loves dies participation.

One, two, three. Well done.

Dylan likes being in the balcony away from the hustle and bustle, watching what people are doing. He uses the rails to help him stretch up to the roof. Stretching out, feeling the position of his limbs, experiencing how his muscles feel when they're active are all helping him create a real sense of his own body.

Putting the muscles on the tension is something the gym really encourages. Jack uses the rails to lever himself backwards and forwards. 

Well done, Jack. That's a big jump. [inaudible 00:07:26].

Magdalena and Jenna like to play together and often copy each other's movements. Effort on different surfaces and slopes helps them learn more about body control.

All the movements we've seen, Hannah, Sophie, Dylan, Jack, Jenna, and Magdalena undertaking so far are all fundamental to the way they integrate their movements and senses given the brain repeated experience of how the body feels while it's active. Beginning a strong sense of confidence in themselves both physically and emotionally.

These physical skills are so important in life that the children are encouraged to experiment and take risks. They know there's always adult support close by.   

That was a good slide.

Dawson wants to come down the steps head first. It's a tricky maneuver. The adults aren't always within reaching distance and often encourage the children to persevere and master their skills on their own.

Knowing someone's interested in watching what they're doing gives them the confidence to persevere. There needs to be a balance between keeping them safe and allowing the children to explore for themselves, allowing the tolerance for minor bones.

It's so important for them to take risks. It sets out foundations for them in life, really. And the children have to be able to experience the whole gym and they can't do that unless they are taking risks.

So the difference between running up the slide and running up the ramp is completely different experience for them. It's slippy up the slides and there's cuff on the ramp.

Lily is keen to come down head first, but bumps ahead.   

You have to keep your head up when you come down that way.

She's just as keen to do it again. It's a powerful learning experience. Boisterous play encourages all sorts of movement. The children are learning to gain real control over their bodies. They're mastering physical skills.

Jack and Simon have the freedom to run, jump, slip and slide as they want. They have little tumbles which helps them learn about balance and how to navigate around each other. The stuff of confidence in their abilities and don't show anxiety about their activities, encouraging them not to be too fearful. Of course, they're ever watchful. [crosstalk 00:11:42] 

Sophie is keen to play with Jack. Physical activities encourage socialising. [crosstalk 00:11:58]. Sophie's language skills are really motivated. And Jack is careful not to hurt Sophie as he practises movements and controls his body. [crosstalk 00:12:32]. Little Ava settles herself in the sand dune.

Hi, there, Ava. I think you like that little seesaw, don't you? I think you do. I think you do like you sitting there. [inaudible 00:13:19]. 

And Kerry knows that the appearance and disappearance involved in people through the bars is an important social game for her. [crosstalk 00:13:30] 

Boo. Oh, you hiding. [inaudible 00:13:45].

The gym creates perfect spaces for socialising. Magdalena wants to play people through the bars. [crosstalk 00:14:05] It's their own place to be in. She looks down and watches Jenna and Holly. [crosstalk 00:14:36] 

The spaces in the gym encourage looking over and looking through as the children greet each other and make up games. [crosstalk 00:15:00]. The gyms is a base to socialise from Andy. [crosstalk 00:15:12] 

Hi, Jenna.

The children use all the spaces created by the gym. Magdalena and Tegan play into the slide. [crosstalk 00:15:29]. They love small spaces to be in. [crosstalk 00:15:42] 

That's a nice place to play, isn't it? [crosstalk 00:15:53] 

Now Magdalena is making the space under the bridge her own as she takes  her favourite belongings in. [crosstalk 00:16:16] It's a little den where she can feel secure on her own. It's a safe base for her.

Dawson also likes going under the bridge. He experiments with his voice and watches himself in the mirrors. And he uses this end of the gym as his pretend bold. [crosstalk 00:17:15] Pretend to play helps children begin to understand what it's like to be someone else.

Hello, mummy. Lily's mummy's on the phone.   

It looks as if Lily's decided that the gym's an office.   

Lily. Did you just write Lily?

The gym also provides features that children used to learn about various concepts. Tegan's experiencing what numbers mean using a whole body.

One, two, three.

It inspires Jenna, too.

One, two, three.

Now she's learning how objects behave.

I got it. 

And what she can make them do. Simon's got a plan and takes up a skittle and ball. The children really make the gym their own and use it to follow up their individual interests. There's so much to learn about how the world and the things in it work.  

The nursery gym provides a space which encourages children's development in a holistic way. Toddlers need challenge and adventure as well as nurture. And the gym helps provide both.

Bye Dawson.   

It caters for the social and emotional and cognitive needs as well as the physical ones, it's obviously so ideal for. [crosstalk 00:20:00]. It's a place to experiment physically, a place to be with others or on your own.


And it can be transformed into anything you like when you start to pretend. [crosstalk 00:20:20].

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