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Movement - a child's first language.

Movement - a child's first language.

This week I met Sally Goddard-Blythe, author, lecturer and Director of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, who’s work I deeply admire. Her work has had a profound influenced both my practice and parenting for the last 15 years. And yes, I did do the ‘fan girl’ bit and tell her how much I love her work! (Eek!) She didn’t seem to mind too much….

I believe there is a battle for developmentally appropriate provision in early years.  


There is a deep divide between those who work take note of early childhood research and what it reveals about the importance of moving, play and creativity, of which dancing, is part. Then there are those who seem to be ignoring such research and plough on (with great difficulty I believe) encouraging children to learn more formally before they are ready.

Sally’s work is about the importance of moving in early childhood. Her work focusses on helping children work through the primitive reflexes they are born with (found in the lower, foundational parts of the brain). Her work seeks to inhibit them so that the child can develop the more sophisticated postural reflexes (which are developed ‘higher up in the brain’) so they can engage in learning with all their bodies, souls and intellect Sally describes the postural reflexes as

“The great personal assistant to our ability to be organised and to concentrate (our executive functioning)”

There is a clear relationship between neuro-motor immaturity and children having difficult starts their education both in early years settings and in foundation year. She states:

“Moving provides the hooks on which children hang their knowledge and learning”

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A study in Ireland found that out of 672 5 and 6 years olds, 48% had some neuro-motor immaturity using Sally’s screen method. Midlands study conducted by headteacher in Midlands found a clear link between physical difficulties and a low levels of attainment in their SATS.

Sally had a stark warned about “grey area” children – those who haven’t completed their developmental movement patterns in the 1st years of life and who often go under the radar in the education system – my son was one of those. You can see my blog about my experience of having a child who hadn’t worked through some primitive reflexes here

I wholeheartedly agree with Sally in that I believe that our bodies naturally try to get the movement experiences they need.

We can see this through our behaviour. Sit me in a meeting for over an hour and I’ll’ start to fidget, needing to move in order to connect my learning. Children instinctively do this. More adults bodies would do it too if we spent more time listening to them, instead of up in our heads. You can read my blog about inhibited reflexes so that we can write here.

There is challenge for those of us working in movement to find the balance between free play and creative expression (of a childs inner world) and structured activity that we know helps children to inhibit those primitive reflexes in order to develop the postural reflexes. When I asked Sally about this she was was very clear about the primary need for practitioners to spend time on the floor – to look at her movement suggestions for the inhibition of reflexes and to translate them creatively into activities for the floor initially, moving to standing as the child become more proficient. This enables a chil to explore the different ways the body needs to move to inhibit the reflexes that a child is born with, so that they can develop physical literacy.

Sally’s most recent book “Movement - your child’s first language” can be found on Amazon here:

And her work in Chester here:


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