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Evie's Diary #2: Assignment writing for the Early Years

My name is Evie and I am currently studying for a Foundation Degree in Early Years.  I have been a qualified Early Years practitioner for 8 years now but really wanted to extend my knowledge and improve my professional practice.  This encouraged me to undertake this degree course, and I started in September 2020. 

I have recently completed an assignment for my Early Years specific module, FDEP1001 Foundations of Understanding – Learning and Development within the Early Years Curriculum.  The module's intent was to extend upon our knowledge acquired in the Human Growth and Development module previously studied, and to look at this with an Early Years perspective.  We studied each of the Prime Areas within the Development Matters document of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework, both the current and new revised edition of this curriculum being adopted this coming September.  To do this, we looked in depth at how these areas can be taught and delivered to children of all ages within this sector.  For those who aren’t aware the EYFS Development Matters section is split into two areas, Prime and Specific, with the Prime areas being essential for learning in the Specific areas.  It is important to mention this does not mean they are more important but are the foundations of learning.  The Prime areas are Personal, Social and Emotional Development (PSED), Communication and Language (CL) and Physical Development (PD).

This assignment’s focus was one of my choosing and one I was particularly interested in for my own professional development.  I decided to write about physical development, and the connection between Gross and Fine Motor Developments and whether engaging the subsidiary senses (vestibular and proprioceptive in this case) has any effect on this.  My assignment was entitled "How engaging the subsidiary senses through fine motor sensory activities helps towards the progression of early writing skills".  To do this we had to review the literature we found and then analyse it by using a window of practice like an observation.  I chose to see the effect gross motor has on fine motor skills needed for writing and observed a Dough Gym session to help me to do this.  I use Dough Gym in my practice regularly and wanted to learn more about it, not just for my benefit but for the children in my care too.  This also would benefit my setting as we have a particular interest in fine motor activities and an early writing focus to ready children for Reception, which is a controversial topic on its own that could also be researched about!

I started my reading already aware that strong gross motor skills do help develop fine motor skills but not as much as I realised.  As I read and learnt more it became clear that in order to strengthen the muscles in the arm the whole body needs to be strong and controlled.  Not only does good posture enable the child to sit comfortably in a positive position, it can aid focus for longer periods which results in better quality of learning and writing progression.

“If children are able to balance, then they will be able to control their bodies in movement and stillness and, therefore, be more capable of sitting still when needed and to be able to concentrate on more sedentary tasks, such as reading, listening to stories and writing.” (Archer and Siraj, 2015, p. 62).

Before starting this course, the subsidiary senses were a completely unknown developmental factor to me and I was intrigued and amazed on just how much of an impact they have.  They aid coordination control, balance and spatial awareness.  The proprioceptive sensors in our body especially aid this as it is what sends the messages to the brain to tell us where to place our legs when walking or where to place the pen on a piece of paper, for example, without looking.  This is needed when learning to write and pretty much just about everything.  The vestibular system is in the ear and helps us to balance and move without falling.  Not only this, but the movements made and development as a baby can affect the way a child holds a pen or uses a pair of scissors.  This is due to the strength in the shoulders being developed.  A baby who doesn’t crawl in a traditional manner may not lose the palmar reflex (a whole hand grasp) making it difficult to use a tripod or pincer grip on a pen.  I found this is because the pressure put upon the hand and arm sends signals to lose this reflex to the brain.  Cross body movements are vital for this too, as it not only aids the subsidiary senses but builds core strength which we know now is so important for all areas of physical development.  As you can imagine, this is all imperative for a young child to develop in order for their learning to progress.  I found the reading for and the writing of this assignment so interesting so I could go on and on!

As I found it so interesting and academically stimulating, it is definitely an area of interest I would want to return to in order to deepen my understanding further.  I found that Dough Gym as an activity incorporates all aspects needed to develop good gross and fine motor skills and was able to use the new knowledge to make the Dough Gym sessions I provide for the children more enriching, stimulating and physically fulfilled.  As I write this, I am thinking of the Dough Gym I held today and how I have improved it by adding new strength building moves that require resistance and coordination.  Due to Covid regulations the sessions I intended to deliver for my group of Pre School children were put on hold, but I am looking forward to seeing how my new knowledge will help them to develop more coordination and spatial awareness, and eagerly await to see how this also aids their fine motor and writing skills and whether this will affect the current pencil grasps they are using.  This module was incredibly helpful and gave me plenty of techniques and ideas to use when teaching children under my supervision.

Archer, C. and Siraj, I. (2015) Encouraging physical development through movement play. London: SAGE Publications.