Why nursery teacher wants sport to be kept fun and enjoyable for all

Posted 11th January 2016

She might be relatively new to the teaching world but 26-year-old Steph, our latest School Games interviewee, has already got plenty of experience under her belt. After beginning her teaching career in Suffolk, helping Year 3-4, she has since progressed to cultivating those who are stepping in to education for the first time – spending two years in the Australian town of Manly with two and three-year-olds, before taking a job teaching nursery upon her return to England. In this article, she discusses the skills that our latest generation are already developing through sport.

I loved sport at school, it was my favourite lesson, and I would always be keen to be part of a new team or take on a new sport. I was lucky that the school I attended opened up a lot of opportunities for me to compete in a wide variety of sports, something which certainly benefited me throughout my education and even today. My love of hockey and swimming gave me the right mindset to maintain my health and fitness as an adult, even if it’s just by going for a run or to the gym.

Although the children that I currently teach are a little too young for the type of sport formats available through the School Games, it’s still important for me to give them the education they need to be successful with physical education in the future. In class we talk about healthy lifestyles – including health eating, dental and hygiene. They have a sports lesson once a week and are outdoors three times a day, where they can ride bikes, hula hoop and use obstacle equipment.

Unfortunately, we’re not always lucky enough to have the appropriate weather in this country for going outside, something which was a lot easier to deal with Australia! During my time there, I noticed that they emphasise a lot more on outdoor learning, and even have a fully covered area to allow for lessons to take place regardless of the weather. That’s definitely something that I miss.

I have quickly remembered that one of the biggest challenges in this country is being able to encourage the children to go outside and play when it’s cold. And if they haven’t been outside all day then it begins to impact on their concentration levels. At that age, you need to expel your energy and have a break from the classroom structure – or you’ll stop taking in the lesson being taught and potentially become a distraction to others as well.

That’s not even mentioning the countless benefits behind being physically active. Not only is it good for concentration, it also develops strength, gross motor skills and general wellbeing. It will help with a child’s social skills and encourages them to bond with their fellow classmates – all skills that can be transferred back into the classroom and help with their development in other areas as well.

I know that it’s often debated, particularly amongst sport specific teachers, about when that extra level of competitiveness should be brought in. For me, school sport should simply be fun – an enjoyable activity for all involved. Although I understand the benefits behind teaching a child how to win and lose, there is already enough pressure on early year’s students without exposing them to a competitive environment. They need to be allowed to develop their confidence and self-esteem, as well as their ability to play and interact with others, before they start seeing them as rivals.

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