The Obstacle Course: Movement = Learning

Each day our tamariki are at Buckle My Shoe, the environment is shaped to meet their needs and reflect their interests. Not only is this done by our lovely teachers who set up learning areas, but also by giving our little ones the responsibility and freedom to lead their learning and make choices in the play space.

With winter upon us, it has become apparent that on rainy days there is a lot of pent up energy just bursting to come out. Gill Connell & Cheryl McCarthy – authors of the book “A Moving Child is a Learning Child” outline how the body teaches the brain to think.  With this in mind, a focus on movement and physical education opportunities for our tamariki have been at the forefront of our teacher discussions.


This week when our tamariki were helping set up outside, they chose to create an obstacle course along the side of the building. What started off as just a few planks and tyres soon incorporated boxes, cones and beanbags.


Of course they all wanted turns on the course straight away, but through a few rounds of trial and error they came to the conclusion that a system needed to be created to avoid collision.  “The starting line can be here”, one child proposed and began creating a line with the cones.


One by one they had turns going through the obstacle course, at first slowly and carefully. But as they became more confident the pace started to pick up. For our smaller tamariki, our older children took on the role of leaders and supported them by using encouraging words, role modeling and holding their hands. 👍


The following morning when it was time to set up outside, some of our children made a plan to change and alter the course to “make it harder”. It was like a whirlwind hit the course, as our littlies began moving around all the loose parts to add in new items, create elevated balancing beams & bigger gaps between objects. This had to involve communication and negotiation, as there were so many different ideas on how to make the course even better.


With the desire to add some bigger planks of wood, one child realized it was too heavy to move by herself. Quickly, another child came to support her and said, “We’re a team, teamwork’s what’s going to work” as they both lifted the plank on each end towards the obstacle course.


Soon the new course was ready and our tamariki were all waiting at the starting line, rearing to go! As a few children started on the course, we began hearing them describe what they were doing using words such as “balance, jump, over & under”. This was interesting to hear as they were verbalizing what movement their bodies were doing, as they were doing it. Amongst other things, this demonstrates that outdoor play can also provide opportunities for our little ones to develop their vocabulary and oral language skills.


This experience is a great example of children leading and taking responsibility of their learning. As a group they were able to work as a team, problem solve, negotiate and set & achieve their goal of creating a harder obstacle course for themselves. At Buckle My Shoe, an important part of our philosophy is helping our tamariki “reach for the stars” to realize their full potential. When given opportunities like this one, children are given the space & time to set goals and work at moving towards them.

Understanding the different ways in which children learn is fundamental in supporting their growth & development. We have learnt that stimulating movement is one essential part of helping our tamariki reach for the stars in their learning journey. 😊