Lycra play in the early years by Kate Maines-Beasley

07 October 2022

Lycra play in the early years by Kate Maines-Beasley

Kate Maines-Beasley is an early years music specialist, and Culture Bridge North East’s EYFS Consultant. Here she shares some ideas to use when working with lycra in the EYFS. This resource contains a free downloadable songbook.


Why lycra?

Lycra play supports all areas of learning and development in the early years, especially those crucial prime areas: Personal, social and emotional development (PSED); Communication and language (CL); and Physical development (PD). 

I believe that The Characteristics of Effective Learning (CoEL) should be considered in all arts offers in the early years.  Lycra play offers great opportunities to support the CoEL.

Sitting around a piece of lycra with a group of children is a magical shared experience. 


Working with lycra offers children opportunities to:

  • Have fun
  • Laugh (stress release, happy chemicals, bonding)
  • Share focus with others on the same object
  • Learn how to be part of a group
  • Develop friendships with each other
  • Work together to make things happen
  • Develop physical and verbal communication skills
  • Develop a feel for the pulse/steady beat
  • Explore their physical development and dexterity
  • Take risks and be brave trying something new 
  • Develop proprioception (the brain/body connection which tells us where we are in relation to other objects/people)
  • Enjoy development movement play 

Development Movement Play Benefits

“I am a body.” Not “I have a body”. Jabadao founder and director Penny Greenland taught me this important distinction through her excellent work as a development movement play advocate. Children explore their world first and foremost through their own bodies and physical development. For this reason, development movement play underpins all of my work. Children need to move. It is a basic need which must be met in order that they grow to be healthy, strong, capable and confident communicators. 

I find that lycra play with small groups of children offers opportunities for children’s movement needs to be met in an interesting, fun, and safe way. Indoor spaces in early years setting can present challenges in meeting the children’s movement needs. The push/pull experiences under and around the lycra offer great opportunities for the children to develop their proprioception (your body's ability to sense movement, action, and location), and vestibular system (a sensory system that is responsible for providing our brain with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation).

The richest experiences are those with small groups, in which I am supported by an early years practitioner or teacher who knows the children well. We will be in a separate, clear space without interruptions. This gives opportunities for each unique child to experience moving their body in the way they would like to and need to.  There is never any pressure to join in or do things a child does not want to do. 

Lycra play works well in stay and play family groups too. In these larger groups, I would lead different activities, in which we all cooperate and work together to make things happen with, on and underneath the lycra. 


So, what do you do?

Space:

Clear a separate space, ideally with nothing at all in it. I prefer carpeted floors as they are softer, but trust your own judgement.

It is easier for children to focus on the lycra and you, without lots of visual distraction or interesting things to capture their attention, and take that attention away from you. I have been known to cover furniture and resources with white double bed sheets to minimise visual distractions.  

In warmer weather you could take this activity outdoors, provided the surface is soft: grass is ideal. 

You need to be able to stretch out your lycra without any children bumping their heads on furniture/each other. I use floor mats for padding. This is more for my knees than for the children! They do provide a softer surface for movement play experiences, but are not essential. 


Go barefoot:

Where possible, take shoes and socks off for movement play work, and model this yourself as the adult.  Read more about why going barefoot is so important in the early years here.


Group size and adult to child ratios:

I work with smaller groups of children. I have seen lycra used with whole classes before, so it can be done.  However, I prefer to work with smaller groups, so that I can respond better to individual children’s ideas and movement preferences.

I do not get the lycra out unless I am working alongside another adult. In my experience, it does not work as well when I am the only adult. Two adults can scaffold and physically hold the lycra and activity. One cannot. I also like to work alongside early years practitioners rather than in isolation. The children get far better outcomes if they are with the people who know them best, as well as me. 

With two-year-olds, I work with four children and an early years practitioner.

Two-year-olds: two adults: four children, or two adults: eight children.

(When I work with two-year-olds there are two adults: four-six children as I am an extra adult. )


With three-year-olds, I work with key groups plus their key worker. Numbers vary depending on the groups. Around 10 is ideal, but it works well with up to 15 children. 

Three to four-year-olds: two: six children, or two adults: 12 children

(I go with key groups and take a steer from the practitioners I work with. I have worked with up to 16 children with an early years practitioner)

Into reception class and beyond, I would trust your judgement. I specialise in working with two year olds. 

You will need plenty of adults as the number of children increases. 


Songs and games

Here is a songbook with audio for you to try with your lycra. If you can’t remember the tunes or words, just make one up! Take a tune you know and change the words. I find that London Bridge is Falling DownFrère Jacques, Skip to my Lou, and Whole World in His Hands work well. 

This resource is for early years practitioners, teachers, music practitioners, parents, family members and anyone with an interest in early childhood studies. We hope you enjoy using these resources with the babies, toddlers and children that you work or care for.

Download our songbook >> here


Lycra play in my practice

Click to play the videos


What do you think?

The most important resource is you and your enthusiasm. Let me know how you get on, and please share your experiences with lycra play with the community. 


Resources and further reading:

Birth to 5 Matters for clear understanding of the EYFS, characteristics of effective learning, and effective pedagogy in the early years. It is packed full of inspiring videos, resources and ideas to integrate into your work.

I get my lycra from 1st for Fabrics, a family run North East business. £10/metre in all the colours of the rainbow! Ask for Kayleigh, she makes my scrunchies and movement play resources. 

Jabadao, home of Development Movement Play

Greenland, P 2000 Hopping Home Backwards: Body intelligence and movement play, Jabadao, Leeds

White, J 2015 Every child a mover, Early Education, London

Goddard Blythe, S 2005 The well balanced child:Movement and Early Learning, Hawthorn Press, Gloucestershire


Let us know how you get on, and do get in touch by emailing bridge@twmuseums.org.uk if you have any comments or questions and one of the team can put you in touch with Kate.