Why, how, where next for Storycises? So many questions! Here we get to know Wendy and Jane a bit better. We learn about their skills, their passions, and more. They spill the beans on all things Storycises in this Q&A session.
How did your paths first cross?
We first met in 2006 working in the local NHS hospital as Paediatric physios. We had both worked in various places beforehand, Wendy in various hospitals along the south coast and Jane moving from Winchester. We stayed in touch and started doing some independent work together. We both now work independently, balancing clinical work with Storycises.
How did Storycises come about?
When we started we were seeing more and more children referred to us with difficulties in motor skills. We saw children who fatigued very easily, lacked co-ordination, were weak and wobbly and struggled with skills needed for being at school. To us, the cause of their difficulties was often missing, patchy or immature motor skills. In clinic we would work with them using games and play to target and ‘back fill’ these gaps in their motor skill profile and in so doing helped them to make great progress. Letting the children have fun, setting the challenge so that they achieved success and helping them to build from the ground up foundation skills which are so important helped them to move on to being able to be successful in more complex skills. We also know that to develop proficiency in a skill that it needs to be practiced and so taking these ideas home and practicing there was incredibly important. But it needed to be fun!
We used movement to stories in our practice and thought we could be proactive by producing a programme in story form for young children to practice regularly to try to slow the referrals to us. We thought for continuity we could write something for teachers to use in the class everyday – getting valuable practice at literacy and numeracy skills whilst also regular practice of foundation motor skills at an early age.
We wrote 30 stories and implemented them into schools – and the results even surprised us! The teachers reported improvements in concentration, transitioning between activities, handwriting and fine motor skills, communication, the ability to sit still and in balance and throwing in PE.
We have gone on to develop programmes for young children and older children, even publishing two books for parents to use.
Is there a theme that runs through everything you do with Storycises?
Yes absolutely, be it our books, school programmes, early years resources or lectures our theme is always the same - emphasising the importance of foundation motor skills and how being an effective, robust, skilled child will positively affect learning skills, life skills, and future prospects.
We always describe foundation motor skills as the base layers of bricks in a Jenga tower. The more bricks you have in place, all lined up with no gaps, the higher and more solid your tower will be. Each brick needs to be practiced hundreds of times so that the skill becomes consolidated. The more they are practiced and the more consolidated your foundation motor skills are, then the easier it is to build more complex skills as you get older, and so making your tower taller!
What do you mean when you say children are adults in training?
All babies, toddlers and children are learning and perfecting new motor skills all of the time. From birth they are exploring, getting stronger, moving around and learning how to use the body they have, a body which keeps growing and changing. Skills like rolling, crawling, sitting and standing are all skills which take a lot of practice and are in themselves complex motor skills. To be good at a skill it takes years of practice - you wouldn’t expect an elite athlete to become elite without putting in hours, months and years of training. As it doesn’t simply happen in an elite athlete, so it doesn’t simply happen with children. Unless they get hours, months, years of practice, where they try and fail and try again, where they can experiment with movement, taking risks, and are encouraged to use their bodies they will not become the honed athlete that is an adult who can move with ease and who is strong and robust enough to work physically, live without pain and injury and enjoy an active life.
Maybe these days we just have to think about it a little more, because in the past it was a more natural progression. The slower pace of life, the ways that lives were structured and the way that children played was different and allowed for plenty of time and experimentation with these early movement skills. We live in a very fast world where even sometimes child development is rushed in the misguided belief that to get there first is a win.
Where to from here?
We want to keeping working hard and in many different ways to share the conversation about how we can make being active and leading an active life more enjoyable for children. Not all children are sporty, not all adults in their lives are sporty – and we need to understand being an active child or adult is not about being sporty. It’s about finding ways to have fun together and build those foundation motor skills in a way that enables everyone to be fitter and healthier, with the skills we need to be a functioning human being.
Have you each got a simple message to anyone reading this?
Wendy - If you have children or young people in your life, just have some fun with movement, and don’t forget to model and join in. Don’t be afraid to get a bit out of breath or rosy cheeked. You don’t have to be sporty, you might love walking or gardening or baking or building or even cleaning! There are so many ways to build up physicality in our children.
Jane - Life is faster, more stressful and busy than it ever has done before. I would say don’t let our families lose the joy in being active. It would be easy to give into a more sedentary lifestyle with the advent of technology, where playing for some children often means indoors seated at a device.
Although it is unhealthy for anyone to be inactive, it is even more detrimental to our developing children who won’t get a chance to develop the skills they need to life a full and healthy life. Being active is not only good for our bodies, but it's good for our minds too and at this time in history we need that more than ever.