Educational Gymnastics: Embodiment of a constraints agility approach: Chapter 7

Alison Morag Murray, Emerick Kaitell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Educational gymnastics provides a variety of developmentally appropriate opportunities for children to develop their motor competence. As well as existing as its own physical educational area, it provides a foundational base for progressions into other forms of physical activities, in and beyond the curriculum. Typical gymnastics programmes include a core set of skills with explicit competencies of how to perform each one from isolated, to more complex and open-ended experiences. National curricular expectations require coverage of the fundamental movement skills, as progressed in meaningful ways for all children as they acquire these and learn how and where they can use these to enjoy lifelong activity. These skills provide the essential base from which other experiences emerge. Children need awareness and control of their bodies in self space before negotiating travel through general space. They will also need to have awareness and stability to control objects before they use these for activity-based challenges and games. Morison depicts awareness as knowing by feeling, rather than through other forms of knowledge acquisition (1969). Pedagogical considerations of this include kinaesthetic awareness development, for example, using explicit opportunities for children to notice when a limb is fully extended behind them, when their eyes are unable to confirm that it is doing so. When children connect what and how they learn using their senses we contend the experience will be further strengthened. Such awareness can be purposefully illuminated and enhanced to ensure children learn how to attain and regulate their own healthy active lifestyles (Murray and Napper-Owen, 2021).
Fundamental movements, quintessentially the skills to run (locomotor), jump (power using stability skills) and throw (using objects) are crucial for children to be able to participate in other varied activity forms. They enable children to explore their environment in and beyond educational settings. Gymnastics-related fundamental skills include:
• Body management skills e.g. balancing, twisting, spinning and turning, rolling and jumping and landing.
• Locomotor skills e.g. a walk, run, gallop, leap, or hop.
• Object control skills e.g. rope grasp/swing, bench contact, tabletop use, bar swinging and climbing over equipment, and making use of available resources in the environment (affordances).
This chapter suggests ways educators can create and facilitate movement exploration, acquisition and transfer across socio-culturally nuanced learning opportunities. It rests upon constraint analysis as an ecological (contextually driven) teaching and learning movement approach and pedagogical tool. It aims to inform educators and empower learners as they revisit conceptions around constraints; both potential limitations and possible opportunities, to support learning. It embodies an explicit understanding and intention to use respective and collective constraints to best advantage children in the particular context, at the particular time. This chapter is inspired by the 1st edition chapter of this text; Gymnastics in the Primary Years, by our esteemed colleague and friend Lawry Price.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducational Gymnastics: Embodiment of a constraints agility approach
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to Primary Physical Education. Second edition
EditorsGerald Griggs, Victoria Randall
Number of pages19
EditionSecond edition
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • educational gymnastics
  • constraints
  • embodied

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