The Move and Groove Program Gets Children Moving in Hanover County, Virginia

Children playing numbers hopscotch gameIntegrating physical activity into young children’s lives is important for creating a foundation of movement and activity that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their lives. Physically active children learn habits in early childhood that greatly increase their chances of remaining physically active through their young adult and teenage years and into adulthood. Michelle Johnson, a family services specialist at the Henry Clay Elementary School in Hanover, VA understands the importance of physical activity with children early in life. That is why she created Move and Groove, a program that creates a fun learning atmosphere in which parents and children can interact together by providing opportunities to stimulate and challenge the sensory, perceptual, and motor development of young children. Engaging children in early care and education settings in physical activity is one of the goals of the Let’s Move! Child Care (LMCC) initiative.

How was the Move and Groove program created?

Parent involvement. Move and Groove was inspired by a parent idea and then plans were created to teach and reinforce various concepts and skills through movement and music. Move and Groove reinforces classroom academics through music and movement while educating parents on what skills are being developed by each activity. At each Move and Groove session, parent volunteers are introduced to alternative ways to teach their children classroom concepts. “By participating in each activity, parents serve as role models by actively engaging each child thus honoring the role that parents have as the first and most influential teachers of children,” says Michelle.

From evidence-based programs. This program was designed for children ages 3-5 to create more opportunities for children to have physical activity in a school setting without sacrificing academic learning. However, the Move and Groove methods can be used to teach and reinforce any curriculum at most any level. Move and Groove is a combination of several research and evidence-based programs such as I am Moving, I am Learning, CATCH, and Color Me Healthy. “Then we add lots of creativity with variations to children’s games, movement to familiar songs and props such as parachutes, scarves, bean bags, etc.,” says Michelle.

What are some of the successes of the Move and Groove Program?

Participation. This is Michelle’s 5th year of implementing the Move and Groove program. Over the past two years, Michelle has seen a decrease in the number of children that are identified as overweight or at risk of being overweight and a decrease in Body Mass Index (BMI).

  • 3rd year: September 2011: 53 children in the program were identified as overweight or at risk of being overweight; March 2012: Only 6 children in the program were identified as overweight or at risk of being overweight, which 4 out of the 6 children identified as overweight had an average drop in BMI of 1%.
  • 4th year: September 2012: 15 children in the program were identified as overweight or at risk of being overweight; March 2013: 4 children were not identified as overweight or at risk of being overweight and the other 11 children had an average drop in BMI of 1.27%.

Recognition. The Move and Groove program received national recognition in 2011 by being cited as one of the strengths for Hanover County, Virginia when receiving the 100 Best Communities Award for Young People. The competition recognizes communities across the country that focus on reducing high school dropout rates and providing service and support to their youth.

Tips for SuccessChildren throwing matching bean bag to wall targets to reinforce fruit and vegetable concepts

  1. Turn teaching concepts into movement for children. For example, Michelle says that providers who might want to teach letter recognition could post letters on the wall in the classroom as targets for bean bags with letters on them. “Anything that can be taught with pen and paper can be taught through movement, “says Michelle.
  2. Keep it simple. “It has amazed me how young children never seem to tire of simple games, such as freeze or four corners,” says Michelle. “Each year I modify the program or improve the program in some way.”