Barrier-breaking body movements in the after-school programme: Children’s imitation through play

This article investigates how children learn body movements in informal social situations, and is based upon close observation and qualitative research interviews undertaken among eight- and nine-year-old children in an after-school programme (ASP) in Oslo. The learning process is described and discussed in relation to the concepts of imitation, joint attention and turn-taking. The study shows that learning body movements is usual during child-managed activities in the ASP, and occurs frequently as imitation. The imitation process is characterized by joint attention and turn-taking. In best-friend groups, joint attention, characterized by shared involvement along with intuitive turn-taking, is predominant. In activity groups that come together occasionally, considerable initiative is required on the part of the imitator in order to become an active part of a mutual process. It is recommended to encourage child-managed activities in ASP, and emphasize the ASP’s complimentary role in contrast to the school.

Keywords: Body movement, peer learning, informal social interaction, child-managed activity