Supporting Physical Development
Physical development includes children’s gross-motor (large muscle) and fine-motor (small muscle) skills. Balance, coordination and locomotion or traveling are part of gross-motor development.
Motor development progresses predictably, from simple to complex, in a head-to-toe direction. Children gain control of their bodies in a predictable sequence as well, from the center of their bodies and outward to their fingers and toes.
Children need many opportunities to practice their gross-motors: pulling, climbing, running, kicking, throwing, and jumping. As well as many opportunities to practice their fine-motor skills: cutting, ripping paper, playdough, drawing and writing.
Physical development affects other areas of development. Brain research points to the importance of early, positive movement experiences to support brain development (Gabbard, 1998; Roberts, 1999). Physical development also plays a strong role in social development and can be linked to their emotional development and also contributes to mental health including cognitive development. Rainbow Child Care Center promotes physical development through our Ready, Set, Grow! Fit Foundations Program.
Strategies to Support Physical Development
- Create a protected space for young infants to explore their environment using free movement while lying on their stomach and back.
- Provide push toys to help children gain trunk control and balancing.
- Set up obstacle courses so young children can strengthen their physical development such as traveling skills, balancing, coordination, and build gross-motor and fine-motor muscles. The obstacle course can help children practice particular skills such as hopping, skipping and running.
- Encourage children to walk with bean bags on different parts of their body, practicing balancing skills.
- Encourage children to stop, change directions or walk up and down low ramps to promote their balance as they walk. Playing games such as Red Light, Green Light can promote physical development, as well as cognitive skills.
- Provide lightweight clubs or mallets and balls of various sizes for toddlers and older children to practice hitting along the ground.