Children thrive on physical activity and play, making it an essential element in your child’s life. Parents should never underestimate the importance of physical exercise in helping their kids stay healthy and fit. Learn about enhancing your child’s Physical Growth and Physical Development.
A child’s physical development can be enhanced by a healthy diet, safe and caring environment and physical play. Sports and physical activities play a key role in stimulating your children’s brain power, developing their motor skills and keeping them healthy and happy.
Physical Development Definition
What is physical development? A child’s physical development starts from birth and continues well into his adolescent years. During this time, children learn skills and abilities that enhance coordination, muscle control and gross/fine motor skills. Most of this development occurs during childhood at which time neurological brain power is at its peak.
According to research by the Child Development Institute, 75% of brain development takes place after birth. Physical play helps kids make the connection between their nerve cells and brain. Once that connection is established, motor skills, language skills, creativity, socialization and problem solving skills increase. The skills learned through childhood physical development help increase a child’s confidence and self-esteem.
No two children are exactly alike when it comes to physical growth and development. Physical play provides your children with opportunities to develop physical, emotional and mental skills for their age. Children who grow up in an active and stimulating environment will be more advanced in these skills. They will also be happier, healthier and more motivated to learn.
Why is Physical Development Important?
As children develop physically, they gain abilities and skills that enable them to explore the world in which they live. Muscle control is a major step in a child’s development as it leads to learning motor skills that help him get about. A child’s size, body build, genetics, health and culture all play a role in his or her development.
Most parents are keenly interested in their children’s motor development skills as it gives their kids greater freedom to crawl, walk, run, etc. After carrying their little one for so many months, parents are usually quite happy when their babe starts to crawl. A child’s world greatly expands once he learns how to get around on his own. Parents can encourage physical development in infants by giving their baby ample space to kick, squirm and roll.
As your infant grows into childhood and adolescence, his physical growth and development will continue. You can expect to see growth and improvement in these major areas:
- Gross motor skills – skills that involve coordination and large muscle control such as sitting, walking, running, jumping, etc.
- Fine motor skills – skills that involve small muscle control such as picking up items, grasping, writing, etc.
- Vision – ability to see clearly and distinguish what you see
- Hearing – ability to listen, hear and distinguish sounds.
- Speech – ability to form sounds and words to make yourself understood
- Social and emotional behavior – ability to interact and communicate with others
Milestones in Physical Growth
Milestones can be defined as abilities and skills that children develop by a specific age. Developmental milestones can be used to help gauge your children’s physical progress.
As children develop at different ages, not reaching a milestone at a certain age doesn’t necessarily indicate that your child is lacking in his physical capabilities. Milestones are merely guidelines to give parents an idea of development at different ages.
The following are typical milestones for physical development in early childhood divided by ages and stages in a child’s life:
Birth to 3 months: babies learn to suck, wave arms, kick legs, make tiny fists, tug and pull
3 to 6 months: babies learn to roll, pull their body forward, reach for objects, suck fingers, hold and shake objects
6 to 12 months: babies learn how to sit, crawl, play with objects, stand, eat with a spoon.
1-2 years old: Physical development in toddlers is characertized by their learning to crawl, walk, talk, play alone with toys, feed themselves, turn pages of a book and kick a ball. Toddlers can also exhibit bladder and bowel control at this age.
3-4 years old: children run well, can march, ride a trike, feed and dress themselves, cut with scissors, learn to read and write, throw a ball, wash hands and face and help with chores around the house.
5-9 years old: (middle childhood physical development stage): children continue to develop gross motor skills by learning to jump rope, skate, ride a bike, swim or participate in other sports. At this stage, children can eat, bathe and dress themselves, tie shoes, read, write and distinguish between left and right.
9-12 years: children are capable of playing organized games and sports and have mastered skills that make them more independent from their parents. Once puberty kicks in (generally between the ages of 10-12), kids may experience growth spurts that cause clumsiness and poor coordination.
Development during adolescence can be characterized by growth spurts, physical changes in the body and greater precision in physical abilities and skills. Boys, in particular, may experience improvement in their gross motor skills, gaining greater physical strength, endurance and speed. Healthy eating, regular exercise and good sleep habits can enhance a teen’s physical health and development.
How to Boost Your Children’s Physical Growth and Development
Physical exercise and play can help boost physical development in children. The more opportunities your children have to practice their abilities and skills, the more coordinated and adept they will become.
Young children need time and space to run, jump and play with their siblings and friends. As a parent, you should encourage your kids to engage in all forms of physical play that they enjoy. They may not become experts in every sport or activity, but they can have fun exploring new abilities and seeing what they are capable of.
In like manner, kids can practice fine motor skills through such activities as stringing beads, learning to sew or draw, puzzle making and others. When you introduce your kids to age appropriate activities at home that enhance their physical development, you give them a head start in adjusting to school life later on.
Both gross and fine motor skills contribute to a child’s physical health and development. The physical skills your children learn in childhood and adolescence will enhance their adult life. If you feel your kids are falling behind in meeting developmental milestones for their age, here are some tips to help your kids accomplish these goals.
1. Encourage your kids to take up sports. Sports play offers many opportunities for improving coordination, strengthening muscles and growing in speed and agility. By choosing an activity your child enjoys, he or she will stick with it for the long haul.
2. Encourage physical activity whenever possible. Limit your child’s daily TV watching and computer play to ensure he has time to incorporate exercise in his schedule. Rather than drive your kids short distances to the store or park, encourage them to walk. Set the example by walking with them and getting involved in park play.
3. Incorporate music into your younger kids’ playtime activities to pick up the pace. Practice marching, dancing or jumping rope to lively tunes. Play musical chairs or musical freeze to get your little ones up and about.
4. Enroll your kids in art or music classes to hone their fine motor skills. Engage your preschooler in arts and crafts that involve drawing, cutting and gluing. Incorporate puzzle making into your family times and encourage everyone to get involved.
5. Invest in bicycles or roller blades for your kids and provide ample opportunity for them to use them.