Should we promote physical development with babies and children 0-5 ?

We know that children develop at their own rates and in their own ways. As a ‘Prime Area’ physical development is, as we know, just as important as the other areas of learning and development. Research has shown that physical activity in young children supports concentration, motivation, learning and well-being.

We need to ensure that babies and young children have opportunities to be physically active each day. We do this by providing as many opportunities for physical play as we can. Promoting the development of fine and gross motor skills and hand / eye coordination will support children’s learning across all of the areas of development.

Babies and young children are at their happiest during physical play, both indoors and outdoors. They enjoy the freedom of movement as they increase in confidence, negotiate space and handle equipment and tools effectively.

Basic activities that develop balance, co-ordination, strength, agility, spatial awareness and confidence.

Gross Motor Learning Opportunities 

  • Walk forwards, backwards and sideways

  • Walk on tip-toes

  • Running, stopping and starting

  • Climb up steps or a ladder with one foot leading

  • Pivot around and around on feet

  • Jump up and down on the spot on both feet

  • Jump a distance

  • Balance along a plank

  • Balance on one leg

  • Crawl through a barrel or tunnel

  • Throwing and catching

  • Tummy time

  • Stretching, reaching, curling, twisting and turning

  • Squirming and slithering

Fine Motor Learning Opportunities

  • Block play

  • Clapping, splashing, patting, squeezing

  • All mark making with any resource –paint, sand, shaving foam etc

  • Assembling track, jigsaws, games

  • Gripping pencils, paintbrushes, straws, peas, chalk (use the tiniest bit)

  • Using tools – pens, hammers, grips, scissors, spoons, forks, knives etc 

  • Pouring water, drinks, sand from one container to another

  • Threading beads, cereal etc  

  • Weaving ribbons, string etc

  • Mark making in playdough –isolating fingers

Physical play requires space, safe equipment and surfaces, time and lots of energy and enthusiasm. Remember that children learn best when they are involved, are given opportunities to learn through trial and error and are allowed to make decisions about how they approach a task.

For more information refer to Development Matters, Physical Development – Moving and Handling, what adults can do and what adults can provide.