Why is Physical Development so important in The Early Years?

21st Oct 2020

Enabling children to be physically active and providing a variety of opportunities to apply physical movement skills is standard practice in Early Years settings, but do we all really understand why it is important to offer this provision?

In 2014, A.D. Nurse published a book, within which she discussed how physical development acts as a foundation for optimal development of other skills, such as language and also how good physical development is essential for healthy emotional development and well-being, as well as good general health.

It’s no wonder, then, that Physical Development is one of the prime areas in Development Matters (the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum) and therefore is seen as a vital part of a child’s development in their earliest years. But, interestingly, educational settings can sometimes be the downfall in terms of progress made in physical development for these young children.

A. O’Connor and A. Daly in 2016, found that educational practices often interfere with the natural order of development, by placing too much emphasis on fine motor control, much too soon, before the physical development process is ready, and that actually the larger muscles need to be well developed before they can support the complexities of the many smaller muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons to aid with actions such as holding a pencil.

We often hear about settings and parents pushing children to ensure they achieve ‘school readiness’ prior to Year 1, and usually this manifests itself in activities that can actually be detrimental to a child’s readiness. For example, sitting down for long periods of time or using too-thin pencils too soon. In a study this year, R. Duncombe found that poor physical development in young children has been shown to negatively impact on readiness for school, behaviour, social development and academic achievement.

With this in mind, providing high quality opportunities for children to be active and explore physical movements would be a much better investment for both education professionals and parents than the more formal activities we often see, such as writing tools and resources that are too small for them to properly manipulate.

Some example activities include:

– Moving freely, through running, skipping, jumping etc…
– Encouraging them to use large-scale equipment such as climbing frames and monkey bars.
– Creating obstacle courses for them to complete, including objects for them to climb over and duck under.
– Spending time walking outside, exploring different terrains.
– Using different equipment such as large balls or skipping ropes.

Not only will these activities enhance a child’s development physically, emotionally, behaviourally and socially, but they are great fun too!
If you are an Educational setting and would like to hear how we can support your children, please contact Brianne via email brianne@prosportcoaching.co.uk or call 01254 366316. If you are a parent and are looking to get your child involved in additional activities, please email info@diddydribblers.co.uk or call the above number.