Introduction to the Physical & Sensory Section

Happy Learners Banner

Physical Development

An Introduction to Physical Development

The physical development of a child can be both very obvious as in their first steps at walking and also very subtle as in when they begin to walk using heel to toe. These developmental milestones are very important and reaching them at the correct age can be very reassuring for parents. However, development rates naturally vary and parents shouldn't be concerned if their child is a few months behind peers. Being early to reach milestones may often be a source of pride for parents but equally can fuel expectations that may be unrealistic for the child and lead to emotional and mental stress. For example, undue pressure during toilet training can lead to anxieties that can take years to resolve.

It is also worth mentioning that reaching milestones very early is generally of no long term benefit and can sometimes be problematic. For example, early walking decreases time spent crawling and crawling plays a crucial role in the development of the corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibres that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Building a strong connection between the two hemispheres has been shown to correlate with improved learning capacity. Equally, where the corpus callosum is under developed there is a higher incidence of learning difficulties.

Bullet Break

Environmental Factors

Physical development is also influenced by environmental factors. Babies and children need opportunities to develop and practice balance and co-ordination skills. In the last few decades there has been a huge growth in the range of play, sport and recreational activities available for children of all ages. For the very young soft play centres have become ubiquitous providing safe environments for babies and toddlers.

At the same time, society has become very safety conscious and risk adverse with the result that babies and toddlers are routinely restrained or imprisoned. Restrained in high chairs, car seats, baby bouncers, push chairs etc. Imprisoned in play pens, cots, indoors etc. The use of language like restrained and imprisoned may seem overly dramatic but it is useful to consider how often a child's movements are limited and how this might impact on their physical development. For example, use of baby bouncers and baby walkers has a positive effect on leg development which can lead to earlier walking. However, as stated above, early walking reduces the crawling period which is crucial to brain development and particularly the corpus callosum. Physical activities that involve the simultaneuous use of both sides of the body have been shown to strengthen cross-hemispheric communication. Crawling, is ideal in that it coordinates the movement of a leg with the opposite sided arm and is of course age appropriate.

Bullet Break

Bullet Break

You may also be interested in the following pages:

Fine Motor Skill Development 0-6 Years

Sensory Needs

Physical Resources

Bullet Break