Physical Development In Pre-schoolers: Benefits Of Play And Movement

Are you amazed by your child's growth? Eager to know what milestones he must reach by the time he is three? Want to know how you can help him develop better? Read this article to find out

By Dr Rashmi Goel

Physical Development In Pre-schoolers: Benefits Of Play And Movement

By the time your child reaches pre-school age, he would have made tremendous strides in physical development. Every day will reveal a new aspect of your child. You will rejoice and wonder at his activities, which he will get better at with each passing day. Dr Rashmi Goel shares her views on what you can expect from him during this stage and how you can support him to grow into a strong and healthy child. Read on...

1. What exactly does physical development mean?

Physical development means growth and control over body movements through the coordinated activity of nerves and muscles. Physical development influences children’s behaviour directly by determining what they can do and indirectly by influencing their attitudes towards self and others. It helps them to explore the world around them and provides an opportunity for learning. Physical development follows a predictable pattern or sequence hence based on the age for different forms of physical activities, it is possible to establish norms. They enable parents to know what physical activity they can expect their children will engage in at a certain age.

2. What important physical milestones must a child achieve during ages 2 to 5 years?

By the time your child is two, he will begin to walk in a rhythmic, balanced way. When he is 3-4 years of age, he will start running, jumping, hopping, and develop throwing and catching movements too. By the age of 4 to 5 years, he will be confident of climbing up and down the stairs with alternating feet, running more smoothly and riding the cycle rapidly.

3. What are gross and fine motor skills?

Coordination of muscles and movement of the body are called motor skills. It is the ability of the child to explore, experiment and manipulate the environment around him. They are of two types—gross and fine motor skills. Motor skills start out as gross, diffuse activity and move towards mastery of fine movements. Gross motor skills are activities like sitting, walking, running, jumping, swimming, etc. that involve the use of large muscles of the body like those of the arms, legs and trunk. Fine motor skills are activities like grasping, picking up small objects, writing, feeding, dressing, using tools, blowing and blinking that involve the use of small muscles of the body like the wrist, fingers, feet, mouth, eyes, etc.

4. How can a child be helped to develop these skills?

Childhood is often the ideal age to learn motor skills because children’s bodies are more pliable and they are more adventurous. Skills are automatic, rapid, accurate, smooth. Also, a well-learned skill becomes a habit.

First of all, a child must reach certain maturity to learn a skill. Children develop the interest to learn physical activities when parents motivate and provide the opportunity to learn and practise. Children learn a lot of things by imitation and observation. Spending quality time and stimulating the child to play physically helps the child to build muscle strength and coordination because it involves various activities like ball throwing and catching, kicking, running, cycling, etc. Play activities that involve hand and eye coordination help the child develop fine motor skills and mental abilities.

5. What kinds of movement are good for a pre-schooler?

Movement helps development. Examples are jumping ropes, hopping, balancing on a single leg, balancing beam, walking on zig zag lines, cycling, dancing, doing stretches, warm up, cool down, balloon play, ball games, obstacle crossing, etc.

Parents must provide the child with a lot of hand and eye coordination activities to improve fine motor skills.

Physical activities should facilitate developmental goals like improving self-esteem and independence, interaction, cooperation, communication, observation and exploration, physical strength, endurance, agility, speed and accuracy, rhythmic movement control and dexterity.

6. What kind of an environment is best for physical development?

Activities that involve movements must be age-appropriate, interesting and must have active participation. They can be designed as indoor or outdoor play, group activity or one-to-one play. They should be more creative, fun, meaningful and come with simple instructions. They should not have a rigid exercise schedule. Movements should be planned to make them more enjoyable, to improve their muscle strength, coordination, flexibility and body awareness. These activities should train the child to become more independent, boost his self-confidence and make him happy. Children should imbibe the concept of good health by practising simple exercises or physical activities to keep them healthy and active.

7. What causes delays in physical development?

Genetic constitution, physical defects like vision impairment, physical illness, malnourishment, childhood obesity, overprotective parents, lack of stimulation and encouragement, prematurity, brain damage at birth and unfavourable prenatal or post-natal environment.

8. What should a parent do if a milestone is delayed?

Consult a doctor or therapist who does basic developmental screening for the child to find out the cause for the delay and the level of performance in various activities. If the child has borderline delay, then with a little help, and structured home programme, the child can overcome the delay. If the delay is more than the average, then the child needs therapy and regular practise of exercises to progress.

There are many benefits of play and movement. But, you must ensure that when your child goes to play outdoors, he does so in a safe and sound environment. This ClipBook looks at the importance of a safe playground.

Looking for fun ways to keep your preschooler engaged at home during the pandemic? Check out Little Learners at Home, a home learning programme specifically designed for 3 to 5 year olds by our team of experts.