Development in childhood
Children need a balance of physical, active play and quieter less
active play throughout their day to help get their brain functioning at it’s optimal level and to assist with
Allow children to have daily opportunities for active play;
crawling, running, jumping, dancing, balancing, throwing and catching, skipping, rolling, twisting and climbing
activities promote co-ordination of the large muscles and brain development.
Developing physical competence
As well as children being nourished and cared for, development
of their physical skills through exercise is important. The physical fitness levels of children around the
world are declining. A decrease in physical health leads to higher risk factors for example heart disease, higher
levels of cholesterol, diabetes and stroke later in life. This decline in physical skills is set to increase as
children spend longer hours on electronic devices.
The development of physical competence not only improves health, but physical skills aid the
development of many other skills necessary for academic performance.
Physical skills such as:
Locomotion – movement such as rolling, crawling, running,
walking, climbing, skipping, hopping and galloping.
Body and space perception – awareness of where the body is in space, having an
internal sense of where your body parts are without needing to look at them.
Balance – good balance is the foundation for the development of successful
sporting skills. Children can develop balance by spinning, hopping, walking along thin lines, stepping from object
to object, swinging, hanging
Co-ordination – eye-hand development and hand-foot development – the ability to
control hand and feet movement guided by vision. These skills can be promoted through throwing, catching and
kicking different sized balls, drawing, painting, threading, building blocks, cutting and pasting.
Rhythm – movement to a steady beat, possibly through dance but not necessarily,
this could include clapping, stamping, swaying or rocking.
Relaxation – some children have difficult relaxing, and being able to calm
themselves down and relax is just as important as developing physical skills. Relaxation skills can assist
children to release anger and tension. Soft music with a slow beat can assist with relaxation, water play, slowing
down breathing rates and visualisation techniques are also useful.
A good way to develop children’s gross motor skills at home is to
set up a simple obstacle course. This can be achieved inside by using thick blankets, couch cushions, or pillows to
ensure the environment is safe and being creative by moving your furniture for your child to manoeuvre around in
Allow children to have daily opportunities for quiet play; reading, puzzles, cutting and
pasteing, block play, threading, grasping, drawing, painting and writing. These activities promote co-ordination of
the small muscles and concentration.
Crossing the midline
Physical skills developed in infancy are directly connected to
your child's later ability to read. One of these pre-reading skills is the ability to ‘cross the midline’. A child’s midline is an imaginary line down the centre of their
body from the head to the feet. Crossing the midline involves reaching across the body with one hand to the
opposite side of the body. The physical skill of crossing the midline is related to the visual skill of scanning
text across a page.
Becoming a successful reader relies on being able to cross the
midline. Without the ability to cross the midline a child will only be able to read the first few words on a page
and then stumble, finding it more difficult to continue reading the text across the page.
For development in childhood of the ability to cross the midline
give children lots of opportunities to practice ‘crossing the midline’. You can do this by placing toys to one side
and encouraging them to reach across. Playing fun physical activities such as ball games, dancing and exercises
that require rotation of the arms from side to side also are great ways to practice crossing the
Crawling is another physical skill related to later successful
acquisition of reading. When a child crawls the right hand moves in time with the left leg. This cross-lateral
movement generates brain function which crosses hemispheres in the brain. These same cross-lateral skills are used
when reading as the eyes track across a page. Therapy for children with dyslexia or co-ordination problems often
Crawling games are great, even for older children. Provide
opportunities for your child to crawl through tunnels and under and over objects.
Introduce exercises that promote cross-lateral movement. For example, movement such as marching
on the spot while tapping their hand onto their knee when it is raised. Show children how to cross their hand over
so their right hand taps their left knee and the left hand taps the right knee. Once they have mastered marching on
the spot, try marching around the room while tapping and singing.
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