Physical development includes children’s gross-motor (large muscle) and fine-motor (small muscle) skills. Motor progresses predictably, from simple to complex, in a head-to-toe direction. Children gain control of their bodies in a predictable sequence as well, from the center of their bodies and outward to their fingers and toes. Children need many opportunities to practice their gross-motor skills, e.g., pulling, climbing, running, kicking, throwing, jumping and their fine-motor skills, e.g., cutting, drawing, writing.

Physical development affects other areas of development. Brain development is supported by early positive movement experiences. Other research indicates physical development is linked to children’s emotional development and their school performance.

Teaching Strategies GOLD, Teaching Strategies, 2010

Physical development objectives

  1. Demonstrates traveling skills
  2. Demonstrates balancing skills
  3. Demonstrates gross-motor manipulative skills
  4. Demonstrates fine-motor strength and coordination

Typical development of physical skills

The rate of motor development varies greatly from child to child, but the progressions which children go through for both fine and gross motor development are very consistent. These websites offer suggestions for typical developmental milestones in this area and possible “red flags” for parental concerns.

How to facilitate physical development

Motor development is not automatic. If children are to develop physical competence, they need to practice and apply previously learned skills. This practice should be through a variety of meaningful and fun play activities which get children moving throughout their day. These sites contain suggestions for activities which families, child care providers and teachers can do with children to encourage health and motor development.