This Area of Learning relates to the development of children’s body control and coordination of large movements, fine manipulative skills, spatial awareness and balance. It also focuses on children’s knowledge and understanding of a healthy lifestyle upon which physical well-being depends.
Physical development focuses on increasing the skill and performance of the body. Physical and cognitive development are closely linked, especially during the early years. Problems with a child’s physical development can be an indication that the child may have some learning difficulties. Physical development can be divided into gross motor skills and fine manipulative skills. Throughout the Foundation Phase, children acquire and develop their skills in many ways.
Both growth and development depend on suitable nourishment, including a balance of the right foods and sufficient water to drink. Increasing control and coordination is enabled by the maturing brain and nervous system, growing bones and muscles, exercise and physical activity.
The sequence of physical development involves firstly gross motor skills that require control of large muscles in the body, arms and legs. This is followed by development of fine manipulative skills, which depend on small muscle coordination. As children progress and become more confident, improvement in coordination of gross and fine movements will continue to develop and new skills will be learned. Children cannot learn a new skill until the muscles are sufficiently developed, and the activities and resources provided should be suitable for their developmental needs.
The ages at which children accomplish particular physical skills can vary considerably. Most children will progress through the same stages of development at their own rate. The timing of this development can depend on different influencing factors such as eating habits, emotional development and confidence in tackling new activities
Physical skills, body and spatial awareness contribute to a child’s personal and social development by enhancing confidence and self-esteem. Young children are active learners who enjoy learning through play and physical activities. During play children engage in learning experiences that require them to use a range of physical skills whether playing indoors or outdoors. Physical activities can be incorporated into every Area of Learning, from simple action rhymes and games in Mathematical Development to large movements in response to creative music. The development of children’s physical skills should be developed holistically across all Areas of Learning.
Appropriate space is essential for physical movement both indoors and outdoors in order that children can use their bodies actively to gain spatial awareness and experiment with movement without restrictions. Children need access to large and small equipment that they can get out and put away themselves, for use independently or with a practitioner. All forms of physical activity also require time for children to develop and practise skills.
Children need opportunities to:* work alone or collaboratively
Practitioners in the setting/school should share their observations of children’s physical skills with parents/carers and encourage them to:
support children’s physical development by providing suitable opportunities for physical play, skills development and practise at home be aware of the importance of physical skills to children’s self-esteem, health and well-being, and for developing positive, healthy attitudes share physical activities with their children * celebrate their successes