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Physical Development and
 Your Childs Well-Being

Please see also: "Stages of Child Development"

Wiggling those toes, blowing a kiss, climbing up stairs, hitting that home run – all those are great achievements. They are achievements of the physical development which includes:

  • All the bodily changes that occur during a lifetime,
  • learning to use the large muscle groups needed for jumping or running (also called gross motor development) and
  • learning to use those small muscle groups that let you pick up the lost sultana or wrinkle your nose (fine motor development). 

Physical Development Allows for New Fun Experiences

As a parent you watch your child and his abilities grow and grow. Some parents can't wait for their children to reach each milestone and would like to support their attempts in every possible way.

For your child his development isn't less exciting. With every step in his physical development a whole new world opens up.

  • Being able to hold and control the head makes it possible to see so many new things,
  • A child who can crawl or walk is so much more independent in getting to all those interesting things.
  • Physical growth makes it possible not only to reach more things, but also to learn different skills.  For example riding a bike, once she can reach the pedals. It often also determines how other people respond to someone.

This way it might become understandable, that upon reaching one milestone, your child doesn't necessarily rush to reach the next. There is so much more to see and learn and understand on the level just reached.

Sometimes it might seem as if he's not progressing at all or even regressing. But trust him, he might be figuring out something different which you can't see just yet.

Becoming proficient in one skill also takes time but never the less it is important. It influences your child's development and well being in so many other areas.
For example:
  • The feeling of confidence in motor skills often influences the sense of self esteem. This in turn can lead to better behaviour like a more cooperative play or enjoyment in a variety of activities.
  • This confidence and all the practice of gross and fine motor skills also prepares for later tasks like reading and writing. It is so much better to enjoy a variety of those activities with the child than to push children into early writing exercises.
  • The regular and lively activity builds up lung capacity, muscle strength and bone density that not only allows for even more activities, enables a better emotional balance and is also the foundation for a good health throughout adulthood.

The Challenging Side of Physical Development

On the other hand certain bodily changes can also influence the overall well being of a child.

Who doesn’t know the grumpiness of a child who is teething? And then, who thinks of teething right away when a child is suddenly grumpy? I certainly didn’t until I noticed my daughter’s sore gums.

In the same way a growth spurt can influence the need for sleep or make temporarily very hungry. But it’s often just after a growth spurt that a parent wonders “why has she suddenly lost her appetite?”

And here again it’s important to check for other possible causes like sickness, but not to overreact. Even sudden clumsiness might be the result of a growth spurt – and it will pass as well.

Supporting Physical Development

So how can you best nurture your child's physical development without asking too much?

The key is to provide positive experiences. Just have fun!! Those experiences nurture the curiosity and confidence of your child to try new skills and explore the world.

Focussing on positive experiences also prevents from rushing from one skill to the next. It gives more room to the repetition needed to truly master a skill. Usually your child’s interest is a very good indicator of his readiness to learn a new skill or let another one rest for a while.

What parents can do is to provide a broad spectrum of possible experiences and let the child choose which ones he's is interested in at the moment. However, his preference of one over the other doesn’t mean that the next time he wouldn’t choose differently.

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