As explained in our previous post on CL, in this series of our blogs, we will be taking an in depth look into each area of the seven areas of learning and development and talking about and demonstrating how we support the children’s learning and development in each area and the benefits this has. We will look at each area from a home-based childcare perspective, an early years setting as a whole and talk about how these activities or ones similar can be adapted and used at home to develop continuity across the child’s experiences and environments.
This week we will be looking at Physical Development; the third specific area of learning in the EYFS.
PD focuses on all aspects of children’s physical growth and development; from their earliest movements (turning towards sounds, holding their head up, sitting up) to developing their gross motor skills (running, climbing, jumping and throwing and catching).
A child’s physical development is probably one of the most important areas of learning and development and it is essential as parents and practitioners that we are aware of developmental norms within this area in order to identify any additional need for support or physical issues the child may be experiencing.
The most beneficial and earliest physical ‘activity’ we can do to support and develop a baby’s physical development is ‘tummy time’. Tummy time is the process of placing a baby on their stomach whilst they are awake and supervised in order to support the baby in developing strong neck and shoulder muscles, in addition to promoting motor skills. Tummy Time also prevents a baby from developing flat spots on the back of their head.
As children grow and develop it is important we provide them with opportunities to challenge themselves physically and as a result learn new skills and movements; simple things like ensuring the child can ‘cruise’ along your sofa/coffee table/furniture safely as well as having opportunities to pull to standing, because as with every learning experience – how will children ever learn if they are never provided with the opportunities/faced with challenges to learn to overcome.
As a setting we are advocates of the children learning at their own pace through challenge and exploration; as soon as our youngest children took their first steps they were provided with opportunities to practice their walking on a range of tricky and challenging terrain (woodlands, wall walking! beaches, hills) learning independently to navigate and adapt to these challenges as soon as the basic skills were acquired; not only did this support the children’s resilience and determination, but it also made them increasingly confident in their own physical abilities and therefore learned and developed at a faster rate; particularly in relation to their physical skills.
Risk and physical play go hand in hand in our opinion and if children aren’t provided with risky/challenging physical experiences, they will never learn how to navigate and overcome these obstacles independently. As we’ve mentoned in some of our previous posts, we don’t have the biggest outdoor space and so providing children with varying risks and challenges can be difficult and this is why we are constantly thinking of creative and challenging ways to utilise the space we do have by bringing in new equipment, introducing simple yet effective activities as well as regular visits out of the setting in order to provide the children with vast experiences of not only different environments, but also to expose them to different physical challenges and obstacles.
As children grow and develop it is important (as we’ve mentioned in previous posts) to ensure your environments correspond with the children’s current ages and stages of development, specifically for their physical development. Over the past 2 years, our indoor and outdoor environments have changed considerably; consistently reflecting the children’s needs. For example; when our youngest child started with us at 6 months old we developed a cosy yet challenging baby area complete with tummy time mirror to encourage and support tummy time whilst also ensuring it was stimulating and engaging for the child, we then progressed into sourcing new equipment to support the children’s developing gross motor skills and sourced a sensory stand from our local toy library in order to support the younger children in pulling to standing. We then bought our own soft play and ball pit equipment from a fellow childminder and this enabled our younger children to experiment with climbing, rolling and standing safely, whilst providing our slightly older children with new opportunities to jump, climb and travel in different ways.
Similarly, as the children have grown and developed, as has our outdoor space in order to continually challenge the children physically, not only have we expanded the outdoor space as the children have grown but we’ve introduced a slide, scooters and balance beams in order to support the children’s gross motor skills. As well as utilising our local area in order to continually challenge and stimulate the children both physically and mentally.
Physical Development is not just movement and growth related; one aspect of this area of learning looks at ‘Health and Self-Care’ and so it is important as both practitioners and parents that we not only support the children in developing and gaining control of their physical movements, but also in supporting them in developing an understanding of their bodies as a whole. Including toileting needs and hygiene routines as well being able to communicate what their bodies need and understanding the effects physical activity, the importance of healthy eating/balanced meals and adequate portion sizes and the effect this has on their bodies, as well as communicating what their bodies need (food, drink, sleep.)
If you have concerns about your child’s physical development or you are unsure on what is ‘normal’ physical development for your child’s age, here’s some useful links:
If you are worried about your child’s physical development, always seek support and advice from your GP and/or Health Visitor.