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Early Childhood Physical Development

May 2, 2017

By Jessica Vician

Early Childhood Physical Development | How to encourage your toddler's physical development with exercises and activities that nurture their gross and fine motor skills. | A young toddler squats to pick up a soccer ball.

As your baby becomes a toddler, they will grow physically stronger and will gain a better grasp of the movements they started when they were smaller. For example, their walk will start looking more like "one foot in front of the other" instead of a waddle. Soon, your growing toddler will gain more strength and coordination, learning aim and how to throw and catch among other activities. You can encourage their physical development with exercises and activities that nurture their gross and fine motor skills.

Gross motor skills involve larger movements using the whole body, while fine motor skills are more precise and will only use a portion, like the hands and fingers.

To help your child learn both skills, incorporate Albert Bandura's theory of observational learning (quoted below from a Cliffs Notes article):

  1. Observe the behavior in others.
  2. Form a mental image of the behavior.
  3. Imitate the behavior.
  4. Practice the behavior.
  5. Be motivated to repeat the behavior.

To nurture your child's gross motor development, try these efforts:

  • Provide a large, open, safe space for running, jumping, rolling, etc. to use big muscles.
  • Spend time at the playground teaching them to swing by themselves and climb around (stay close by for safety).
  • Set up a balance beam at home—on top of a soft ground, tape foam blocks together on the floor to allow your child to walk across the "beam" in a straight line.
  • Try some of Get Ready to Read's activities outlined here.

Help your child develop their fine motor skills with these activities:

  • Teach your child to brush their teeth by showing them how you do it and then asking them to imitate you.
  • Build something with large Lego blocks or Lincoln Logs. Let them learn to put the blocks together and pull them apart.
  • Draw or color with crayons, paint with watercolors, or do puzzles together with big pieces.
  • Try this mom's favorite activities for fine motor skills.

If you're wondering what developmental milestones your child should be at for their age, check with your pediatrician. He or she knows your child's medical history and can provide the most accurate assessment. For a quick check online, you can reference Gracepoint Wellness' article here.

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