The Importance of Physical Development

On Tuesday 19th May I spent the day on a Physical Development (PD) course, specifically for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) and it revealed some interesting points, which I thought important to share with you all.

We started a day with a quiz as follows (answers/information is in italics),

  • At what age should a child start engaging in being physically active?

Birth or pre-birth.  An active mother gives her child a 3-month head start. Any touching, moving, tummy time etc. is important for a baby’s early physical development.

  • What percentage of brain development comes from being physical in early years?

Approximately 60% of brain development comes from being physically active in early years. When babies are born their brains are not fully developed and they need enriching experiences to promote this. Bilateral moves such as skipping (left and right hand side of the body doing an independent action from the other) helps the left and right hand side of the brain to communicate, which is required for reading and writing.  Doing activities that encourage babies and children to cross the body helps with coordination and also has an impact on reading and writing.

  • How many minutes should a child under 5 be active each day?

Children should not be inactive for more than 1 hour at a time.  Studies have shown that many children today spend large amounts of time in containers; the car seat to buggy to house.  Children are pushed in buggies when they should be walking and developing their core strength. Technology is also being used more and more as babysitting services and many children are spending too much time in front of television, computers and handheld games consoles.

A minimum of 120 minutes – Medium impact (translocation of the trunk.  The bellybutton must be on the move.)

A minimum of 60 minutes – High impact spread out through the day (Opportunities to raise their heart rate and get out of breath.)

A minimum of 180 minutes

  • How many hours should a baby spend on their stomachs?

Approximately 1000 hours from birth to crawling (around 10 months). Tummy time helps develop muscles, head control and supports babies to eventually roll onto their backs and move into crawling position.

  • What do parents see as more important, physical or cognitive development?

Parents see academic achievement as more important than physical. However, as physical activity is important for brain development this will have an impact on their academic achievement.

  • Children should not be inactive for more than how many minutes at a time, except when sleeping?

I found some of these answers thought provoking as a teacher and a parent – specifically thinking about what activity we do.

It highlighted an important part of our role at school and at home in supporting children to be physically literate. This allows them to not only be physically competent but to understand, enjoy and value physical activity whilst taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing, which can lead to lifelong health choices. This may seem like a big ask of young children but many of the activities we do in school encompass this mind-set, without the children even knowing it. In school we have our dedicated “PE” focus time each week where specific skills can be taught, refined and practised and there are many opportunities over the course of the week to enjoy and partake in physical activity.

The course had lots of practical ideas for us to try too and after sharing this information with the EYFS staff at our next team meeting, the children will start to see some of the activities in their PE time as well as resources available in Child Initiated Learning (CIL).

More information about the games, activities and resources will be found in our weekly blog updates with how you can help and extend your child at home but here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Play musical statues and or sing the hokey cokey.
  • Share an active story – “Walking through the jungle” and “We’re going on a Bear Hunt” are two examples where the children can move around as you read or retell the story.
  • Sing nursery rhymes but make the moves and actions big.
  • On the way to school (where it is safe to do so) set your child a challenge such as hop to the next lamp post, tip toe 10 steps – as well as being good for them it might also keep them moving, allowing you to get to places quicker!

References and useful websites:


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