Physical Development in Early Childhood
Children grow at a rapid pace between birth and two years of age, but once they hit the age of two, toddlers tend to have slower growth. This is when the parents get concerned about the changing eating habits of their child and wonder whether the child is growing normally.
Physical development during infancy happens in a series of growth spurts. It is important to keep in mind that after the growth spurts, the child grows at a standard and steady rate until adolescence. The best way to determine if your child is growing properly is to closely monitor and track his growth.
What Is Physical Development?
Slowly but steadily, your child is preparing to take on the structural build that is almost similar to that of an adult. This is considered physical development in a child.
Signs of a Child’s Physical Development
Here are some of the pronounced signs of a child’s physical development:
The arms and legs of the child will grow longer and will be proportionate to the torso as well as the head. You will also notice that your child appears much slimmer and distinctively thinner than he was as an infant.
2. Muscle Growth
Muscle growth will be faster in order to aid the child’s movement. The muscles of the arms and legs, which are known to be larger, will grow faster than the muscles in the toes or fingers, which are smaller. At this stage, it is essential to provide proper nutrients to your child to help the growth process.
3. Brain Development
Under brain development, your child will be able to perform more complex mental and physical tasks. During early childhood, there is significant growth in the neural fibres in the brain, specifically in the frontal lobes. It is also noted that around 2 years of age, the human brain is already 70% of its adult size. By the age of six or seven, the size of the brain is almost 90% of its adult size. The increase in motor skills can be contributed to this growth. It is also a common practice to measure the circumference of the head in order to figure out the growth rate of the brain.
4. Motor Skills
Motor skills are associated with the child’s ability to perform tasks on an everyday basis. It can be anything from running to building blocks. Motor skills can be categorised into:
- Gross Motor Skills
Also known as large motor skills, these are the skills that are required to perform general tasks like running, walking, jumping, or even balancing their bodies as they engage in these activities.
With gross motor skills, your child should be able to perform some of the below-mentioned activities:
- Walk with a steady balance
- Run comfortably in a single direction or around obstacles
- Throw a ball or catch one
- Hop on each foot several times
- Jump over objects or low lying hurdles
- Kick a ball that is stationary
- Pedal a tricycle
- Fine Motor Skills
Also known as small motor skills, these involve finer movements that hold necessary to perform tasks that may be slightly complicated. These are also associated with the brain development of the child.
Fine motor skills allow the child to:
- Use cutlery
- Brush teeth or comb hair
- Pick up small items likes coins
- Work on simple puzzles
- Draw simple shapes like circles or squares
- Stack up blocks
By 12 months, the length of an infant is known to be about 50% of the birth length. When children reach the age of five, they should ideally be double their birth length. Also, boys reach half of their adult height at around 24 months, and girls are half their adult height when they are about 19 months old.
At one year of age, the weight of the infant will be three times that of the birth weight. The growth rate tends to slow down after the first year, and between one and six years, he will be gaining around 2 kg every year.
Typically, around five to nine months of age, your baby will have lower front teeth. The teeth on the upper front appear at around eight to twelve months of age. Children tend to get all 20 of their baby teeth or deciduous teeth by the age of two-and-a-half years. Permanent teeth replace the baby teeth anywhere between the ages of 5 to 13.
Stages of Physical Development
The stages of physical development in children follow a general pattern:
- Babies can crawl, sit, and hold their head up by nine months.
- They learn walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs with help, building blocks, and holding crayons between the age of two and four.
- Between age four and six, they can climb stairs without help, write, and even dress on their own.
Ways to Boost Physical Development in Toddlers and Preschoolers
You can work in some physical development activities for preschoolers to improve your child’s dexterity and overall development:
- Walk with your child and provide him with the opportunity to run, jump and use his muscles.
- Prepare a simple obstacle course for your child to jump over, or encourage him to run around in the garden or in the house.
- Play catch using a ball. You can also play games that allow your child to kick and throw the ball, thus working his muscles and motor skills.
- Take your child on a nature walk. Make sure to stop every now and then and allow him to touch the grass, leaves, and flowers. Ask him to bring you pebbles and twigs. These activities will help develop your child’s gross and fine motor skills.
- Have a dance party at home. Put on some music and dance with your child, especially to nursery songs that stimulate fine motor skills, such as ‘itsy bitsy spider’.
- Play pretend games, such as laying a tightrope on the ground and trying to balance on it.
- Get creative with art. Provide your child with ample opportunities to draw in and around the house.
- Get some child-safe scissors and teach your kid some craftwork.
- Have a block-building contest.
- Play an easier version of ‘Simon Says’ with your baby. If you are Simon, your child has to do everything you ask him to do – use this opportunity to make him get things, pick up objects, and even enact various animals like ducks, cows, dogs, and monkeys.
- Get toys that can boost physical development in your child, like a tricycle, basketball hoop (child-sized) or hula hoops.
- Get a small inflatable pool and fill it with water. Encourage your child to splash or paddle under supervision.
- Get your child to hop in a bouncy castle or a trampoline. Ensure he has proper adult supervision during this activity.
- Get your child to help with simple, fun chores like bathing the dog or washing the car.
- Ensure that your child has adequate sleep to enable overall development.
- Take the child for routine check-ups to treat any developmental issues early.
Physical development in children should be complemented with proper nourishment and a healthy balanced diet, as this ensures proper growth and development of the muscles and bones.