Physical Development in the Early Years
The scope for Physical Development has changed considerably in recent times - no longer meaning football for boys and netball for girls. This aspect of physical education is now much more diverse and inclusive, incorporating a range of activities, resources and opportunities. We are losing the stereotypes, opening up the sports experience to many more children.
We better understand the benefits of physical play, essential in a society where technology is advancing at a rapid rate. Research has enabled us to make links between physical development and brain development, helping educators recognise the benefits of active play and learning on development. Especially in light of the Covid pandemic when restrictions were placed on outdoor play, children need physical play more than ever, as well as opportunities to socialise.
Engaging in physical activity comes with a host of benefits to learning and development. This includes the impact on a child's physical skills, such as gross and fine motor development, balancing, coordination, lateral and cross lateral movement, spatial awareness and strength. However, there are many other benefits associated with physical development. When children are engaged in exercise, they are socialising, building relationships, communicating and learning rules. As part of a team, children are learning to listen and respect, work together towards a common goal, be honest and determined. The child in this instance is not working independently, they are connecting with peers and experiencing healthy competition. Children learn that sometimes the team will lose, but this is not down to individual performance but instead is a team loss. This can often take some maturity! However, taking part in physical activities is a fantastic way for children to learn to control their emotions in a more regulated way, impacting on their general wellbeing. It can feel good to be part of a team, building confidence, self esteem and a positive attitude - children feel valued and empowered. It is this which can influence a child's wider academic successes in education.
When children have opportunities to engage in physical activities which they enjoy, this can impact on their life long participation and activity levels. This is why it is important to encourage sports right from Early Years up. Being active as a child is likely to mean children are active as an adult, impacting on their long term health. They will be fitter, have a healthier heart, be a healthy weight and therefore be less likely to suffer with conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Not only that, but exercise releases serotonin which makes us feel good. This impacts on the child's wellbeing, helping to relieve stress and anxiety as well as sleeping better at night.
The role we play in developing children's physical activities is wide and far reaching. It involves facilitating an environment where participation in physical activities is valued and encouraged, whether this be on an individual basis on part of a team. There will be space for children to run, jump and climb as well as use equipment like balls, bats, skittles, hockey sticks, golf clubs and rackets. It's important that children feel they can 'have a go' and learn through trial and error. It is this process of experimentation which is just as important as developing technical skills.
It's also valuable to encourage parents to be involved in sports at your setting. Perhaps invite families in for a sports afternoon, to showcase their particular skills or to watch games and matches. This could be in addition to the usual sports days events that settings and schools hold. Also, don't forget the parents race!
In short, exercise can have an immense impact on child development, from physical skills to wellbeing, communication to personal, social and emotional development. We can be their encouragers, cheering them on and getting them excited to try out new activities. It's our role to make sports fun and accessible for all, enabling children to feel empowered to have a go and succeed.
We hope that you have got lots of ideas to take away from this Physical Development post.
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