Physical Development is a Prime Area of Learning, based on the central importance of physical skills for all learning and development.
The statutory framework for the EYFS (2021) states that educational programmes must involve activities and experiences for children, as set out under each of the areas of learning.
‘Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives. Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults. By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination, which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practice of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence.’
Supporting children’s Physical Development
- Physical activity play is the first appearing and most frequent occurring expression of play in infants.
- Children in all cultures all over the world engage in spontaneous and rule-governed forms of physical play.
- Physical competence is a major factor influencing social acceptance in children of all ages and sexes.
- The development of movement skills influences cognitive skills, memory, attention and thinking skills.
- Physical Development brings a child into contact with new challenges that affirm or tests their self-esteem.
- Supporting young children’s physical development supports their overall achievement.
- There’s guidance on our website about physical development in our Ordinarily Available Provision guidance and Graduated Approach documents.
- Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust have developed Occupational Therapy resources that are divided into foundation, fine and gross motor skills alongside examples of activities practitioners can plan for to support these skills.
- Early Movers is a collaborative project between Loughborough University, the NCSEM and Loughborough campus nursery. The website has been designed alongside early years practitioners to help you understand and feel confident in providing physical development opportunities to children in your setting or at home. NCSEM have also produced information leaflets for parents.
- Sport New Zealand have also created a number of activity guides for children in the Early Years which can be downloaded from their website.
- The MOVERS rating scale is a resource for early years practitioners who wish to evaluate and improve their Physical Development practice and provision. The scale can be used to assess the quality of the environment and practice but also to identify areas of need for professional development. More information can be found here. Movement Environment Rating Scale (MOVERS) for 2-6 year olds provision can be purchased from book retailers.
- Consultations with an Early Years SEND Advisor regarding children experiencing differences with PD can be requested.
The following fact sheets have been developed by the Early Years Service:
- Child obesity – External links
- Developing core skills – progression
- Developing fine motor control
- Developing motor skills from birth to five
- Developing your gross and fine motor provision
- Experiences to develop physical skills
Education Endowment Foundation
The EEF and Sutton Trust are the government-designated What Works Centre for Education who aim to raise the attainment of 3-18 year olds, particularly those who are disadvantaged.
Early Years Toolkit – Physical Development Approaches explains how 3 months progress can be made by promoting physical development approaches in the setting.
Projects and evaluations This section features results from testing the impact of high-potential projects to generate new evidence of ‘what works’. Select ‘Early Years’ in the search drop down menu.