Physical Development includes children's gross (large muscle) and fine (small muscle) motor skills and is just as important to learning as every other area of development.
With more advanced physical development, children master increasingly sophisticated tasks and gain personal responsibility for their own physical needs, such as dressing themselves. In addition, physical development, in many ways, promotes social/emotional development. As children learn what their bodies can do, they gain self-confidence. In turn, the more they can do, the more willing they are to try new and challenging tasks. Thus, a positive cycle, which effects learning overall, is established.
The benefits of promoting physical development are well documented. The Surgeon General's Report on Physical Activity and Health (1996) states that physical activity contributes significantly to personal health and well-being. Physical education in the early grades supports children's academic achievement, general health, self-esteem, stress management, and social development. We also know from brain research that moving the body literally wakes up the brain.
There are two goals for physical development.
- Achieving gross motor control: moving the large muscles in the body, especially the arms and legs, consciously and deliberately. Gross motor control includes balance and stability; movements such as running, jumping, hopping, galloping, and skipping; and physical manipulations such as throwing, kicking, and catching.
- Achieving fine motor control: using and coordinating the small muscles in the hands and wrists with dexterity. As these fine muscles develop, children are able to perform self-help skills and manipulate small objects such as scissors and writing tools. The achievement of fine motor skills generally lags behind gross motor development.