Child Development Through Physical Play

Updated April 17, 2017

Physical play involves using large muscles and exercising the entire body, the Child Development Guide website explains. This type of activity helps children develop, not only physically but emotionally, socially and intellectually. It also fosters self confidence, independence and self esteem.


Energetic playing helps the child develop strong muscles and bones, agility, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. Children do this most effectively by participating in a range of activities, including running, jumping, climbing and bicycling. With age-appropriate equipment, the child can stretch her physical limits and increase enjoyment. For example, something as simple as playing on a swing helps a child develop a sense of rhythm, improves balance and coordination, the Child Development Guide explains. Playing with toys helps the child become more dexterous and develop hand-eye coordination.


The activities children engage in foster brain development because they "influence the pattern of the connections made between the nerve cells," according to the Child Development Institute's website. Playing with other children or with adults helps them build language, problem-solving skills and creativity. It also spurs them to explore the world around them. Children learn both by independent action and interacting with those around them.


Children naturally use their imaginations by role playing as they recreate. This helps them to "fulfil wishes and overcome fears of unpleasant experiences," explains Jane Frubose on the Colorado State University Extension website. Playing helps children feel safe and in control of their environment and fosters a feeling of control, success and competence. Playing with others helps them understand and adapt to their emotional responses, too.


When playing with others, children, children learn "sharing, empathy and cooperation," especially when they are using toys or equipment, Frobose adds. They learn the art of compromise, about changing group dynamics and about the importance of individuality.


When children play with their parents, it strengthens the emotional bonds between them. It also gives the parents insights into how their children view and react to the world around them because they do so uninhibitedly and unselfconsciously. But, Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, who also holds a master's degree in education, states in the Jan. 1, 2007 issue of the journal Pediatrics that the child, not the adult, should decide what and how to play. Being in charge helps them develop independence, leadership qualities and their imaginations.

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About the Author

Barbara Bryant has been writing professionally for 25 years. She has contributed to "The Military Engineer" and ASCE's "Civil Engineering" magazines as well as many other publications. Through newsletters and blogs, Bryant specializes in health and fitness topics, drawing on expertise from personal trainers and a naturopathic doctor.