Environmental influences on physical child development

Written by eric feigenbaum
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Environmental influences on physical child development
Physical activity plays an important part in a child's physical development. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Numerous sciences including medicine, psychology, zoology, biology and sociology study whether human development is more influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Research indicates both factors play a role. Within the realm of physical development in children, there are many important ways in which environment has an impact. In many cases, parents can help their children become healthier, higher-functioning people by paying attention to their environment.


Children need to move around to grow and develop (Ref 1, 2 and 4). Neurological research shows that physical activity signals the development of children's brains. Physical movements trigger the brain to myelinate neural pathways in children's brains. Myeline is the fatty material that conducts electrical impulses through the brain. When it coats a neural pathway, a child gains a new synapse. As synapses and neural pathways develop, children get new abilities, both in thought and physical capacity. For example, when a baby belly crawls, it triggers the brain to myelinate the pathways that lead to crawling. Crawling in indicators the neural development required to walk. Children without sufficient physical activity or who have their mobility restricted may see delays in physical development.


According to researchers at Cornell University, loud noises and heavy auditory stimulation can impede children's physical development. Studies on children living near airports or in noisy urban environments showed delayed development of coordination and motor skills. They also showed difficulty with short-term memory tasks. Cornell researchers believe that excessive noise can create a state of distress that hinders children's developmental progress.


Nutrition plays a huge role in children's growth and health. The prepubescent years --- ages 10 to 12 --- are typically the slowest growth years of childhood. Even during this slow period, children grow an average of 2 inches per year. Bodies are constantly in flux throughout childhood and teen years. Nutrition provides the fuel and building blocks they use to accomplish their growth. Children need balanced and varied nutrition for maximum physical development. Likewise, children experiencing malnutrition have physical development delays and in extreme cases develop diseases and deformities.

Visual Stimulation

Time in front of a television, monitor or video screen can create eye strain at any age. In children, this can cause premature vision problems. Excessive time watching television, playing video games or spending time on a computer may overwork and overstimulate eyes, leading kids to visual correction such as vision therapy, glasses or contact lenses at an earlier age than they might otherwise experience.

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