How Play Can Help a Child's Physical Development

Updated February 21, 2017

According to Maria Montessori, both structured and unstructured play activities are essential to children's physical development. Around 75 per cent of children's brain development occurs after birth, and when children participate in these play activities, it stimulates nerve cells and aids in physical and motor development. Playing with toys helps children not only build their own creative ideas but gain muscle control and strength.

Structured and Unstructured Play

Some parents enrol their children in extra-curricular activities, such as Little League, gymnastics, or a Gymboree Play and Learn class. These types of classes will provide structured activities with other children, and the children will be playing sports or practicing tumbling moves to keep active. On the other hand, unstructured play allows children to set the scene for their play time, especially at recess. They can run off their excess energy and increase their physical activity. While organising a game of tag, for example, children practice leadership roles and communication skills. They learn to work together without asking a teacher for help.

Gross Motor Skills

Provide equipment suitable for young children, such as a climber, a jungle gym and a swing set, for their use during recess time. Allow plenty of time daily for children to play on the equipment, making sure that they take turns, so that each child has a fair chance to practice swinging from the bars or pumping their legs on the swings. Consider setting some tricycles out as well, in case any children want to ride those outside the playground. Practice other physical activities with the children, such as catching a ball, walking a balance beam or hopping on one leg. These skills will help them build muscle tone in their arms and legs.

Fine Motor Skills

Children need to combine hand-eye coordination to master their fine motor skills. Teachers often use activities such as wooden puzzles, writing the child's name, cutting and pasting, and stringing beads for a necklace to practice these skills. Young children may become frustrated quickly by some of these tasks, so do not be surprised if they want to play something else.

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About the Author

Laura Nowak is a freelance writer who combines her love of travel and research to write travel articles. She has been published in various print and online publications, including the "Western Herald," where she wrote arts and entertainment articles. Nowak earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in practical writing from Western Michigan University.