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How play influences physical development

Updated April 17, 2017

The ability to play is so crucial to a child's development, that the United Nations has recognised playing to be the right of every child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. In addition to the emotional and cognitive development that playing offers, physical development is a large factor that influences how a child grows. Every type of activity contributes to a child's physical development in some way, whether your child is playing soccer or colouring a picture for a friend.

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  1. Help your child develop gross motor skills by engaging in activities like running and throwing a ball or frisbee. Gross motor development refers to building up large muscles in the legs and arms. You can help stimulate growth in babies by clapping their hands together and giving them "tummy time." Place a baby on his or her stomach for 5 to 10 minutes; this gives the infant a chance to practice rolling over and lifting up on his or her arms.

  2. Promote small motor development by giving your toddler crayons for colouring a picture. Small motor development deals with the smaller muscles in the body, like the muscles used to smile or to grasp a spoon. Toddlers and preschool age children can practice fine motor skill development by lacing yarn through large wooden beads or tying shoes. A baby that is old enough for solid food can be given small pieces of food on a high-chair tray to practice grasping and self-feeding.

  3. Get moving with your child. Loco-motor movement is the movement that gets your body from one place to another. Activities like skipping and playing hopscotch are examples of locomotor skills. Loco-motor movements play a role in gross motor development by working large muscles groups.

  4. Twist and shout. Non-loco-motor movement works to "fine tune" the body. Non-loco-motor movements are the movements you do without moving from one place to another. Pulling a jacket on or twisting a cap to open it are examples of non-loco-motor movement. Development of non-loco-motor skills promotes coordination and balance.

  5. Wave goodbye. Manipulative movements like waving or grasping an object work with small muscle groups to improve eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills in your child. An activity like rolling a ball to a child will help develop eye-hand coordination and work small muscles.

  6. Encourage children to be active in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Since childhood obesity is a concern in our current society, children who are involved in play are more likely to live a healthy life.

  7. Tip

    If you have any questions or concerns about your child's physical development, contact the child's paediatrician.


    Never leave a baby unattended during play or while feeding.

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Things You'll Need

  • Ball
  • Frisbee
  • Skipping rope
  • Small pieces of food
  • Crayons
  • Large beads
  • Ribbon or thread
  • Shoes

About the Author

Annabeth Kaine

Annabeth Kaine began writing in 2010 with work appearing on various websites. She has successfully run two businesses, held chairmanship positions on two fund-raising committees and received excellence-in-service awards for both. Kaine is completing her Bachelor of Arts in psychology.

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