From sitting up on their own to throwing a ball, children gradually develop the physical skills needed for their adult lives. Physical development includes both growth and the ability to use muscles and body parts for particular skills. Both gross (large muscle movements) and fine (small movements) motor skills contribute to physical development, and children often learn a set of skills by a certain age. If you are worried your child is not meeting these developmental milestones by the recommended age, you can engage your child in some physical activities to reach these goals.
Determine which developmental milestones you would like to address and are appropriate for your child’s age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide a list of these milestones through age 5 years, and your child’s physician will also have a list.
Write down a list of activities that will aid your child’s physical development for each milestone, and even choose activities that will address more than one skill. For example, playing baseball will increase muscle strength through holding the bat, improve the gross motor skills needed for swinging a bat and develop hand-eye coordination by hitting the ball. Make sure your activities are developmentally appropriate for your child; for example, a 12-month-old child cannot hop on one foot, so don’t use an activity that requires this action.
Encourage independence with your child. If you go out, don’t let him sit in the stroller, but rather make him walk. If your child is old enough to feed himself, let him eat finger foods or use a spoon.
Engage your child in music and movement activities. March to a song with a strong beat to encourage steadier gait. Practice jumping, spinning, hopping, crawling or tiptoeing to a lively tune. Purchase a keyboard or drum and let your child explore the instrument and play along with his favorite songs.
Foster fine motor skills through art and tactile experiences. If it’s age-appropriate, let your child cut with scissors or grab small pieces of construction paper to glue to a larger sheet of paper. Draw circles and squares to practice the fine motor skills needed for writing. String beads onto a piece of yarn to make a necklace or bracelet. Place pebbles, pearls or plastic objects inside a box of sand and let your child dig through the sand with his fingers to pick up the objects.
Play sports and enjoy outdoor activities. Try a game of kickball to aid both coordination and the gross motor movements of the legs. Teach your child to ride a bike or a tricycle when age-appropriate.