Physical Factors That Influence Child Development

Physical factors can influence different aspects of child development in different ways. Sometimes, physical influences on child development are easy to control, and in other instances, nature has the final say. Give your child a strong developmental start by promoting healthy physical influences and eliminating negative factors within your control.


Sometimes, kids inherit certain genes and physical traits from their parents that can hinder overall development. Down syndrome, for example, is one genetic condition that causes delays in physical and intellectual development. Turner syndrome is another inherited chromosomal disorder that affects the physical, emotional and cognitive development in female children, often resulting in physical abnormalities and learning disabilities.


Nutrition is essential to healthy child development 1. Healthy children who continually receive proper nutrition will thrive developmentally, while malnourished children may suffer problems in physical, cognitive and behavioral development 1. It is important for you to promote healthy eating habits and to teach your child how to make good food choices. Routinely eating unhealthy foods like junk food and fast food contributes to obesity and diabetes, which can impede normal physical, emotional and social development in a variety of different ways.


Exercise promotes healthy physical development, but physical fitness leads to healthy development in other domains as well. A research review prepared by the Illinois Public Health Institute acknowledges a direct link between physical activity and improved cognitive ability 2. Get the family moving with outdoor activities like biking or shooting hoops to keep kids’ bodies and minds healthy and fit.


Environmental factors directly impact a child’s development in many ways. Unsanitary living conditions can harm children’s health and hinder developmental growth, while isolation from peers can inhibit social development. Children who grow up in environments that provide little or no mental or sensory stimulation might lag in cognitive development. Other physical aspects of a child’s environment, such as hazardous chemicals that aren't properly locked away and play areas that aren't child-proofed or enclosed, can pose dangers to children's development and well-being. On the other hand, children who grow up in safe, loving homes that provide children with healthy environmental interactions -- and minimize environmental dangers -- thrive in developmental domains.