7 Effective Ways To Boost Physical Development In Children

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Physical development in children refers to their physical and motor development. Physical growth refers to the growth rate in height and weight, and motor development refers to the development of their bones, muscles, and ability to move and manipulate their environment (1).

Each child develops at their own pace; nevertheless, it is essential to monitor your child’s physical growth to ensure that they grow to their full potential. Sufficient physical development in early childhood helps ensure the child’s good long-term health and well-being.

Read this post to learn about the various factors that may affect physical development in children, different physical development milestones, and ways to boost physical development in your children.

Factors That Affect Physical Development In Children

Knowing the factors that affect children’s physical development can help you provide the best care to your child. Here are some important factors that are known to affect children’s physical development.

1. Nutrition

Children can lose developmental potential and suffer long-term health problems due to poor nutrition and early learning opportunities (2). A nutrient-rich diet containing ample fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals aids the physical growth of your child. When a child or adolescent’s diet has an excess of high-fat, high-sugar, and high-salt foods, nutritional deficiencies can emerge. Overconsumption of unhealthy foods and beverages can lead to ill health and weight gain.

2. Genetics

The parents’ genes influence the physical characteristics of a child. The interplay of genes and environmental factors, such as toxic stress and poor nutrition, can significantly impact a child’s physical development (3).

3. Low socioeconomic status

Due to lack of proper facilities and good nutrition, children born to families of low socioeconomic status are susceptible to growth restrictions and can experience delays in motor development (4)..

4. Physical activity

Children should be encouraged to take part in physical activities during the day for better growth and development. Physical activity levels among children and parents are known to be linked; hence, inactive parents are more likely to produce inactive children. Encourage your children to participate in sports and spend time outdoors as lack of physical activity is linked to several health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes (5) (6)..

5. Environment

A child’s environment has a significant influence on their well-being. Some environmental factors that can influence children’s physical development include toxins and pollutants, noise, crowding, chaos, and housing, school, and neighborhood quality (7).

6. Infections

Infections such as diarrhea and pneumonia can disrupt a child’s normal growth. As per a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, “Infections may decrease food intake, impair nutrient absorption, cause direct nutrient losses, increase metabolic requirements or catabolic losses of nutrients and, possibly, impair transport of nutrients to target tissues.” ” By altering the nutritional status, such infections can reduce linear growth in children. Children born in emerging countries are highly susceptible to these infections (8). 

Physical Developmental Milestones In Children

Physical developmental milestones refer to a variety of changes in a child’s motor abilities. As their gross motor and fine motor skills improve, most children exhibit increased independence and self-control.

Gross motor skills: Gross motor skills involve the major muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. Walking, running, throwing, lifting, kicking, and other daily physical tasks require gross motor skills. These skills are also associated with body awareness, reaction speed, balance, and strength. (9).

Fine motor skills: Fine motor skills include the movement and use of the small muscles in the hands, wrists, fingers, and upper extremities. The skills include reaching, gripping, and manipulating objects with your hands (10).

While each child develops at their own pace, the following are some of the typical milestones that children in the age group of three to 18 years achieve (11) (12) (13).

AgeGross MotorFine motor
3-4 years
  • Uses alternate feet as they walk up and down the stairs — one foot per step
  • Walks forward and backward
  • Kicks, throws, and catches a ball
  • Climbs and descends in a controlled manner
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Hops and stands on one foot
  • Bends over without falling
  • Puts on and takes off clothes with assistance
  • Grasps little things and turns the pages of a book
  • Holds pencils and crayons with control
  • Copies circles and squares
  • Builds a tower of five or more blocks
  • Screws and unscrews jar lids
  • Uses fork and spoon
4-5 years
  • Stands on one foot for more than eight seconds and maintains balance
  • Climbs stairs and descends independently
  • Draws a triangle, a circle, a square, and other shapes by copying them
  • Performs a  series of somersaults, hops, and jumps
  • Jumps up and down and catches things
  • Hops on one foot
  • Rides a tricycle
  • Builds towers in a straight block
  • Combs their hair, brushes their teeth, and washes their hands
  • Gets dressed by themselves, except for the tying of shoelaces
  • Draws shapes and a person with a body
  • Uses the toilet without assistance
  • Uses a knife to spread soft foods
AgeGross motor and fine motor
  6-7 years
  • Coordination of large and tiny muscles improves
  • Jumps ropes, hops, and climbs confidently
  • Has improved balance and hand-eye coordination
  • Has more control and precision when drawing and writing
  • Rides a two-wheeled bicycle
  • Learns swimming and sports that involves excellent physical control
  • Sets up a preference for one side of the body
  • Improves writing skills as there is controlled pencil movement
  • Takes part in artistic activities
  • Plays instruments
  • Dresses and undresses independently
  • Plays and catches ball properly
  8-9 years
  • Begins to display a gender-related development pattern: Girls grow taller and gain weight faster than boys.
  • Increased body awareness and self-perception can be seen
  • Shows a greater understanding of one’s physical abilities and how they seem to others
  • Swims and plays team games such as football, cricket, and tennis
  • Handwriting becomes more fluid
  • Jumps, runs, and uses slides for fun
  9-12 years
  • Develops larger and stronger bones
  • Makes significant progress in sports such as soccer, baseball, and cricket
  • Improves bodily strength and dexterity
  • Shows interest in skating, bicycling, and gymnastics
  • Has well-built small muscles
  • Shows the first signs of puberty
  • Uses adult tools, such as saws and hammers
  • Makes basic clothing and builds basic things out of wood
  • Writes and paints well
12-18 years
  • Body fat in girls increases.
  • Muscle mass of boys grows.
  • Both boys and girls have physically grown by the age of eighteen and have usually attained their full height after puberty.

Ways To Boost Physical Development In Children

Children are adventurous and curious. Here are some ways in which you can assist your child’s physical development.

  1. Get your children some toys that can help with their physical development and make them keep physically active.
  1.  Let them express themselves via art. Allow your child to spend time doing crafts, drawing, painting, etc.
  1. Jumping rope, riding bikes, rollerblading, jogging, and running are all excellent activities to improve motor skills, and thus, should be encouraged.
  1. Provide them with building blocks and other materials to develop their fine motor skills and problem-solving skills.
  1.  Enroll them in sports to improve their motor skills and balance.
  1.  Encourage your child to assist you with easy and enjoyable household tasks. You could also help them with putting their toys away and making their beds.
  1.  Physical development in children should be accompanied by good nutrition and a well-balanced diet since this enables proper muscle and bone growth.

Although every child develops at their own pace, keeping track of your child’s physical development is critical to ensure that they reach their maximum potential. The parameters for measuring a child’s physical development are height, weight, and motor skills. However, genetics, low socioeconomic level, nutrition, medical conditions, and other factors may impact your child’s development. Therefore, understanding a child’s physical development and demands is important to appropriately involve them in physical activities and give them a balanced diet that will help boost their physical growth.

Key Pointers

  • Nutrition, genetics, socioeconomic status, physical activity, etc., are the factors affecting physical development in children.
  • Exposure to environmental toxins and other infections such as pneumonia can also have a negative impact on the little one’s physical development.
  • Giving children toys that would keep them physically active such as jumping ropes and riding bikes, helps boost your child’s growth.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Katie Ballantyne; Generation of a Motor Development Tracker for Evaluation of Physical Literacy in 3- to 5-year-old Children; The American Academy of Pediatrics (2021).
2. Nutrition – school-age to adolescence; The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
3. Aline Jelenkovic et al.; Genetic and environmental influences on height from infancy to early adulthood: An individual-based pooled analysis of 45 twin cohorts; Scientific Reports (2016).
4. N Sabturani; The Relationship Between Socioeconomic Status and Fine Motor Skills Among Six-Year-Old Preschool Children; Universiti Teknologi MARA (2013).
5. How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need? How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?; CDC
6. Mitchell, Jonathan; Physical Inactivity in Childhood from Preschool to Adolescence; HHS Author Manuscripts (2019).
7. Ferguson, Kim T et al.; The physical environment and child development: an international review HHS Author Manuscripts (2013).
8. Stephensen, Charles; Burden of Infection on Growth Failure; The Journal of Nutrition (1999).
9. Gross Motor Skills: Birth to 5 Years; Children Hospital of Richmond at VCU
10. Fine Motor Skills: Birth to 2 Years; Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
11. Positive Parenting Tips; CDC
12. Normal growth and development; MedlinePlus
13. Physical Development in Children and Adolescents; Child Development Institute
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Dr. Jessica Madden

(MD, FAAP, IBCLC)
Jessica Madden is a pediatrician, neonatologist, lactation consultant, and mother of four, who has been taking care of newborns since 2001. She works as a neonatologist in the NICU at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded Primrose Newborn Care, a newborn medicine and “4th trimester” home-visiting and telemedicine practice, in 2018.  Dr. Madden is a Fellow... more

Manjari Srivastava

Manjari Srivastava is a graduate of psychology. She also holds certificates in Basics In Clinical Psychology and Identifying Early Signs Of Psychosis In Adolescents And Young Adults.  Previously, she volunteered with an NGO specializing in positive psychology, where she took up individual counseling sessions for students. She also taught English to underprivileged children and helped them with their studies. At MomJunction,... more