Keep it moving in childcare: Developmentally appropriate practice – Part 2

Physical activity is an important part of any childcare program. Understanding children’s developmental stages will help to make sure that activities are designed to best fit the ability of the children in your care.

Children's brains and bodies need to be activated simultaneously to promote growth and learning. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Children's brains and bodies need to be activated simultaneously to promote growth and learning. Photo credit: Pixabay.

There are many factors involved in how much we weigh. One of those factors is lack of activity, which is very important in early childhood as children’s brains and bodies need to be activated simultaneously to promote growth and learning. Children learn by doing.

In the childcare setting, childcare professionals spend a large majority of the day with a large amount of children. In order to promote healthy lifestyles, such as healthy eating and physical activity, they need to be a role model for children in their care. Another important factor is to be aware of appropriate kinds of movement abilities preschoolers are capable of, and be sure to have them use those skills throughout the day.

Michigan State University Extension lists these examples of physical development by age:

The 2-year-old:

  • Walks alone
  • Stands and walks on tip-toes
  • Able to pull toys behind while walking
  • Carries a large toy or several toys while walking
  •  Walks up and down stairs holding on to support
  • Climbs into and down from furniture unassisted
  • Able to kick a ball
  • Begins to run

The 3-year-old child:

  • Walks without watching feet, walks backward, runs at an uneven pace, turns and stops well.
  • Climbs stairs with alternating feet, using hand rail for balance
  • Jumps off low steps or objects; does not judge well in jumping over objects
  • Shows improved coordination, begins to move legs or arms to pump a swing or ride a tricycle
  • Forgets to watch the direction of their actions and bumps into objects
  • Stands on one foot unsteadily
  • Plays actively and then needs rest; fatigues suddenly and becomes cranky if overtired

The 4-year-old child:

  • Walks heel-to-toe, skips unevenly, runs well
  • Stands on one foot for five seconds or more
  • Walks down steps, alternating feet, judges well in placing feet on climbing structures
  • Develops sufficient timing to jump rope or plays games requiring quick reactions
  • Begins to coordinate movements to climb or jump
  • Shows greater awareness of own limitations and the consequences of unsafe behaviors
  • Exhibits increased endurance, with long periods of high energy

The 5-year-old child:

  • Walks backward quickly
  • Skips and runs with agility and speed
  • Can incorporate motor skills into a game
  • Walks a two-inch balance beam well
  • Jumps over objects
  • Hops well
  • Maintains an even gait in stepping
  • Jumps down several steps
  • Jumps a rope

Understanding the physical development of children is important to child care professionals and parents. Being aware of what a child can or should be able to do at each age will help them know how to guide them and plan activities to promote physical growth, strength and development.

For more on this topic read Keep it moving in childcare – Part 1.

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