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    • Discuss the importance of physical development and physical activity in children’s lives.
    • Identify examples of gross-motor and fine-motor development in children.
    • Discuss how physical development is linked to overall health and learning.




    Our bodies go through amazing transformations when it comes to physical growth and development. Think about the vast physical changes that occur between infancy and young adulthood. Recall your own physical development as you were growing up. Perhaps you remember learning to ride a bicycle, playing a new sport, or completing a 5K race. Physical activity is very important for our overall development and growth. Moving the different parts of our bodies, sitting up, rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping, holding and manipulating different items are all examples of ways in which we use our bodies to explore our environment and learn about the world. These are also ways to keep our bodies healthy, fit, and well-functioning. Research also demonstrates that our physical activity is necessary for our brain development. Physical activity affects our ability to age well and keep our minds active.

    Physical activity supports gross-motor development and fine-motor development.

    • Physical development refers to children’s abilities to use and control their bodies.
    • Gross-motor skills involve the use of large muscles in the legs and arms as well as general strength and stamina. Examples of gross-motor skills include rolling over, crawling, walking, jumping, throwing, climbing, hopping and skipping.
    • Fine-motor skills involve the use of small muscles in the arms, hands, and fingers. Fine-motor skills are supported by children’s improvements in perception, or the ways in which children use their senses to experience the world around them. Examples include grasping objects, scribbling, cutting with scissors, drawing, and writing.

    Children’s abilities to perform self-help tasks (e.g., dressing, eating with forks and spoons, brushing teeth, etc.) are affected by their development of gross- and fine-motor skills.

    As a family child care provider, you have many opportunities to observe children’s motor-skills development during daily routines and activities. As children’s bodies mature, they progressively strengthen their muscles and are better able to control their bodies. Their brain development also affects their ability to participate in increasingly more refined motor activities. For example, as a toddler becomes steadier on her feet, she falls down less and eventually begins to walk independently. Another example is watching a child first learn to write starting with random marks on a paper and eventually having the eye-hand control to hold a pen and copy a full sentence on paper.

    By creating intentional time for physical activities across the daily schedule, you enhance children’s physical development and their chances to practice new skills.


    Watch to learn more about the importance of movement and physical activity on children’s learning and development.

    Physical Development Introduction

    Introduction to movement and physical activity for children.


    As you get to know the children in your care, you may think carefully about ways to support their physical development throughout the day. As you notice their particular interests, you can build on them through materials and games that bring about active learning. Games from childhood that you enjoyed are excellent ways to promote learning (e.g., Simon Says, Twister, freeze tag, etc.).

    Physical development is strongly linked with overall learning and well-being. As children’s brains develop, so do their motor skills. This begins with the sensory experiences of gentle touching, rocking, cuddling, and warm, nurturing responses to babies’ cries and attempts at communication. These early brain-building experiences set the stage for the child’s continuous physical development. 

    You serve as a role model for physical activity for the children in your care. Your own interests in physical activity serve as a way to engage with the children. Perhaps you enjoy yoga or a particular type of dancing. You don’t have to be a seasoned coach in a sport or a certified dance instructor. Share your own enthusiasm for physical activities and have fun!

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course, the Physical Development Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Family Child Care Physical Development Course Guide

    Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.



    There are many resources available for providers (and parents) to assist in helping build children’s brains and enhance their overall development (including gross- and fine-motor development). The website and app Vroom contains information about children’s development from birth to 5 years and includes ideas for activities that can be easily done in family child care settings. Take time to explore this website. You may find some new activities to enjoy with the children in your care. Make a list of activities you can do to support children’s physical development.



    Adding more movement to your daily schedule is one way to support children’s gross- and fine-motor development. Use the attachment as a guide to help you think about ways to add more physical movement to children’s day. Share your ideas with your trainer, coach or family child care administrator.


    Physical developmentThe advancements and refinements in children’s motor skills
    Fine-motor developmentThis refers to the development of skills that involve the use of smaller muscles in the arms, hands, and fingers that allows a child to perform tasks such as drawing, cutting with scissors, stringing beads, tying, zipping, or molding clay.
    Gross-motor developmentThis refers to the development of skills that involve the use of large muscles in the legs or arms, as well as general strength and stamina. Examples of such skills include jumping, throwing, climbing, running, skipping, or kicking.




    True or false? Physical development and activity do not influence children’s learning.


    Which of the following is an example of a fine-motor skill?


    A parent new to your program asks how you support gross-motor development. What is an appropriate response?

    References & Resources

    Berk, L.E. (2013). Child development (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

    Copple, C.,& Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice for programs serving children ages birth through 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Vroom brain building moments (2017). Retrieved from