Skip to main content

Physical Development: An Introduction

This lesson will provide you with an introduction to the Physical course. You will spend time reflecting on your own lifestyle and physical activity. You will also learn the basics of physical activity guidelines for school-age children and the benefits of leading an active lifestyle.

  • Reflect on your personal experiences and active lifestyle choices. 
  • Identify the amount of daily physical activity recommended for school-age children.
  • Discuss the physical and mental health benefits of leading an active lifestyle.



Personal Reflection

Think about your own lifestyle. What types of physical activities do you enjoy? You might be a runner or a regular gym-goer or you could swim or spend time in the park with your dog. There are unlimited ways to be physically active in your own life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that healthy adults spend a minimum of 150 minutes per week participating in a combination of moderate-intensity aerobic activities and whole-body muscle-strengthening activities. As with school-age children, it is best to engage in physical activities that you enjoy. This will help you to keep up with a routine and make physical activity a habit. In the resources section of this course, you will find a list of websites with physical activity information for adults. As a school-age staff member, it is important for you to lead a healthy lifestyle and include physical activity into your regular routine because you are a model for children.

The Benefits of an Active Lifestyle

There is a clear connection between leading an active lifestyle and being healthy. Children today are being diagnosed more regularly with chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. The increase of these diseases in children can be linked to the increase in poor diets and sedentary lifestyles of today’s society. To help children overcome these risks, it is important that they participate in physical activities every day. The CDC recommends that children be physically active for at least 60 minutes each day. They also recommend a combination for aerobic activity, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening exercises and activities. Following those guidelines, along with a healthy diet and lifestyle will help to:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and body mass index
  • Achieve physical developmental milestones
  • Maintain or improve blood pressure
  • Improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Improve posture and balance
  • Improve overall physical health

Maintaining an active lifestyle will not only help achieve physical health and fitness, but it will also improve children’s mental health. The rapid growth and change that takes place in school-age children’s bodies can often affect their self-esteem and body image. There are often increased feelings of wanting to be accepted by others, frustrations over their physical abilities, or uncomfortable feelings about their changing bodies. Sustaining an active lifestyle increases energy and helps children maintain a positive attitude and achieve other health benefits, such as:

  • Improved self-esteem and confidence
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved social skills (especially when participating in team sports or activities)
  • Improved focus and brain function

If school-age children learn to develop these healthy habits, they will be more likely to maintain them into their teenage and adult years.

Understanding Physical Development

Physical development is one domain of development. It relates to the changes, growth and skill development of the body, including the brain, muscles and senses. Physical development is evident primarily in gross-motor and fine-motor skills. These skills are essential to children’s overall health and wellness. Gross-motor skills 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. Fine-motor skills involve the use of small muscles in the arms, hands, and fingers and are supported by advancements in perception. Examples of such skills include stringing beads, scribbling, cutting or drawing. Fine-motor skills enable children to perform a variety of self-help tasks such as using utensils or dressing themselves.

Children’s motor abilities develop as a result of physical development and growth. As their bodies mature over time, children progressively strengthen their muscles and become able to better control their bodies. Skill mastery and development, however, are also the result of brain growth and development. Consider a child kicking a ball back and forth with a peer. This child must have acquired control over movement and muscles to be able to kick the ball. At the same time, the child also depends on vision to determine the location and direction in which to kick the ball and on hearing for instructions from a peer or caregiver. As children move through the school-age years, their bodies and minds become capable of increasingly more-complex movement patterns and experiences.

Importance of Physical Activity for Children

Children who are physically active are more likely to stay at a healthy weight, sleep better, maintain strong bones, and avoid obesity-related diseases. Children who are physically active also have more opportunities to develop muscle strength and endurance. They are more likely to feel confident about themselves and their bodies as they grow (Let’s Move Child Care, 2013).

Physical activity also provides children with access to learning across domains. A school-age child who joins a group soccer game is broadening his or her social connections. The negative consequences of inactivity for children are stark. Children are explorers, and their brains develop through activity and movement. Children who are not active are more likely to have behavior problems in school or to have trouble with academics.


As you watch the following video, observe the variety of physical activities that school-age children are participating in. You will also hear from a staff member who discusses how to incorporate physical activities each day and why it is important.

Physical Development: Introduction

An introduction to the importance of physical activity for school-age children.


  • Model healthy behavior by leading an active lifestyle.
  • Use what you learn throughout this course to incorporate physical activity into your plans each day.
  • Understand the connections between physical activity and being healthy.

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 School-Age 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.


Use the Exploring Online Resources activity to explore each resource below and record your thoughts and observations as well as any ideas you might have for using these resources with school-age children and their families. When finished, share your work with your trainer, coach, or administrator.

  • Kid’s Health
    This website has quality information on all health-related topics for children. The topics of growth and puberty are covered in great detail and in a way that is developmentally appropriate for school-age children.
  • Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention
    The Center for Disease and Control has many useful resources for staff members and school-age children concerning physical and mental health for children. There are guides, toolkits, and information for families and teachers, as well as the BAM (Body and Mind) website which is geared toward children. It delivers information and activities in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Healthy Kids, Healthy Future. Resources for Physical Activity
    Nemours Children’s Health System provides this informative website to help early childhood educators and families prevent childhood obesity and ensure that kids get the physical activity their bodies need. The website contains information, activities, suggestions, guidelines and activities. There are also resources that staff members can use in their programs or share with families.


Use the Planning Activity: Explaining Health Benefits activity to read about the health benefits of physical activity, and use the chart to brainstorm planning ideas. Then share your work with a trainer, coach, or administrator.  


The CDC recommends that school-age children should be physically active each day for a minimum of:
When you are planning physical activity for school-age children you should plan for:
During family night, Aubrey’s mom asks why there is an emphasis on an active lifestyle in your school-age program. She wonders what the benefits to Aubrey are. You respond by saying:
References & Resources

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). How much physical activity do adults need? Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SHAPE America—Society of Health and Physical Educators. (2017). Strategies for Recess in Schools. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from

Let’s Move! Child Care. (2013). 

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2013). We Can! Everyday Ideas to Move More. Retrieved from

The Nemours Foundation. 2020. Healthy kids, healthy future. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2013). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from