Physical Development in Children

When a child learns to crawl and walk are some of the most important moments of their lives for parents. Marking the height growth of their children and recording their weight to see if they are growing normally is also quite common in the initial stages of childhood. These are all indications of physical development in children.

What does Physical Development entail?

Physical development represents the initial and most important stage of development. Physical development is the foundation for personality development since it offers the human body structure, function, and meaning. Changes in the body, such as those in the brain, muscles, sense organs, bones, and so on, and changes in how a person utilizes their body, such as motor development, are all part of physical development. Other forms of development, like emotional, spiritual, etc., depending on physical development. This becomes the most relevant in childhood as children learn about themselves.

The Physical Growth

The first two years of a child's life are marked by rapid growth, which slows down during childhood's early stages. From two to six years old, a youngster typically grows 2 to 3 inches taller and weighs almost 5 pounds annually. The typical 6-year-old youngster is roughly 46 inches tall and weighs 45 pounds. Following early childhood, growth steadies down during the middle stages of childhood. Middle childhood is a less dramatic time for physical growth than early childhood and adolescence. Until adolescence, when people start to develop significantly faster, growth is moderate and stable. Various factors contribute to growth in children. Following are some of the major factors involved in the growth of a child−

  • Genetics − Genetics controls the secretion of growth hormones and influences the growth and the time one takes to grow and reach various stages of development.

  • Environment − Children are particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of several environmental exposures. Children are exposed to environmental toxins at proportionally higher levels than adults, and because their organs and tissues are still developing quickly, they are more vulnerable to chemical exposure.

  • Nutrition − Young children need the same foods as adults for a healthy diet. While most kids in developed countries get enough calories, they frequently lack essential vitamins and minerals. Foods rich in calcium, zinc, and iron are frequently overlooked in favor of other, unhealthier options.

Brain Maturation

By the age of three, the brain weighs roughly 75% of what it does as an adult, reaching 95% of its adult weight by age six. As the cortex continues to experience myelination and dendritic growth, a corresponding shift in the child's abilities can be observed. It becomes easier to restrain emotional outbursts and comprehend how to play games as the prefrontal cortex develops. With practice and myelination, one becomes better at comprehending the game, planning, and coordinating movement.

The brain's left hemisphere grows significantly between 3 and 6, and this hemisphere or side of the brain is often involved in linguistic abilities. Early in development, the right hemisphere is involved in spatially demanding activities, including recognizing patterns and shapes. The corpus callosum, which separates the two hemispheres and allows for their communication, also experiences a growth spurt during early childhood. This results in improved coordination between right and left hemisphere tasks.

Motor Skills

Most children learn the fundamental motor abilities to run, jump, and skip, as well as the skills necessary to manage objects, such as throwing, catching, and kicking, throughout their early years. These abilities can be classified as motor skills. Motor skills are a function that uses particular muscle movements to carry out a specified activity. These activities could involve biking, running, or walking. The neurological system, muscles, and brain must all cooperate to perform motor skills.

They are characterized into −

Gross Motor Skills

These movements are based on large muscle movements. Gross motor skills can be divided into three categories between the ages of one and four: mobility, using stairs, and play. Children make significant progress in their gross motor skills, or activities involving large muscles like running and jumping, between the ages of 3 and 6. They get physically stronger, increasing lung capacity, muscular control, and bone strength. Children become more coordinated as the areas of the brain responsible for sensory and motor skills mature. Now they may play more vigorously and partake in more challenging activities like climbing, jumping, and running.

Fine Motor Skills

Activities requiring fine motor skills require manual dexterity. Fine motor skills involve the small muscle movements of hands and fingers in coordination with the eyes. Eye-hand and tiny muscle coordination are required for fine motor abilities, such as buttoning a shirt, pouring milk into a glass, assembling puzzles, and drawing drawings. Children can become more autonomous and take on more responsibility as they become proficient at these skills. Young children become more adept at using eating implements and can feed themselves. Since many fine motor skills require using both hands and sides of the brain, young children find them highly challenging. An already difficult task, like tying a shoelace, becomes even more painful for young children because they have short, stubby fingers that have not yet matured and a brain cortex that has not yet been myelinated.

Kids continue to develop their gross motor skills as they run and jump. Activities like drawing, coloring, buttoning coats, using scissors, and pouring water into a container all help to hone fine motor abilities. During early childhood, it is possible to observe the growth of improved precision and increased muscular coordination. Thus, whereas typical 3-year-olds can pedal a tricycle, ordinary 2-year-olds would find it challenging to do so. With 4-year-olds who no longer struggle to put their clothes on, something they may have had issues with two years prior, similar increases in fine motor abilities can be observed with aging in childhood. Although they continue to develop throughout middle childhood, motor skills in young children are actively highlighted in the play.

Motor skill delays are quite common. Children who have neurological conditions or who are experiencing developmental delays may struggle with fine motor skills. Fine motor skill problems are frequently identified in preschool when it becomes clearer that kids are having trouble with certain academic tasks, such as learning to duplicate shapes or letters.


Children's physical development is usually looked at through normative development. A normative perspective establishes certain milestones as normal and allows for comparison. This allows nutritionists and pediatrists to explore deficiencies and problems that might exist. However, one also needs to remember that these are culturally context-dependent. What might be perceived as healthy growth ideas in one country might not be considered important in another. Additionally, one's socioeconomic background can impact their growth and development significantly.

Updated on: 10-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started