As part of Michigan’s Month of the Young Child, each week of April highlights an area of early childhood development. The first week focuses on physical development. Borucki-pic-200x200

Kids and babies will grow. This we know for sure. We also know they will grow and develop at different rates. You may see the seven month old scooting along the couch and chattering loudly or perhaps the quiet 13 month old who crawled very little and went straight to walking. One toddler can look like he isn’t ready to eat with a utensil (or prefers not to) and the same age child sitting next to him is expertly using a spoon to enjoy his meal.

Physical development is of utmost importance because it allows interaction with the environment, discovery and learning. Physical development is generally separated into two categories-fine motor and large motor.

Large motor includes larger muscles on the body and includes activities such as rolling over, crawling, throwing a ball and walking. Small motor uses the smaller muscles of the body and develop later allowing for skills such as picking up small items, holding a spoon, and drawing.

Observing children’s physical development tells us that there are important sequential milestones to be reached but each child will grow at their own pace. There are also many factors that can influence physical development including birth weight, nutrition, and genetics.

The other factor that can greatly impact physical development is environment. Parents, caregivers, daycare providers and anyone else in your child’s day can be a positive influence.

When it comes to physical development, you can keep it simple and fun. Here are some suggestions appropriate for many age groups:

* Take family walks. Point out specific items or if the child is old enough, play “I Spy”. Move the walk inside if necessary, set up a simple obstacle course and put a healthy snack at the end to enjoy together.

* Encourage sand or water play. This can be done inside or outside. A large dishpan can be used on a shower curtain for easy clean up.

* Dance to different styles of music. Move with your child and follow their lead. Sing simple songs like “Old MacDonald” and “I’m a Little Teapot.” Including homemade instruments can add to the fun.

* Pretend. Your child’s imagination is the only limit. Share animal sounds. Fly like an airplane, slither like a snake or balance on a tightrope!

As parents, we all want what is best for our children and to help them succeed. No matter what the child’s age, give them undivided attention, talk to them, play with them and watch them grow.

Patti Borucki is the Co-Coordinator for the Wexford-Missaukee-Manistee Great Start Collaborative which is made up of parents, professionals, local agencies, and schools who are working together to promote and improve our local system of resources and supports for families with children ages birth to eight years old.

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