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Physical Development in Children

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The physical development of children often occurs in pre-established stages, or early childhood; a child learns to walk before he learns to run, for example. However, clearly identifying at what age a child should accomplish these milestones is often difficult, as many progress through these levels of physical development at varying speeds. Physical development encompasses many abilities, including gross motor skills, such as coordination and the control of large muscles, such as those used for walking; fine motor skills; vision; and hearing, among others.

Physical Development in Children

Physical Development

and Milestones


Some rudimentary estimates can be made regarding when a child should reach certain milestones, however.

The following is a basic time line of development:

  1. Infancy - basic skills of vision, hearing, taste, and touch emerge by six months, as well as the ability to pick up one’s head.
  2. Year One - most children can sit up without support and possibly crawl;
  3. 18 months - moving up stairs or manipulating smaller objects, such as crayons, is apparent.
  4. Year 2 - a child should have developed the ability to walk and climb/descend stairs correctly; most have bladder control, though they might not be aware of it.
  5. Year 3 - a child should be able to feed himself and unbutton or button clothing;
  6. Year 4 - the ability to manipulate devices such as scissors and dress oneself become apparent.
  7. Year 5 - gender distinctions start to emerge: girls at this age are more likely to have more advanced fine motor skills than boys.
  8. Year 7 - children are able to play basic sports, while organized sports become more appropriate by the age of nine. Again, though, while these physical benchmarks can typically occur by these age milestones, each child develops in his own unique fashion.

Physical Development

and Genetics


Part of growth is the development of the nervous system.  When the nervous system becomes more developed, children will begin to perform increasingly more difficult tasks.  Many parents fret over their child’s physical development.  They become concerned that their child is not developing at an appropriate rate.  Genetic factors determine a child’s growth rate.  Physical development can only flourish when children are raised in a healthy nurturing environment.  For example, children who are malnourished will not develop physically at the same pace as their peers who are healthy. They are also more likely to catch illnesses or fractured bones
     Height and weight varies drastically between children. The height and weight of a child is influenced by his or her genetics, environment, and his or her own reproductive maturation. Some children may be prone to obesity based on their environment and nutrition.    
     When a child is developing they will begin developing larger muscle groups before smaller muscle groups.  For example, core muscles develop earlier than smaller muscle groups in the hands and feet. This is why fine motor skills can be expected to come later in the development process. The body’s core muscles also develop before other muscle groups like those located in arms, legs, hands, and feet.  Development occurs at a rapid pace after birth and slows down, as the child gets older.  An example of this is that most babies double their weight within the first four months of life.  
     Physical development also moves from the head to the toes.  An example of this is that babies learn to hold their heads up first before they can achieve other gross muscle movements. 

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