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Physical Development in Early Childhood

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  • 0:01 Early Childhood
  • 0:48 The Body
  • 3:06 The Brain
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Between the ages of two and seven, children grow and develop dramatically. Watch this lesson to look at some of the physical developments in early childhood, including balance, fine motor coordination and brain development.

Early Childhood

Hector is an active, growing four-year-old. He loves to run and climb and do all sorts of fun things. He's also endlessly curious: he wants to know all about everything, and when his parents or teachers explain things to him, he soaks it all up like a sponge.

Hector is in the period of development known as early childhood, which occurs between the ages of two and about six or seven. Early childhood is an important time of growth and change. Most children learn more in early childhood than they do in the rest of their lives. They are learning new things all the time.

Let's look closer at the physical development that allows children to learn, including the changes in the bodies and brains of kids in early childhood.

The Body

Hector used to be a blob. Like all babies, he'd just lie around and wait for someone to pick him up and feed him. He couldn't really control his body and couldn't move in purposeful ways.

Now, though, all that has changed. He can run, jump and play. He is able to hold a crayon to draw or write. In short, he is getting better at controlling his body.

One of the hallmarks of physical development in early childhood is the great increase in balance. Anyone who's ever seen an infant toddling around in their first steps understands how unstable they are. But a five-year-old can not only walk smoothly but is able to run and climb. This is because balance becomes a lot better in early childhood.

All of these new skills that are related to balance (running, climbing, jumping, standing on tiptoe) make additional exploration of the environment possible. Children at this age like to probe limits; they will go to the very edge of the yard to explore or climb up on top of things to see something that they haven't seen before. While this can lead to injury, it also leads to learning. They are able to start to understand the world even more profoundly than before because they are able to examine it, which is made possible because of the development of balance.

Balance isn't the only thing that increases in early childhood. Fine motor coordination also really takes off at this point in life. Fine motor coordination is the purposeful use of your body (especially your fingers) in coordination with your senses. For example, threading a needle requires control of your fingers and coordination between your fingers and your eyes.

Fine motor coordination is involved in a myriad of activities that many adults take for granted. Writing, which requires the precise movement of your hand and the use of your eyes, is an example. Sports and art are other examples of activities that require fine motor coordination. As a result of the increase in fine motor coordination in early childhood, children, like Hector, are able to do many different things that they weren't able to do before: write, dress themselves, play baseball, draw pictures and many other things.

The Brain

So, we know that Hector's body is developing, which is allowing him to explore the world in new ways. But what's happening with his brain while his body is doing all of this growing?

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