Promoting Healthy Physical Development in Your Child

Data on physical activity levels and sedentary behaviours from 3 to 5 year old children may not be transferable to younger children since the age range 0–5 years encompasses three developmental periods, each of which is characterised by quite different physical activity patterns.5,6

Welcome to our Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Physical Development section for 3-5 year olds!

The questions and tips that follow will help you understand what physical skills your 3- to 4-year-old child should be learning – and how you can support her continued development.

It’s helpful to know what physical skills your child should be developing by age 3 or 4.


and motor development of young children

We have created these activities to support your child's physical development, which is one of the seven learning goals in the EYFS framework.

Moreover Gubbels et al.7 showed in 2- and 3-year-olds that activity opportunities in the physical environment and prompts by staff and peers were positively related to physical activity intensity in child care, while group size negatively related to activity intensity. These results indicate a need for additional exploration of physical activity practices in child care and identification of opportunities for intervention.


The Whole Child - ABCs of Child Development

Only two studies could be located, evaluating physical activity levels in this young age group. Gubbels et al.7 observed 75 two-year-olds and 100 three-year-olds at nine Dutch child care centres with the Observational System for Recording Physical Activity in Children -- Preschool Version.8 A large proportion of the observed activities (59.4% of the indoor and 31.2% of the outdoor observations) were classified as sedentary, while only 5.5% of the indoor and 21.3% of the outdoor observations were classified as moderate and vigorous physical activity. There were no significant differences in mean activity intensity level between boys and girls, or between 2- and 3-year-olds.

Physical Development | Sally, Tahlia & Sian

The literature was searched for studies evaluating physical activity levels and sedentary behaviours in healthy infants and toddlers, thus in children under the age of three.

Physical Activity Questionnaire for Children (PAQ-C)

Next to differences in activity patterns between 3 to 5 year olds and younger children, estimates of daily physical activity in infants and toddlers are more likely to be influenced by daytime sleeping patterns than in preschool children.6

Physical Activity - The Wiggles

The infant period generally encompasses the first 12 months of life. Activity or movement in the first 6 months is restricted to reaching and grasping objects, turning of the head toward a stimulus, and movement of the arms and legs. The second 6 months is characterised by the learning of rudimentary movement skills. The developmental stage from 1 to 3 years of age is often described as the toddler period. Around 1 year of age, children commence walking. With this increased opportunity for exploration and learning, toddlers develop locomotor skills such as running, jumping and hopping. Further, manipulative skills emerge in the toddler years. The pre-school period incorporates ages 3–5 years and is characterised by further development of stability and locomotor and manipulative skills.