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Physical Activity and Child Development

Updated on August 26, 2012
Give baby plenty of playtime on the floor. It helps stimulate physical and mental growth. (source: teaches12345)
Give baby plenty of playtime on the floor. It helps stimulate physical and mental growth. (source: teaches12345)

It's Only Child's Play

This was his third attempt to grasp the rattle in front of him. Each time he stretched and reached out he moved a little closer to the toy. His gaze was intent upon the rounded blue top and his whole body wiggled with delight as he cooed over his advancements. It was amazing to watch this little baby hard at work.

If we could only peek inside of his marvelous brain, we would see that the child is actually processing information rapidly, visualizing the results and then turning them into skills. This is all due to the brain's response to movement and sending information (signals) to the child's somatosensory cortex for processing. Play processes activate neurotransmitters that help a child develop neural pathways in the brain which aid in the formation of behavioural and social development.

Resources on Child Development

Great Physical Activity for Babies

Baby Aerobics

My husband found it very amusing to watch me exercise my four month old's legs and arms a few minutes each morning. I would sing a song and simulate him gently marching to the beat and also clap his hands in time to the music. My husband would chuckle and roll his eyes, followed by, " I know it's good for the body and brain. But, do you think he's enjoying it?" All right, he didn't always smile during the exercise time, but I believe he learned to crawl at an early age as a result. The truth is physical movement leads to brain growth and development which is important in building a child's sense of balance and motor coordination.

Studies have proved that infants who are placed on the floor right from birth to experience movement learn to respond quicker to their environment. Babies learn depth perception as they observe and move through the space around them. As an infant begins to lift her head, roll over, and kick her legs, her muscles are beginning to strengthen and the brain is also processing the new information for future use. Some pediatricians believe that children who learn movement early in life develop a stronger respiratory system and it contributes to the child being able to eat solid foods earlier. (Source: J. Doman, Institute for Achievement for Human Potential)


Physical Activity: Simon Says Movement Suggestions


These cross-lateral moves will help the brain to stimulate connectivity between both hemispheres (contralateral and ipsilateral connections). This will aid in the growth of primary sensory and motor skills in child development.

  • Pat head and rub belly
  • March and pat your belly
  • Tap your head and pat your knee
  • March and clap your hands
  • March while touching your elbows to your knees

Physical Activity For Older Children

A study completed by J. Pallatschek and F. Hagen in 1996 showed that children engaged in early physical education showed superior motor fitness, academic performance and attitude toward school as compared to children who did not.

Movement stimulates the inner ear which contributes to motor coordination and balance. Believe it or not, a child's spinning around and around can actually help them to relax and remain focused on academic learning activities. Gentle rocking motions help to stimulate brain activity, which is why many children love rocking chairs, swings and tipping back on chairs (to the demise of most parents).

Getting children outdoors to play is crucial to motor skill development. The running, jumping and climbing builds those large muscles and helps them to strengthen through play. Studies have reported that through physical play children decrease stress, improve their immune system and respond at a faster rate to challenges due to increased brain stimulation.

The following are suggested play activities that will help your child to develop a strong body and mind. I have included some indoor games for those days when weather prevents going outside. These types of games work the entire body while providing oxygen to the brain and strengthening the basal ganglia (vision-sensory perception) and cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that coordinates muscle movement, maintains equilibrium, and helps us to respond to stimuli. As a parent, you can appreciate all the wonderful results from encouraging physical activity such as this. Just make sure the level of games are age appropriate and supervised. For instance, jump rope is usually a skill for older pre-school children and up

Indoors

  • Aerobics
  • Musical Chairs
  • Stretching Games (i.e. "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes")
  • Ball Toss (use foam type)

Outdoors

  • Hop Skotch
  • Swings and merry-go-rounds
  • Jump rope
  • Walking and Running

Physical activity is a key factor in child development. Parents who stimulate their infant through active play will help their child to develop mentally and physically and will increase their ability to perform well as they grow, especially when they reach those academic years.


It didn't take much to get our grandchildren outdoors for some physical activity, even in the winter! Brrrrr!
It didn't take much to get our grandchildren outdoors for some physical activity, even in the winter! Brrrrr!

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    • roxanne459 profile image

      Roxanne Lewis 5 years ago from Washington

      Well done and very informative! Sometime people just aren't aware how many different areas of development are affected by physical activity and stimulization. This will help many people!

      Shared and Voted up :)

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Your comments are valuable to me and so appreciated, Roxanne. With the increase of diabetes in children, physical activity will help to combat the onset. Thanks for your support and votes. Have a great day!

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Hi teaches12345, I agree with the information you have here! As a neonatal and pediatric nurse we would prefer those types of movements you mentioned with our patients to help stimulate their nervous system development. It's also known that boys' brains grow and develop with movement! This is a fantastic hub! Voted up, useful, and shared! Take care, Kelley

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks, Kelley, for your contribution to the hub. Coming from a neonatal/pediatric nurse that means a lot! Movement is so important in getting the brain stimulated and processing information. Have a most wonderful blessed day!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      As always a fine piece of informational writing with excellent and practical ideas and suggestions. You are a fountain of necessary knowledge. I appreciate the job you do and I wish you a glorious summer vacation.

    • ComfortB profile image

      Comfort Babatola 5 years ago from Bonaire, GA, USA

      Hello HP pal! This is an interesting read. I've always been a strong believer in exercise/aerobics for infant babies. I did it will all three of mine when they were infant/toddler babies.

      I especially like to put them back down on their playmat laying on the hardwood floor. I'll give them night baths and joints massage, a ritual that I learnt from my mom growing up. this helps to strenghten their muscles, promote circulation, and it's a sure way for a new mom to enjoy a good night rest, as the baby always sleeps better.

      Thanks for sharing this great information. Voted Up and Useful!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, very informative and useful for everyone. Physical activity is very important for overall growth and development. Voted up.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Excellent article! Playing with your child is so essential in so many ways. I'm amazed that some parents never play with their babies. Those times are among my most treasured memories.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      You are an expert on child development, another useful hub my friend!

    • TToombs08 profile image

      Terrye Toombs 5 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      teaches, this was awesome. I wish I had this information when I first had Collin. Very helpful and jam packed full of information. Voted up and more.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks Bill. I think that informational writing is called "Hard Knocks" experience. Always a pleasure to host you on a site. BE well and safe.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      ComfortB, I love your contribution to the hub. You are did such a great job with your kids and it will prove worthwhile over time. As you say, it does help them to sleep well at night. You have a wonderful evening!

    • teaches12345 profile image
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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks Vellur for your comments and support. It is nice to have your positive thoughts on a hub. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello, Will! I love your insight on parenting, some parents are missing out on some great bonding when they skip playtime with kids. Be safe and well out there, my friend.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Christy! Thanks for your welcome support. Have a great evening.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      TToombs008, we usually do a great job on our own. The experience helps us to become experts, but additional information helps along the way. Thanks for your visit and supportive votes. Take it easy.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      What a great article as always. You are so loving watching that every aspect of a childs needs are met!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Angela, it's so easy to love kids as they make your life so richly rewarding. Thanks for stopping by and you have a wonderful evening.

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      excellent hub and I agree with it all.. Physical activity is the best for children and everyone..

      Debbie

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Their constant movement shows I think all you say is true and all we can help it the better, I agree.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      As always, you have written another informative and interesting article! I have my 10 month old Great Granddaughter living with me now so her Mother can attend school. I'd forgotten how wonderful it is to see her play and learn. It is amazing! She just took her first steps; what a thrill that was. Do children still play hopscotch and jump rope? I like to think they do. Activity is good for any age child, I agree. I voted this Hub UP, etc. and I will share.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting and useful hub, teaches. It's wonderful that you've pointed out how important it is for a baby to participate in physical activity from an early age to help his or her brain development. This hub will be very useful for new parents and parents of young children.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks, Debbie. I appreciate your response and visit.

      Movement is always good for the brain, especially in young children. Thanks for your support, Jackie.

      Mary, glad you got to see your granddaughter's first step. It's always so thrilling. Hop Scotch is probably played in structured settings like school more than homes. Jump rope is played among older kids (K-6th). They do have national jump rope competitions that are quite interesting. Still, kids don't play like they used to when the technology is a better choice. Thanks for your vote and support.

      Alicia, Thanks for your contribution and insight to the article.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      What you have written here is not only wise, it is brilliant. I voted it up, up and up.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Great advice for new parents. Physical exercise never comes to early. There is plenty of evidence that what you explain here is true. There are action-based learning programs that have been developed and implemented recently! Fantastic Hub!

    • purnimamoh1982 profile image

      purnimamoh1982 5 years ago

      Beautiful hub for parents. The suggestions made by you are very relevant and useful. Voted up and followed. For generations, civilisations have focused on the physical growth and development of their children. In my place, there are traditional walkers to make them active. Massage with oil and letting them crawl on the ground by rolling something on ground being the cheapest modes. I am inspired by your hub to write something on traditional child care methods.

    • Skarlet profile image

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Beautiful writing!

      A child is amazing. They are little computers programing themselves.

      And physical activity is so important. I am so glad I got plenty of outdoor exercise as a child.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      I had no idea that Simon Says could help the brain grow new neurons! I really need to come up with ways to keep my kids moving, but outside is not always possible because of the neighborhood. I would love to know more indoor activities!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for your support of the hub, breakfastpop. Glad you stopped in for a visit, your comments are always a good reflection. Stay well and safe out there!

      Rebecca, thank you for your added insight to the topic. It is good to hear how programs are helping parents in getting kids active. Have a great day.

      Purnimamoh, I am glad that you have been inspired by the topic. I will look forward to reading it. BE well and safe.

      Skarlet, I love your reference to a child's mind as a computer. That is exactly what it is always programming and storing information. Thanks for coming over to visit. Take care.

      Bedbugabscond, when I was in grade school our teacher had us to morning exercises at mid-morning. Now I know why. Guess it did help to energize us and stimulate the brain. I will have to post those indoor activities in a hub very soon. Thanks for your support and encouragement. Stay healthy and safe, my friend.

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 5 years ago from Arizona

      Excellent Hub, teaches! This should new parents the information and motivation they need to keep their little ones active and exercising. The benefits are huge! My stepdaughter studied early childhood development and did the same with her son as an infant and toddler. He's now an ace pitcher and honor student in high school! Proof positive your suggestions do make a difference. Well written and formatted. And full of great information!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Lindacee. I value your opinion and add to the hub content. It means a lot to me. Congrats to your family success in starting early with movement and seeing the results of your efforts. Take care and always nice to have you visit.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Excellent ideas, teaches, to stimulate a child's physical and mental development. I have seen first-hand - many times - how these exercises pay off. Thank you for helping to educate other parents.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for your visit, Drbj. I appreciate your support of the topic and insight on child development. Always good to see you! Take care.

    • Bedbugabscond profile image

      Melody Trent 5 years ago from United States

      I look forward to a indoors activity hub. Last night my son said, "Oh I got a new wrinkle in my brain!" I asked him what he meant and he told me that when you learn new things neurons grow and that gives him wrinkles! I guess those are the good kind of wrinkles! Staying active probably helps build wrinkles in the brain, too.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Well hello, Bedbugabscond! Your son is right, learning does create neuron pathways of knowledge. Great lesson! Thanks for your comment and visit. I appreciate it much. Take care.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

      What a cool Hub! I love your Simon Says movement suggestions. You've provided some fantastic advice here on helping young children develop good motor skills!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Simone. I still play this game with my grandkids and they are an older now, but it is fun and also stimulates the brain. Thanks for your visit and support of the topic. Enjoy your day fully!

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      This is a great hub, teaches - gross motor activity is so important for children! I get upset when my children lose recess at school, because they are so very young and need the movement for their development! My little one recently learned to pump his own swing and loves to go outside and swing for hours!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hi Leah! Schools are not providing children with important brain exercises when they eliminate recess. They must have children climbing the walls all day! I so enjoy it when little ones, like yours, swing. It is fun to watch them try to swing "high to the sky". Thanks for your add to the hub and for your visit. Take care, my friend.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Though not a parent or a teacher, I found this hub very useful and informative. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello, Vinaya! Good to see you here today. I appreciate your visit and support. It's always good to be informed on lots of subjects outside our realm of living. Take care and be well today.

    • formosangirl profile image

      formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

      I never thought to exercise my babies. What a great idea. We just did a lot of bouncing.

      When I was growing up, play and physical activity came so naturally. My kids are not so active at home. Fortunately, they have played so much at school that my once husky son looks "thin," and my girl has always looked like a stick.

      Like Alton Brown once said, if you keep filling a car with gasoline but don't drive it, you eventually need to own a gasoline truck.

      Great informative and educational hub once again! I enjoyed it.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Formosangirl, it's nice to see you here! It's always great to hear how schools encourage active play, it does make a difference. Thanks for the support on this hub topic. Be well and enjoy your day.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What an important topic! There are some exercise classes where the mommies exercise right along with their babies. Fun for both and it benefits both at the same time. You will be giving new parents as well as current ones good advice with respect to how important physical activity is for their growing children. It is never too late to start! Voted up, interesting, useful and will share. Thanks!

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      Wow! another gem, I so enjoy reading your informative and useful hubs.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Peggy, it's good that there are classes now available for parents and babies to get some much needed physical stimulation. How wonderful! I appreciate your visit here, sharing and votes. Enjoy your Sunday.

      Sofs, you always give me such a great boost on the hubs! Glad to see you here today, my friend. Enjoy your day.

    • dwachira profile image

      [ Danson Wachira ] 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

      I really appreciate you sharing this information especially to new mothers. Thanks.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thanks for your comment and support, Dwachira. I appreciate it very much. Enjoy your coming weekend.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

      So informative and very detailed on child development and physical activity. With both my girls I remember being so conscious when they were babies and their physical development at each stage. I was so excited when they would hit a milestone and would watch and anticipate as they would do something physically new. Now, we are reaching more the stage of letting them be outdoors and find their own way a bit and this too is exciting to see it all through their own eyes for the very first time. Thanks for writing this and am sharing and voting up!!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I am happy to hear how you are discovering new challenges through your children's activities. It's the blessings that come through parenting. I find it so fascinating to watch children as they play, guess that's why I love teaching! Thanks for coming in here Janine, you will soon be an expert on parenting.

    • Ashantina profile image

      Ashantina 4 years ago

      Hi teaches12345, sooo glad I found your hubs. Im a new mummy so this info is super useful. Voted UP!

      Stay Blessed.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Ashantina, congratulations on being a new mommy!! It's a blessing indeed! I will have to seek your opinion as I write hubs on parenting. You will have much to contribute. Enjoy your sweet baby.

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