How Does Play Help Children’s Physical Development? Everything You Need to Know!

If you want to improve your child’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, balance and spacial awareness, then incorporating various forms of play into their daily routine is the way to go. 

It is well known that play is vitally important for your child’s physical development.

But how?

Keep reading to find out!

What is physical development?

Growth and development of the body and brain during early childhood is the most accurate description of physical development. It involves mastering physical coordination, muscle movement, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills.

While you may think that physical development only refers to your child’s ability to move, as well as their physical growth, it also encompasses speech development, eye movement and development, and the advancement of all other senses.

7 ways play can benefit physical development

Play, especially physical play, has many health benefits for children. It bolsters early brain development and promotes the healthy development of bones and muscles. While it may be seen by some as kids just having fun, for children play is considered their work and is as important to their development as learning to read and count.

We’ve listed 7 ways that physical play can positively benefit child development below:

1 – Strengthens brain connections and supports cognitive development

Movement activities help to build connections in the brain, making it an important part of childhood development. According to research, 75% of brain development occurs after birth, which further emphasises the importance of active play in a child’s life.

2 – Develops strong muscles and bones

Incorporating weight-bearing activities such as dancing, football, basketball, running and walking into your child’s daily routine will help your child develop bone and muscle strength. 

Bone structure is only fully developed by the late teen years, so it is important to include activities that make the bones work against gravity and bear weight.

3 – Promotes good cardiovascular health

60 minutes of daily exercise will help ensure your child has good heart health. 

Aerobic activities such as running, jumping, swimming and climbing strengthen the heart muscles and can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.

4 – Heightens spatial awareness

Physical activities such as obstacle courses, ball sports, climbing on play equipment, and directional activities such as Simon Says play an essential role in developing a child’s spatial awareness.

5 – Improves balance

Children must develop the ability to maintain a steady position when performing various static and dynamic balance tasks, such as sitting, walking, or cycling. 

By two years old, children should be mastering the art of balance by ascending stairs while holding on with one hand and running with increased coordination.

6 – Cultivates good mental health

Play helps children to maintain good mental health. Active play results in the release of endorphins, which increase happiness. Physically active children have lower levels of stress, depression and anxiety. Active play helps children to release frustration and reduces irritability. 

An improved mood results in better relationships, more enjoyable play experiences, and a happier child, resulting in more relaxed parents who can better support their child’s mental and physical well-being.

7 – Positively influences sleeping patterns and eating habits

Play has the added benefit of depleting your child’s energy, which is vital for developing healthy sleep patterns. Improved sleep aids healthy brain development and can help children develop healthier eating habits.

Boost your child’s physical development with these activities

Visit the park

Playground play is a fantastic learning tool for children. It plays a huge role in their physical development but also helps to improve their cognitive abilities, social skills, emotional development and intellectual development.

Spending time at a park allows children to master problem-solving through climbing and other fun activities. They can improve their grip strength with various overhead activities such as trapeze rings and monkey bars.

Outdoor play also helps children to get their daily dose of vitamin D, which improves mood and cognitive function.

Go on a nature walk

Walking in nature helps children learn to appreciate natural beauty while positively influencing their physical and mental well-being.

Create obstacle courses

Obstacle courses will help your kids develop coordinated movements while teaching them problem-solving skills.

Build with blocks and construction toys

Building with blocks and other construction toys teaches hand-eye coordination while improving your child’s spatial awareness. It also develops muscle strength in their fingers, hands and arms, as well as grip strength.

Sculpt with playdough

When children play with play dough, they increase their dexterity. It also allows them to be creative and fosters sensory development.

Play dress-up and role-playing games

This form of free play gives children the space to express themselves creatively. It develops imagination and fine motor skills and improves cognitive development.

Take a look at our blog for some great role play ideas for kids


What are some examples of physical development in early childhood development?

Childhood physical development differs significantly as the child ages. We’ve given a summary of some of the milestones you can look out for at the different development stages:

Infancy (0-18 months)

Reflexive movements are most common in the early weeks and months of life. As they grow, young babies begin lifting their heads, which helps to strengthen their necks. 

This is followed by lifting their chests and eventually leads to crawling. Crawling is followed by learning to stand, and after time, they’ll start taking their first steps.

Toddler (18-36 months)

Toddlers are known to be very active. Once they start walking, they soon begin to run. Their gross and fine motor skills develop quickly, as does their balance. 

They enjoy exploring their world and testing boundaries, which helps them to learn spatial awareness. Toddlers also start mastering basic tasks, such as zipping up coats, turning book pages, and stacking blocks.

Pre-school age (3-5 years)

A 3-year-old learns to ride a trike, wash their hands, and independently walk up and down stairs. 

In their 4th year, a child begins to master catching a ball, using a knife and fork, drawing, and balancing on one foot. 

5-year-olds have increased coordination and begin to skip and attempt activities such as cartwheels and somersaults.

What are the physical benefits of play?

The physical benefits of play include increased fitness, improved coordination, better balance and dexterity, and increased bone and muscle strength.

What factors affect physical development?

Physical development can be affected by many factors, from environmental and genetic conditions to nutritional factors. We’ve outlined a few of them below:

  • Hereditary health conditions, as well as genetic traits, can have both a positive and negative influence on a child’s physical development.
  • A child’s physical environment influences what activities they can engage in, which affects what skills they can learn.
  • Nutrition plays a vital role in physical development. An undernourished child will be at risk for various health issues and find it challenging to be as physically active as other children. A poor diet can result in lower muscle tone and bone density and negatively affect brain development.

Help your children play with Play Like Mum

Playing is very important for the physical development of children. At Play Like Mum, we have plenty of toys and accessories that can help inspire your little ones to play. 

We have a great selection of doll prams and pushchairs that help little ones come up with some ideas for imaginative play and develop fine and gross motor skills. Shop our collection today and find your little one’s new favourite toy.From an interactive doll to doll carriage prams and dolls pram accessories – you’ll surely find something your little one will love.