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St John XXIII Catholic Primary School Inspiring Faith in our Future

Physical Development

Physical development has two aspects – ‘gross motor skills’ and ‘fine motor skills’. It underpins children’s development in all other areas. For example, by strengthening their hand and finger movements, children can then hold a pencil effectively and learn to write. Gross motor skills involve large muscle movements (such as walking and even sitting) whereas fine motor skills involve smaller muscles such as grasping and drawing. Generally speaking, gross motor skills need to be developed before fine motor skills but it’s not a linear process. Your child still needs to practise running, climbing and digging, alongside threading, cutting and using cutlery.



Get active as a family! Walking, bike riding, swimming, kicking a ball, going to the playground – all great activities for helping your child’s physical development.


In a busy place, talk about how we need to move safely to avoid bumping into people. In a confined area, talk about how we need to move with smaller actions when there is less space.


Set up an obstacle course in the house or garden and ask your child to negotiate it in different ways. Something as simple as a few sofa cushions, a couple of chairs in a row and a blanket to crawl under ‘commando-style’! Challenge them – ‘Can you move across the room without touching the floor/only on your hands and knees?’


Encourage your child to have a go on different equipment when at the park.



Let them take some risks! You can still manage the risk (you wouldn’t let them walk on an obviously crumbling wall) but they could practise balancing on a small kerb between a grassed area and the pavement.


You don’t necessarily need special equipment to play games such as basketball (which helps develop coordination skills) - a balled up pair of socks and an empty bin or basket will do! Be creative in making games from items you already have.


Short bursts of activity can be just as good as long games. Try playing movement games such as ‘Beans’ whilst waiting to get into school.


Encourage cross-body movements - actions that encourage your child to move their left arm or leg to the right and vice versa. Crossing the midline is great for developing coordination and creating links between the right and left sides of the brain. Try clapping games, sorting tasks and painting or drawing on a vertical surface.


Remember that moving is fun! As adults, we sometimes forget this. Get jumping on the trampoline with your child or have a running race together. This shows your child the joy of movement and might change your outlook on exercise, too!



Use malleable dough! It is great for developing hand and finger muscles and coordination. Try putting on some music and having a ‘Dough Disco’. Prod, squeeze, pinch, poke and squash the dough in time to the beat. Use these words as you do the action. There’s a malleable dough recipe below that is easy and quick to make.


If your child is left-handed, make sure you have a pair of left-handed scissors for them to use. Although we will be looking out for a dominant hand, it may be worth letting the us know if you are sure your child is left-handed. Many children have not yet decided at this stage, so don’t worry if your child still uses both from time to time!


Don’t be afraid to give your child simple tools to use, such as scissors and blunt knives, under your supervision. If you are worried about your child using different tools, make sure you explain and demonstrate safety rules before hand. 


Teach your child to use a knife and fork correctly. You could have a pretend meal with malleable dough and encourage your child to practise using their knife and fork in a more playful scenario if they find it difficult at mealtimes.


Get in the kitchen and bake. Beating, stirring, rolling out, using cutters, decorating cakes or cookies – all great for physical skills.


Bead threading, construction toys and colouring activities are all great for developing hand and finger strength.


Your child might also enjoy pencil control activities. These can be similar to mazes or dot to dot activities and are great for quiet time or to keep to hand for waiting times (such as in a restaurant). We can provide you with resources to take home.