Physical and Motor Competence
cognitive abilities, body awareness, space and directional awareness, and
time-space orientation.

Children develop their perceptual-motor skills through activities that
encourage them to explore, experiment, and manipulate. Therefore it is
very important that early childhood classrooms include a variety of sen-
sory activities, for instance, matching fra-
grance containers (sense of smell), mixing
Children develop their perceptual-
and matching fabric patterns (sight) or tex-
motor skills through activities that
tures (touch), and cooking (taste). Musical
encourage them to explore, experi-
and rhythmic activities combine auditory
ment, and manipulate.

and motor abilities as children respond to
such elements as space, tempo, and volume.

Children who do not master early sensory, perceptual, and motor
skills can have difficulty with more complicated thinking and reasoning
problems in later school years. For example, a child must have the ability
to perceive shapes in order to be able to learn to form letters and numbers.

Children must rely on sensory, motor, and perceptual abilities to respond
well to tone of voice as a clue to another’s message, and to be able to inter-
pret other people’s facial and body language.

Body Awareness, Movement, and Simple Games
As young children master basic locomotor skills, they begin to develop an
awareness of their bodies. This awareness includes not just the names and
locations of body parts and what children can make them do, but also a
growing sense that all body parts are interconnected and that bodies have
both abilities and limitations. Body awareness grows out of children’s vi-
sual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic perceptions. Although as adults we
rarely think about it, our ability to move from place to place without run-
ning into people or stumbling over objects depends on the coordination
of our vision, hearing, touch, and kinesthetic perception. People’s body
awareness is also influenced by their feelings—either positive or negative—
about their physical characteristics and capabilities.

Body awareness is a powerful force in all aspects of development: per-
ceptual-motor, psychosocial, and cognitive. It becomes part of children’s
emerging sense of self, and it affects their feelings of competence. Body
awareness and confidence give children both a sense of control and the
motivation they need to try more and more complex physical/motor activities.

Movement activities and simple games help coordinate and refine ba-
sic body movements and support the development of more complex motor
abilities. Four- and five-year-olds especially enjoy movement activities and
simple games. They enjoy responding to music in spontaneous and creative
Copyright 2007 by Redleaf Press. Published by Redleaf Press. All rights reserved including electronic duplication and reproduction.

Understanding Preschooler Development
ways, pantomiming, playing follow-the-leader, and playing catch. Balanc-
ing or hopping on one foot, jumping over obstacles, and walking a balance
beam forward, sideways, and backward can be challenging and self-affirm-
ing activities.

Child care programs that encourage physical and motor development
meet children’s needs for movement, for manipulation, and for social in-
teractions and pretend play. To promote
Because children need to be physi-
overall health and physical development,
cally active, it is not only difficult for
each child’s day should include ample
a caregiver to keep children quiet
opportunity for movement, including
and still for long periods of time, it is
creative movement, dance, and the use
actually unhealthy for the children.

of equipment that requires large-motor
coordination. Outdoor play should also
be a daily event and should include activities that incorporate running,
jumping, skipping, and other large-motor skills that help build physical
fitness. According to a 2006 Kaiser Foundation study that looked at media use
among the very young, children age six and under spend an average of two
hours a day playing video games, using computers, and watching television
and videos. This is basically the same amount of time they spent in outdoor
activities and two-and-a-half times the average forty-eight minutes spent
reading or being read to. Studies in the past have linked prolonged television
viewing to childhood obesity, poor sleep patterns, and later adult violence.

Because children need to be physically active, it is not only difficult
for a caregiver to keep children quiet and still for long periods of time,
it is actually unhealthy for the children. Preschool and kindergarten pro-
grams that require children to sit or to work at tables or desks and listen to
teacher-directed lessons for extended periods of time are developmentally
inappropriate because they limit children’s opportunities for more lively
and valuable activities.

Jeremy and his friends Caitlin, DeLisa, Jared, and Mac have decided
to play a racing game to see how fast they can run to the “faraway”
tree on their kindergarten playground. They decide that Jeremy will
tell them when to go. After he counts to three and shouts “Go!” the
five of them run off. DeLisa, who is slightly taller and heavier than
her companions and who is quick and athletic, is the first off, followed
by Caitlin, who has well-coordinated large-muscle control, though
she is somewhat shorter than the rest of the children. Caitlin is fol-
lowed by Mac, who is in the eightieth percentile for height for boys
of his age, though he is thin and only in the fortieth percentile for
weight. Mac is followed in the race by Jared and Jeremy, who are
Copyright 2007 by Redleaf Press. Published by Redleaf Press. All rights reserved including electronic duplication and reproduction.