NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Let's Play

My husband, our youngest son, and I went camping at a state park about two weeks ago.  We had our granddaughter with us.  There’s nothing like looking at the world through the eyes of a three year old!

After walking with her as she rode her tricycle around the park, we went on a nature walk.  Our next adventure was to walk, skip, trot, and gallop to the playground.  Several attractions awaited us there, including swings, monkey bars, various slides, and the timbers around the perimeter of each play area.

First we took on the challenge of the timbers, which served very well as balance beams.  After that she headed to the tall, winding slide.  She climbed up to the top, and I waited for her at the bottom.  But when she got to the top, she spoke to me in a quiet voice.  “Gramma Cindy,” she said, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”  “Why is that,” I asked.  She replied, “It’s just too high.”  I responded, “OK.  You can climb down and we’ll go play on the other toys.”  So she climbed down and chose a different slide, then the swings, then the monkey bars, then back to the timbers.  We had a ton of fun!

The development of a young child’s physical abilities is truly amazing.  I encourage parents and grandparents to let themselves be amazed, and not take any of it for granted. 

Physical abilities are complex tasks that require strength, coordination and perception.  They also are developmental moments, like windows of time when parents or caregivers can see the ways in which a young child is growing and developing new skills and abilities.

Physical development provides children with the abilities they need to explore and interact with the world around them.  A young child’s physical growth first begins as muscles gain strength with use.  Typically, the gradual development of coordination follows.  This applies to both large muscle and small muscle development, which are sometimes referred to as large or gross motor development and small or fine motor development, respectively.

The concept of development includes two major categories: normative development and dynamic development.  Normative development concerns the typical (normal) capabilities, as well as limitations, of most children of a given age within a given cultural group. It indicates a typical range of what children can and cannot be expected to do and learn at a given time.

Dynamic development concerns the sequence and physical changes that occur in all aspects of a child’s functioning with the passage of time and increasing experience, and how these changes interact.

NDSU Extension publications, “Understanding Physical Growth and Development in Young Children” and “Supporting Physical Growth and Development in Young Children,” provide more information on this topic and are available from the Extension office or online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs632.pdf and http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs633.pdf.

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