Related Physical Development Issues to Child Behavior

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

It is obvious that young children’s physical needs and abilities are different from those of adults. We know that young children are often unable to handle new tasks when their needs for adequate rest and nourishment are not met. Also, children repeatedly demonstrate that they are not able to sit still for very long. However, teachers sometimes forget this last fact and cause trouble for themselves and their students.

Need to Move Around

Devon and several of his classmates in Miss Wheeler’s first-grade class routinely upset their teacher’s day. They simply won’t sit still and listen during group time. They are always getting up and wandering around when they are supposed to be working in their seats. Miss Wheeler constantly reminds them to sit still or to go back to their seats. She just doesn’t understand that most young children have difficulty sitting still for very long.

Next door, in Mrs. Jensen’s first-grade room, children are free to move around between learning centers. There is very little enforced sitting in that room, and very little need for the teacher to reprimand anyone. In addition to movement indoors, lessons often include outdoor activity. Sometimes, a parent helper and Mrs. Jensen take the class outdoors for a gardening session on the school grounds, allowing physical movement as well as some hands-on lessons about plant life.

Miss Wheeler feels like a police officer instead of a teacher, but she thinks it is the children who are at fault. Matching her expectations of the children with their level of development would make her life much easier, as well as eliminate a lot of needless tension for her students.

Children need to move, not only for their physical development, but also for their intellectual development (Planinsec, 2002). Brain research shows that physical movement stimulates the myelinization process critical to development of neural pathways in the brain. The process of myelinization allows young children to gain control over their muscles and their sensory abilities; it also facilitates their cognitive processes (Berger, 1998). Physical movement also assists the delivery of oxygen and glucose to the brain, optimizing its performance (Leppo, Davis, & Crim, 2000). An assessment of how girls and boys learn differently points out that movement is even more important for boys and their reduction of emotional stress (Gurian, 2001). Some children with little physical movement experience are delayed in both body and space awareness. The spatial confusions can contribute to reading and writing difficulties (Corso, 1993; Hannaford, 1995), as well as to behavior problems. Some young children are continually getting into trouble because they are not aware of where their body is in relation to other people.

Rather than trying to keep children still, adults help children better by promoting physical activity (Pica, 1997). Physically active children are healthier and eventually grow up to be more active, healthy adults. Increased physical activity is needed to counteract the problem of childhood obesity in the United States (Steinbeck, 2001). In addition, physically competent children tend to have higher self-esteem than less-competent peers. Competence in performing motor skills boosts children’s confidence. Success and enjoyment associated with physical activity affect how children feel about themselves and how they interact with peers. Having good agility, balance, coordination, power, and speed can promote social interaction and peer acceptance. Children with physical disabilities that affect their gross-motor development often share their classmates’ interest in physical activities. Therefore, playgrounds and outdoor equipment should be accessible for children with disabilities (Bredekamp & Copple, 1997).

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