Physical development

Physical development is one of the three prime areas. Physical activity is vital in children’s all-round development, enabling them to pursue happy, healthy and active lives.

Core strength and co-ordination

By creating games and providing opportunities for play both indoors and outdoors, adults can support children to develop their core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage

Learn more about core strength and co-ordination.

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills provide the foundation for developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage

Learn more about gross motor skills.

Fine motor skills

Gross and fine motor experiences develop incrementally throughout early childhood, starting with sensory explorations and the development of a child’s strength, co-ordination and positional awareness through tummy time, crawling and play movement with both objects and adults. Fine motor control and precision helps with hand-eye co-ordination which is later linked to early literacy. Repeated and varied opportunities to explore and play with small world activities, puzzles, arts and crafts and the practise of using small tools, with feedback and support from adults, allow children to develop proficiency, control and confidence. Statutory framework for the early years foundation stage

Learn more about fine motor skills.


Birth to 5 Matters resources on physical development.

Development Matters guidance on physical development.

The Healthy Early Years Awards in Physical Activity offers a unique opportunity for settings to work towards a quality assured programme, helping to improve health and wellbeing for under 5s.

The Early Movers website has been designed alongside early years practitioners to help you understand and feel confident in providing physical development (PD) opportunities to children in your setting. 

Healthier Families have easy ways to help children eat well and move more.

The World Health Organisation has created guidelines on physical activity, sedentary behaviour and sleep for children under 5 years of age.