The Power of Play: How Physical Activity in Early Childhood Supports Healthy Growth and Development

The Power of Play: How Physical Activity in Early Childhood Supports Healthy Growth and Development

When it comes to the growth and development of our little ones, play is not just a pastime; it is a fundamental practice that should be encouraged. Whether it is during the first exploratory movements or infancy, or the more imaginative and proactive adventures of preschool, physical activity helps to shape young minds and bodies. The exact extent of this will be explored in this article, showing how it supports healthy growth and development in early childhood.

Physical Development

It cannot be understated how critical physical activity is for the development of gross and fine motor skills in young children. Playing by themselves and with others allows children to attempt various physical movements. In turn, these movements help to strengthen muscles, enhance balance and agility, as well as improve coordination, among other key skills.  

Common physical practices children engage in to strengthen their motor skills include:

  • Climbing on playground equipment
  • Playing hand-clapping games
  • Riding bicycles or tricycles
  • Kicking a ball around
  • Running or playing chasing games
  • Jumping up and down structures
  • Throwing objects
  • Swimming
  • Placing shapes into the right holes
  • Puzzles
  • Drawing
  • And a lot more!

Additionally, encouraging the practice of regular physical activity during childhood can actually create a strong foundation for a healthy lifestyle later in life. Children who develop strong motor skills are more likely to succeed in physical activities like sports as they age, while also reducing their risk of obesity and related health issues.

Cognitive Development

The physical benefits of play may be some of the most obvious, but its hand in cognitive development within children should not be understated. Play is both fun and a powerful tool to develop a child’s imagination, planning and solving skills, as well as their critical thinking abilities. Activities like sensory play, building blocks, and playing pretend can all stimulate the brain and promote cognitive growth.

On top of this, research has shown that physical activity like play can also enhance the academic performance of children. This is because regular physical activity stimulates blood flow to the brain, improving concentration, memory, and other cognitive functions crucial to learning. Thus, by incorporating physical activity into early childhood, such as through the EYLF structure, children can accurately develop their physical and cognitive skills.

Social and Emotional Development

Play does not limit its development opportunities to purely physical and cognitive. It also provides the opportunity for children to interact with others in an enjoyable environment. Play encourages socialisation, cooperation, and the development of crucial social skills that are required throughout life. When children learn how to take turns playing on equipment, sharing toys, or playing team sports, they also learn valuable lessons like communication, empathy, and conflict resolution.

Furthermore, physical exercise across all ages has been determined to boost emotional well-being. The transition from home to childcare can come with various health challenges for a child’s well-being, but caregivers can rest assured that their children are enjoying themselves through play. Exercise is known to release happy chemicals such as endorphins in the brain, reducing stress while boosting mood. Thus, play allows children to learn healthy ways to manage their emotions and cope with challenges, laying the groundwork for positive mental health throughout life.

Building Relationships

While there is a lot for children to learn throughout their lives, play is a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers. Not only does it help individual social and emotional development, but it also brings children together from all walks of life and fosters strong connections between them.

No matter if it is building sandcastles at the beach or tag at the park, shared experiences of play can help build relationships that last a lifetime. These experiences can also help teach children about diversity and inclusion as they interact with others from alternate backgrounds. This helps to create a strong foundation of appreciation of diversity, promoting empathy and tolerance.


Globally, childhood is a time for play and this play is a powerful force for growth, development, and learning. Across physical, cognitive, and social aspects of growth, play helps to develop crucial skills that can be used throughout life. Embracing play as an integral part of early childhood education is what supports the healthy growth and development of each child. So, let us celebrate the power of play and all the wonders it brings to young hearts and minds!