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Supporting physical development in early childhood
Supporting physical development in early childhood

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1.3 Muscles and bones (musculo-skeletal system)

Together, muscles, bones and joints are referred to as the musculo-skeletal system; this system provides support and enables the body to move.

Muscles are groups of long fibre cells that have the ability to contract and relax, meaning that they shorten and lengthen. Bones are rigid structures that maintain the structure of the body and protect its organs. Joints are the areas where two or more bones meet, allowing the body to move. Muscles, bones and joints are attached to one another by ligaments and tendons.

There are over 300 bones in a baby’s body, although when babies are born some of their bones are soft like cartilage. As babies grow older, their bones begin to fuse and become more solid until they are strong enough to enable a baby to start moving independently.

Listen to Audio 1, which describes how opposite groups of muscles work with bones and joints to allow you to move.

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Audio 1
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Muscles that are used frequently develop and grow strong; those that are not used fail to develop, or waste away. Therefore, movement is crucial for babies and young children’s growth, health and physical development.