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

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2.6 Proprioceptive sense – the sense of space

Proprioception means ‘the perception of self’. This sense is crucial for movement and physical activity. It allows you to know where each part of our body is in space. For instance, when you walk through a doorway, your proprioceptive sense enables you to adjust your body position in relation to the door frame and navigate your body past someone coming in the opposite direction.

As this sense develops during early childhood, you come to instinctively know how much effort or force to apply to complete a movement. For example, as you pick up a cup of coffee, you know how tightly to grasp the cup, how heavy it is likely to be, how to move the cup to your mouth and how much to tilt the cup in relation to the quantity of liquid it holds.

Children whose proprioceptive sense is not well developed might appear clumsy and find it very difficult to understand personal space. Young babies need lots of opportunity to reach for, grasp and mouth objects, and as they develop, need opportunities to feed themselves, even if this is messy to begin with!

Giving young children opportunities for pushing, pulling, lifting, digging and steering, for example, stimulates and develops this sense. You will read more about this in Week 5.