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

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4 Spotting the signs

Sometimes practitioners and parents can feel confused over the role they should be carrying out as they accompany play. Although it is important to interact with children to enhance learning and development, it is equally important to sometimes adopt a ‘watching and waiting approach’ (Bennett et al., 1997) so that adults do not ‘hijack’ their play and experiences (Fisher, 2016).

Careful observation is a key skill for those working with young children and it is important to know what the learning needs of the child are and then how the environment could be enhanced to meet these. The uniqueness of each child and how they develop at their own pace is essential, yet careful observation may highlight areas we feel concerned about. For example, what if all the child’s peers are already walking but he or she shows no interest? What if the 4-year-old in your setting seems particularly clumsy? When is it important to get further information or advice?

One useful resource is What to expect, when? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]  This booklet is aimed at parents and focuses on all areas of development, but it is also useful for those working with children. (Use Ctrl + click on the link to open in a new window.) Although it emphasises that each child has their own unique journey of development, it signposts what you might observe at different ages. It also offers helpful examples of how adults can interact with children at these different ages. It can help you to decide whether you need to seek further help or advice from a medical or educational professional, if you have concerns about a child’s holistic development.