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

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3.1 Promoting communication and language through physical play

‘Movement is our first and enduring language.’

(White, 2015, p. 77)

Long before they begin to use recognisable words, babies and young children express themselves through movement, gesture and facial expression. For example, through pointing, a young child draws their parent’s/carer’s attentions to something of interest to them, without having to know the specific vocabulary.

A toddler on their tummy pointing
Figure 3

As children’s speech develops, they continue to use large movements, physical gestures and fine movements to convey messages to others.

White (2015) explains that through physical play, children learn the vocabulary associated with movement, action or position in a meaningful way.

The benfits of physical play
Figure 4 Benefits of physical play

This vocabulary helps children to communicate their plans and actions, yet they are not just words, they are also concepts, that help them to organise and structure their thinking and understanding of the world around them.