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Queenswell Infant & Nursery School

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Physical Development

Physical Development


It is important that children have opportunities to be active and develop coordination, through gross motor and fine motor experiences. This will enable their all-round development, to lead healthy, active lives. We aim to provide an environment that enables development of core strength, stability, balance, spatial awareness, co-ordination and agility. This in turn will have a positive impact on developing healthy bodies and social and emotional well-being. We work in partnership with parents to help promote an understanding of the importance of encouraging young children to walk to rather than being pushed in buggies wherever possible.




We provide a physically challenging environment. This includes:

  • Providing sensory explorations
  • Assessing the physical development of children through observation and assessing grip development
  • Physical development opportunities are meticulously planned to target children’s developing physical needs.
  • These physical development opportunities include challenges to develop targeted muscle groups in the upper body – shoulder pivot, elbow pivot and wrist pivot – on the journey to become an effective writer.
  • Opportunities for fine motor strength are planned, using ‘Funky Fingers’ areas of the classrooms.

Introduction of letter formation patterns, starting with gross motor movement

Pre-School                                        →

Nursery                                            →


Active and Healthy bodies
  • Begin to build stamina by going for longer walks around the school grounds.
  • Games and heart raising activities
  • Talk about the effects that activity has on our bodies.
  • Develop climbing skills (e.g. Introduce PE lessons in hall using climbing apparatus)
Sensory play
  • Opportunities to explore a range of sensory experiences, predominantly allowing development of shoulder pivot e.g. large trays of materials that move easily to develop ‘swimming action’ – such as couscous, porridge ‘goo’, shaving foam.
  • Allow some planned opportunities for children to become fully immersed in sensory play – e.g. body painting.
  • Provide opportunities with materials that begin to provide more resistance and can be solid enough to allow children to squeeze or shape it e.g. cornflour, playdough, cloud dough, jelly.


  • Offer a range of malleable materials for children working at a level that is developing elbow and wrist pivot as well as fine motor strength e.g. sand putty, bread putty, water beads.
Many malleable material recipes are available in “Getting ready to write” by Alister Bryce-Clegg, including recipes for those with ‘emergent skill’, ‘developing skill’ and ‘advanced skill’.
Gross Motor Development
  • rocking and rolling
  • creeping, crawling, weight bearing
  • lifting, pushing and pulling
  • spinning, swinging and hanging
  • proprioception and balance
Fine Motor development
  • small world activities
  • large peg puzzles, floor puzzle, small piece puzzles
  • arts and crafts
  • small tools appropriate to age
  • Woodwork

Stages of grip development - Developing gross motor movement

Identify which stage of their journey a child is at and plan opportunities accordingly. Some example activities:

Palmer Supinate grip:

with shoulder pivot:

  • large spaces where children can use full shoulder movement
  • Large boards at child height for mark-making (range of texture surfaces)
  • develop proprioception and balance – large physical movements of arms and upper body whilst moving
  • upside down mark-making (paper on underside of tables)
  • encourage children to reach and stretch, using full circular motion of shoulder joint
  • washing walls with soap and brushes
  • big digging in sand and soil – long armed digging tools

Palmer Supinate grip:

with elbow pivot:

  • Emergent: elbow bends but shoulder is still in control e.g. sawing motion - encourage to move arms up and down and side to side
  • large rollers or brushes
  • sweeping e.g. create tracks with washing up liquid
  • sawing wood with a hacksaw (woodwork area)
  • Proficient: using muscles in upper and lower arms with circular motion from elbows - develop circular push/pull movement with upper and lower arm
  • drawing or painting to music
  • sand, salt, glitter in large tray – make tracks with cars (making figure of 8 introduces wrist movement)

Digital pronate grip:

         with wrist pivot:

  • activities will be smaller in range
  • small strips of paper to paint on (vertically or horizontally) – thin and short so movement stays in wrists not shoulders
  • splatter painting
  • twisting activities (nuts and bolts)
  • threading/weaving – bendy willow sticks
  • pouring

Stages of grip development - Developing fine motor movement

Identify which stage of their journey a child is at and plan opportunities accordingly. Some example activities:

Modified tripod grasp:                              Tripod grasp:



Activities should include opportunities to develop:


Pincer grasp or grip

Picking up small items using thumb and index finger.

First stage of this - Children may use all fingers to rake items into palm.

Next stage - They may pinch items with thumb against the side of the index finger.

Accomplished grip – Use end of thumb and fore finger in pincer grasp to manipulate small objects.

Palm arches

There are several arches in the palm that enable the hand to grasp a range of different objects of various sizes and shapes. These arches direct the skilled movement of the fingers and control the power of the grasp.

In-hand manipulation

To move and position objects within one hand without the assistance of the other hand. Children need lots of practise with items such as elastic bands and pencils, moving them in between their fingers. Also use round objects like conkers or marbles which they can rotate in the palm of one hand.

Thumb opposition

The ability to turn and rotate the thumb so that it can touch each fingertip of the same hand.

Finger isolation

To be able to move each finger one and a time.

Knuckle, PIP and DIP joints

This refers to the joints in your hand, thumb and forefingers. To develop the last joint in your fingers (DIP) you need to work with things that are small and fiddly and malleable materials with a high level of resistance.

Bilateral coordination

To control both sides of the body at the same time. The most complex level of this is where the body has two completely different movements on each side at the same time, such as cutting with scissors while holding and controlling the paper with the other hand.

Crossing the midline

The ability to cross your arms and legs over to the other side of your body. Activities to help develop this ability include drawing a horizontal line across a page in front of you without changing hands halfway through.

Hand-eye coordination

The ability to control hand movement guided by vision.


Early Learning Goals:  *(only to be used as assessment point at end of reception year)

Gross motor skills: Negotiate space and obstacles safely, with consideration for themselves and others. Demonstrate strength, balance and coordination when playing. Move energetically, such as running, jumping, dancing, hopping, skipping and climbing.

Fine motor skills: Hold a pencil effectively in preparation for fluent writing – using the tripod grip in almost all cases. Use a range of small tools, including scissors, paint brushes and cutlery. Begin to show accuracy and care when drawing.


Curricular goals:

Pre-school: Children are confident to take part in activities that involve whole body movements i.e. climbing and balancing. They are showing increasing control and coordination over their bodies when using smaller equipment such as puzzles and shape sorters.

Nursery: Children have active and healthy bodies and use a wide range of gross motor movement in their play (e.g. swinging, proprioception, weight bearing). They have developing core strength and are able to travel across simple balancing equipment, as well as sit on chairs and the floor, keeping themselves upright and able to sit for short periods of time. Children also have developing fine motor skills and are able to manipulate materials in order to achieve a desired outcome. Children have an improving grip development and are able to use some elbow and wrist movement.

Reception: Children are more independent and confident in their gross motor skills including taking part in some elements of ‘risky play’. They show confidence and have good control of their bodies when climbing and balancing and are keen to challenge themselves physically. Grip development is more advanced and children are able to use pencils (and other tools) to form letters.


Moving on to KS1 – Links to National Curriculum: PE, English

By the end of EYFS children may know and sometimes use vocabulary such as:



jump, balance, climb


stop, go, freeze, throw, catch,