Physical milestones in early childhood 2-5yrs- what educators can do to help your child achieve

By Karen Elzinga 8/06/2018

Physical Milestones for Early Childhood (2-5yrs)

Physical development milestones are tasks that are specifically linked to certain age brackets that children generally achieve within (Hoffnung, Hoffnung, Seifert & Burton, 2010). 

They are important indicators of how a child is developing physically. 

This blog will look at what milestones are specific to 2-5 year old children, the implications for milestones, and pedagogical strategies for receiving positive outcomes for students.

Physical milestones are indicators that professionals such as teachers and health industry workers look at, to check if children are reaching their potential developmentally (ACECQA, n.d.). Children develop at different rates, for children aged 2-5yrs these tasks include:

Gross motor skills:

Stands without use of hands to steady

Can play in a squatted position

Can step over low lying ground items

One foot balance attempts

Opening of doors

Can move to the sound of music

Climbing of stairs, trees or apparatus

Larger bodily actions such as walking, running, tumbling, jumping, climbing, and hopping (ACECQA, n.d.).

Creation of simplistic drawings

Writing being learned

With aid dresses self

Throwing of a ball

Using scissors to cut

Feeds self with cup and utensils

The manipulation of smaller objects (McDevitt & Ellis Ormrod, 2010).


Creation of simplistic drawings

Writing being learned

With aid dresses self

Throwing of a ball

Using scissors to cut

Feeds self with cup and utensils

The manipulation of smaller objects (McDevitt & Ellis Ormrod, 2010).

Educators use these milestones to ascertain whether children are reaching their full learning and developmental potential. If learning is delayed to more than one area educators can recognize that the child may be delayed in their learning ability, and thus can utilize added resources to engage and help aid the child and the child's family, to ensure the child does not get left behind or have a more serious under lying problem (Hoffnung, Hoffnung, Seifert & Burton, 2010).

The implications that these sorts of milestones present for typical age development means that parents and educators need to create or provide varied environments and experiences where acquisition, practice and refinement of fundamental skills can be obtained. 

A child who is confined to a limited space during this developmental stage for example, may in time run the risk of delay or impairment to their physical gross motor skills development such as their ability to run, jump, hop, skip and climb. 

The same developmental delay can also occur if a child has little to no engagement with fine motor skills such as holding pencils, balls, or small objects in play (McDevitt, Ellis Ormrod, 2010).

If gross motor and fine motor skills relevant to early childhood 2-5 yrs are not met, the implications can be colossal to the child's physical development and mental wellbeing. Some of these implications are as follows:

Possible self esteem issues.

Confidence issues relating to activities involving movement.

Increased difficulty when asked to play sport related activities.

Increased difficulty when attempting to ride bikes or scooter equipment or play on playground apparatus.

Children may suffer a lack of confidence to interact with other children in playgrounds due to their decreased capacity, leading to decreased social and emotional interactions.

Poor body awareness skills leading to lack of ability to visualize and plan movements.

Decreased gross motor skill muscle development for running, hopping, jumping or climbing activities.

Decreased fine motor skills management and delivery (kid sense, 2017).

There are numerous pedagogical strategies that can be used in conduction with the Physical Domain. The most important one is to connect with the students.

 When a relationship of trust and respect has been developed between an educator, a child and the child's family, an educator can utilize the knowledge of the child's likes and dislikes, wants, desires and level of ability to create an environment where respectful, educational, creative, and equal opportunities abound. 

Teachers can organize environments creating interactive experiences suitable for their student's needs and developmental level (The Early Learning Years Framework for Australia, 2009).

 Educators can achieve these goals by enriching environments with apparatus and equipment for filling individualized requirements and engaging the child in various activities such as eating using utensils, or engaging in cleanup activities (Virtual Lab School, n.d.). 

Educators can provide for physical play so children can explore their surroundings safely running, jumping and climbing whilst feeling secure in their environment. 

These actions allow for particular muscle strengthening of gross motor skills and refinement of fine motor skills through play and by repetitive practice.

 Educators utilize their professional judgement, skills and accrued knowledge and awareness of developmental milestones to measure through observation the child's ability against the milestones charts to ensure the child is meeting developmental milestones (The Early Learning Years Framework for Australia, 2009). 

By getting to know the child and the child's family dynamic, culture and family values, the educator can better help the child to overcome any developmental milestone concerns. 

Delays for example could stem from simple issues such as the culture of the family, and the child not being exposed to certain activities because of family beliefs.

 It could be that a child is raised in a 13 story building with two working parents and simply receives very little outdoor time, and thus can't run and extend those gross motor skills in typical outdoor environments.

 The child may not be developmentally disabled but simply impaired by circumstance.

 This is why the number one most important pedagogical strategy is, build a relationship with your student and your students family so you can rule out that circumstance is not a barrier to learning potential. 

By having a good understanding of the environment to which the child is living in, the educator can support the child to their best ability (Virtual Lab School, n.d.).

It is clear that suitable environments that foster and enhance supported play is incredibly important to children's short and long term educational goals.

 The flow on effects that developmental delays may have on a child's emotional, cognitive and socialization ability can be large and so it is clear that educators must develop curriculum that not only allows for academic performance but also takes into consideration the importance of activities that build both gross and fine motor skills, for overall health and well being of the child.


ACECQA. ( n.d.). Developmental milestones and the EYLF/NQS. Retrieved from http://files.acecqa.gov.au/fil...

Hoffnung, M., Hoffnung, R., Seifert, K., Burton Smith, R., Hine, A., Ward, L & Quinn, A. (2010). Lifespan Development. Milton, QLD, Wiley.

Kid Sense. (2017) Gross Motor Development Chart. Retrieved from https://childdevelopment.com.a...

McDevitt, T. M., & Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Child development and education. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Merrill.

NAEYC. (n.d.) Guidelines for decisions about developmentally appropriate practice. Retrieved from https://oldweb.naeyc.org/about...

The Early Learning Years Framework for Australia. (2009) Belonging, Being and Becoming. Retrieved from http://files.acecqa.gov.au/fil...

Virtual Lab School, (n.d). Physical Developmental  Milestones. Retrieved from https://www.virtuallabschool.o...

Virtual Lab School, (n.d). Supporting Physical Development: Routines. Retrieved from https://www.virtuallabschool.o...


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