Primary school children, aged six to twelve years old, will undergo a variety of developmental changes, both physical and mental, and as teachers it is imperative that we both understand and accommodate the physical needs of students in the learning environment. To fully comprehend these changes, one must consider the actual physical changes that occur, in particular the development of motor skills, as well as how to accommodate the physical needs and development of students during their primary school years. Supplementary to these broader topics are the benefits of physical activity as well as the consequences of prolonged inactivity, and how a student’s physical development can either facilitate or restrict development in other areas.
Children between the ages of 6 and 10 (referred to as ‘middle childhood’) will experience a plethora of physical developments. Firstly, they will steadily gain weight and height, though their basic body structure will remain unchanged. Children will also lose their 20 primary or ‘baby’ teeth, which will be replaced by permanent teeth. Some of the most significant skills children of this age will develop are motor skills. Motor skills refer to a learned sequence of movements that combine to create an efficient action in order to become proficient at a certain activity. These can be divided into two subcategories: ‘gross motor skills’ and ‘fine motor skills’. Gross motor skills are “large movements of the body that permit locomotion through and within the environment” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010) and includes such skills as walking and swimming, while fine motor skills are “Small, precise movements of particular parts of the body, especially the hands” (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010), and include such skills as writing and drawing. In early childhood, humans rely largely on reflexive (that is, unlearned and involuntary) movement patterns, and thus are lacking fine motor skills. As they reach middle... [continues]
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