On MY Way

Physical Development

Growth and Physical Change
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
All parts of their bodies are growing.
  • Growth is relatively constant and stable during the early middle years.
  • In late middle years, there is a sharp growth spurt and then growth slows.
    • For girls, the growth spurt occurs at 9-13 years (typically starting at 10 and peaking at 12).
    • For boys, it is between 11-15 years (starting at 12 and peaking at 14).
  • Ensure that children have a healthy diet with diverse food choices.
  • Teach them about healthy eating.
  • Emphasize the importance of exercise and provide them with opportunities to connect with nature.
  • Teach them that sleep is very important.
  • Facilitate adequate, quality sleep. Make sure there are household bedtime rules, and make very sure there are no computer devices after bedtime or in bed.
Their endurance and strength are slowly improving.
  • They are slowly and steadily getting stronger.
  • They have stable, though limited, muscular endurance.
  • They have a hard time sustaining extended periods of exercise.
  • Help children learn about their bodies and physical abilities through different activities.
  • Provide opportunities for fun, safe physical activities.
  • Make sure they avoid over-training or too many repetitive movements.
Physical changes associated with puberty begin to occur.
  • Boys begin puberty between 11-15 years (average 14).
  • Girls begin puberty between the ages of nine and 13 (average 12).
  • They may begin to experience changes in body structure, composition (e.g., body fat) and in physical sex characteristics such as breast development and pubic hair.
  • Puberty can be a confusing time for children. Talk to them about the changes they are undergoing so they know what to expect.
  • Puberty will likely bring with it a greater desire for privacy in children. Within the boundaries of common sense and safety, give it to them.
Movement Skills and Knowledge
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
Their fundamental movement skills are improving.
  • They are getting better at fundamental motor skills such as jumping, running, twisting, bending, catching and dribbling a ball.
  • They have better control when participating in skills requiring change of speed, direction and height.
  • They can throw and catch with control and precision.
  • All in all, they have greater speed, strength, endurance, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, reaction time, balance and agility.
  • Work with children on the basic skills needed for sports and recreational activities.
  • If children struggle with certain motor skills, have them work on special exercises or activities to help them improve.
  • Encourage them in this work.
  • Always emphasize that physical activities are meant to be enjoyable and entertaining.
They are beginning to understand their bodies and physical abilities.
  • Simply put, they are moving better.
    • Their movements are being guided by improvements in depth perception.
    • They have better postures and are able to assume and maintain a desired stance or position.
  • Help them find physical activities they enjoy, and encourage them to participate as often as possible.
  • There should be no such thing as "not being good at" something. If they are doing it, it is good.
Health Knowledge and Behaviour
What’s happening? How can I tell? How can I help?
They increasingly take responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing.
  • Children begin to understand the connections between diet, physical activity and health.
  • They have increased interest in nutrition and healthy eating.
  • Explain to them that they can take control of their own physical wellbeing.
  • Take children on the land and explore nature, learn how to be safe in nature, and navigate natural terrains.
  • Encourage them to take positive steps to promote wellbeing — adopt healthy daily routines, eat healthy meals, walk or bike to school, get a good night’s sleep.
  • Model self-care. Show them that you are also committed to a healthy daily routine.
  • Teach them to make healthy meals.
  • Try to ensure that they get nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep per night.
They have a growing awareness of body image and the prevalence of social comparisons.
  • Children are becoming aware of their body image.
  • They may feel self-conscious or less attractive than their peers, they may feel themselves to be within a normal range, or they may feel themselves to be particularly attractive.
  • They may appear to be judging the appearance of their peers.
  • They may show signs of attaching social importance to being attractive.
  • Understand that children are beginning to view others in terms of how attractive they are.
  • If they are showing insecurity about how they look, teach them to focus on their assets and qualities.
  • Help them understand that attractiveness is subjective, and is not a measure of a person’s worth.
  • Be very alert for signs that children are anxious or depressed, e.g., getting significantly lower marks in school, avoiding friends and family, or changes to sleeping or eating habits.
  • Create a safe environment for them to openly discuss emotions, feelings and concerns.
They are more physically active, especially in groups.
  • Children regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity.
  • They have an increased desire to play and interact physically with their peers.
  • Provide children with as many opportunities as possible to be physically active.
  • Help them develop habits that support lifelong physical activity.
  • Wherever possible, engage in physical activity with them — play games, throw a ball, go on hikes, or go swimming.
  • Mix organized sport, unstructured play and active transportation such as walking and biking into their daily activities.
  • Provide opportunities for them to be in the outdoors and nature as often as possible.