Physical development in early childhood encompasses both physical growth and motor skill development. Both parents and pediatricians keep a close eye on physical development to ensure that children are meeting certain physical developmental milestones as they progress through the first five years of life.
Increases in Motor Skills
Physical development during the toddler years includes some major advances in gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Walking, obviously, is one of the most significant physical milestones, which most children achieve sometime between the ages of 12 and 15 months. Soon, toddlers begin to show a host of more advanced abilities including walking backwards, tossing a ball, jumping in place, and riding a tricycle. Toddlers also become more adepts at activities that require fine motor movements such as scribbling, stacking blocks, using a spoon, and drinking from a cup.
The need for independence also grows during the toddler years, so kids this age become increasingly determined to do things on their own. The problem, obviously, is that while they might have the desire to do things independently, they very often do not have the skills to do so. Because kids often lack the ability or knowledge to do the things they'd like to do, they often become very frustrated when they find themselves unable to accomplish tasks such as buttoning up a shirt. Temper tantrums are quite common at this age, and parents of toddlers usually become quite accustomed to hearing "No" used numerous times each day. Parents should help foster independence and motor skills by giving children tasks that they are capable of accomplishing either independently or with adult assistance.
Toddlers also become much more skilled at feeding themselves, and many kids may insist on eating meals without assistance from an adult. Self-feeding is important for many reasons. Not only does it help a child practice using their hands and fingers, it also helps foster independence. The self-feeling process usually begins with the introduction of finger foods, or small bites of food that she can pick up on her own. It can be messy, but once a child begins to pick up and feed herself small bites of food, it might be time to start introducing utensils to the process.
It is important to remember that each child is different and that kids reach developmental milestones at different times. While one child might be ready to start learning to eat with a spoon around age one, another child might need a few more months to be ready to take this step. If a child has reached a point where she refuses to let adults feed her and tries to grab the spoon out of the adult's hand, she is probably ready to start practicing using utensils on her own. While mealtimes may take longer and will certainly be much messier, this is an important step in development.