Physical Development - Move on!

Pre-school Learning Alliance
Monday, July 9, 2018

Supporting the physical development of children in their first year does not require specialist equipment, explains a new book by the Pre-school Learning Alliance

[asset_library_tag 1779,Download the PDF of this article]

Moveable large apparatus is a very useful addition to resources for children in their first year. It offers the combined experience of challenging manipulative skills and encouraging use of the gross motor ‘tools’ that inform and support overall development.

Have a good look around to see what you already have on site, as you will not need specialist equipment. Think about using the following, either with individuals or in a very small group:

  • Cushions of different sizes, shapes, weight, colours, textures are useful for pushing, pulling, stacking and plopping onto.
  • Large beanbags with different textures and colours are good for pushing, pulling, wriggling into and pummelling.
  • Pillows of different sizes, shapes and textures, are good for lifting, pummelling, pulling and pushing.
  • Fluffy throws are good for rolling on, being enveloped in and exploring space; for instance, corners, perimeter, middle and sides – and for being close together in one defined space.
  • Soft carpet in different colours and textures to explore and investigate, as above.
  • Boxes perfectly sized to push, pull, sit in and stack.
  • Camping mattresses are good to bounce, crawl and roll over or push along.

As children start to walk and become stronger, faster, better co-ordinated and more agile, possibilities are presented in which your large and small apparatus may be combined. Think about choosing a specific area; for instance, a corner or the middle of your space:

  • Put small objects under, on top, into, around the big beanbags, boxes, pillows or the fluffy throw.
  • Pile up the cushions and make ‘sandwiches’ with the small apparatus to form the ‘filling’.
  • Throw or drop small objects into a sports bag or box or onto a big beanbag.

You really do not need very much apparatus, either hand-sized or large moveable apparatus, at this stage. Choose carefully; natural materials are always best, particularly apparatus that is mainly familiar and easily accessible. This will encourage parents to engage confidently and proactively with their children at home.

There will be significant differences in interest, levels of competency and engagement during this phase of development, but solid foundations for the next stage should be laid through sensitive and competent adult support.

This is an edited extract from Moving Right from the Start, published by the Pre-school Learning Alliance


Moving Right from the Start, published by the Pre-school Learning Alliance, is a highly accessible guide providing essential knowledge to inform and support physical development.

Its four authors – Anne O’Connor, Jasmine Pasch, Dr Lala Manners and Carol Archer – are all experts in the field of physical development, and the main themes within the title are:

  • the development and importance of movement in young children
  • essential movements and how to support them
  • the ‘handling’ component within the EYFS
  • creating optimum conditions for moving and learning.

To order a copy of Moving Right from the Start, priced £12.25 for alliance members and £17.50 for non-members, visit:, tel: 0300 330 0996 or email:

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