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  • The Open University
  • NHS England
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Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood

Learn how to ensure young children do enough physical activity and how it improves child mental and physical health development.

10,309 enrolled on this course

Supporting Physical Development in Early Childhood

10,309 enrolled on this course

  • 6 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Intermediate level

Find out more about how to join this course

Discover the benefits of physical activity for children and babies

On this course, you’ll discover the importance of physical activity for young children’s overall development.

As you explore the holistic health and developmental benefits of physical activity, you’ll learn low cost, effective ways of ensuring babies and young children meet the 180 minutes per day of recommended activity.

You’ll find out how physical activity can improve child mental health and wellbeing, as well as contribute to the prevention of childhood obesity.

The course draws on research and expertise from academics from early childhood, sport and fitness at Public Health England.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 18 seconds Hello, everybody. My name’s Cliff Bennett, and I’m the chief nurse and director for maternity and early years at Public Health England. And I’m really thrilled to have been asked to do an introduction for this fabulous course that you’re about to embark on. In my role as the director of maternity and earlier. So I’m very well aware that what happens to us in childhood sets the foundations for health and wellbeing throughout our lives. And and even more that what happens in the early years impacts on a happy and healthy childhood. So the work that you do is absolutely vital to the national effort to give our children the best start in life.

Skip to 0 minutes and 55 seconds One of the things that we’ve learned over the last few years is the benefits of physical activity in health and wellbeing at all ages from the very smallest babies. When we start to give them tummy time and to support their heads and neck movements by watching things through to the toddler age groups, really, really important. It is now recommended that the youngest children, for example, toddlers, want to do have 180 active minutes a day. And that can be a variety of things, obviously, for the youngest of that age range, learning to stand up, learning to walk, crawling around, playing.

Skip to 1 minute and 36 seconds And then as children come towards their second, third birthdays, lots of outdoor play, lots of movement, learning to ride a bike, etcetera, etcetera. Really important and really important throughout childhood, not only actually for physical development, but for children’s mental and emotional health as well. Learning to play, learning to be outside without the children. All really important things for the happy, healthy childhood that we want our children to have. And of course, conversely, if children aren’t active, they’re more likely to run into problems with their health. And we know that we have too many children who are overweight and could become obese in this country.

Skip to 2 minutes and 20 seconds And we really need to make sure that all our children are active to try to avoid some of those complications. And, of course, everybody who’s connected with children has a role to play. Parents input is vital. And you and your role in mind can support families to help their children to be active. Particularly perhaps when children have a disability or require extra assistance to actually have that have that activity for all children. The early years workforce is absolutely critical in ensuring that we can use physical activity to help all children have the best start in life.

Skip to 3 minutes and 0 seconds And this course will give you some further knowledge and some further insights into just how those processes work to make sure children can thrive. And also some ideas for how to incorporate physical activity into play. So thank you again for all the fabulous work that you do with our youngest children. And I do hope that you enjoy this course and that you find it useful. And we can really work together to promote physical activity as a vital part of a happy, healthy childhood. Thank you.

What topics will you cover?

• Growth and physical development of babies and young children

• The relationship between physical development and other areas of development

• Why physical development should be supported

• Factors that can impact supporting babies and young children’s physical development – challenges and solutions

• Supporting physical development through indoor and outdoor play and activities

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the importance of movement skills to the overall health, wellbeing and development of young children
  • Explore the relationship between physical growth and development
  • Describe the body systems and their relationship to moving and learning
  • Describe the relationship between movement skills/language and communication skills/literacy
  • Identify the appropriate physical/movement activities for each age and stage of development from 0–5 yrs
  • Explore how parents and practitioners can work together to support the physical development of all children

Who is the course for?

The course is designed for adults involved in caring for or educating babies and young children.

As well as being aimed at practitioners in the workforce, the course will give adults, including parents, who are involved in the care and education of babies and young children the opportunity to access evidence-based research.

Who will you learn with?

Jackie is part of the Early Childhood at the Open University team. Her research and teaching explores ways of working with professionals and parents to improve young children's health.

Angela is an experienced and competent public health consultant who has worked across every level of the NHS, within local government and nationally within Public Health England.


Lala has enjoyed a long and varied career in the field of EY movement studies and physical development: as teacher, trainer, educator, consultant, researcher, author and broadcaster.

Ben lectures in Sports Coaching at The Open University. His research focuses on youth sport, athlete monitoring and golf. He is also a strength and conditioning coach to junior and adult golfers.

Jo is a lecturer in Early Childhood at The Open University. She was a primary school teacher and is convinced of the importance of physical development in a child's overall development and learning.

Lucy joined The Open University in 2019 as a lecturer in Early Childhood, following a career as an early years practitioner, consultant and trainer.

Who developed the course?

UK Health Security Agency

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is responsible for planning, preventing and responding to external health threats by providing intellectual, scientific and operational leadership at national and local level, as well as on the global stage. UKHSA is an executive agency, sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care.

The Open University

As the UK’s largest university, The Open University (OU) supports thousands of students to achieve their goals and ambitions via supported distance learning, helping to fit learning around professional and personal life commitments.

  • Established

  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

NHS England

The Workforce, Training and Education (WT&E) directorate of NHS England (NHSE) ensures the NHS in England has a sufficient and inclusive workforce with the knowledge, skills, values and behaviours to deliver compassionate high-quality health and care to the people it serves.


Activematters is an international website dedicated to Early Years physical development, activity, health and wellbeing.

Our aim is to create a vibrant, knowledgeable and motivated community with access to the latest resources, information and expertise.

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Choose the best way to learn for you!

Subscribe & save


Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 26 May 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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