These are some of the fundamental movement skills that your toddler should be developing between ages two and four years on the road to developing physical literacy. You can also explore different activities with your toddler to develop these skills.
By age two, most toddlers will have started running (some will have started as early as 20 months). They are still a bit unsteady on their feet and they often fall down, but they are keen to be fast and mobile.
Tips: Encourage your child in her running by making frequent trips to parks and other places where there are open spaces. When presented with an open field, most toddlers want to run and explore. Play games that promote running such as chasing a soccer ball or take turns chasing each other.
Toddlers will naturally start to throw underhand before their second birthday, and some will even start to throw overhand. Their arms and legs will tend to be straight, and they won’t rotate their upper body very much, but they will improve steadily towards their fourth birthday. And the more they practice throwing, the better they’ll get.
Tip: Help your child to develop her throwing by playing catch with soft foam or fabric balls, or place simple paper targets on the wall for her to throw at. You should use balls that are small enough for your child to easily grasp.
With a little coaching, you can teach your toddler to catch soft foam or fabric balls. Catching is a natural companion activity to throwing, and catching activities help her to develop the ability to track the flight of an object in the air.
Tip: Show your child how to form as “basket” with her two arms in front of her stomach [more details]. Gently toss the ball into her basket from a close distance of one to two metres. As her confidence grows and her fine motor skills improve, she will eventually start to use her hands more than her arms.
Around her second birthday, your toddler will start to kick a ball on the ground. She won’t have great form as she steps into the kick, but that’s okay. At this age, you simply want to encourage her to explore the movement of kicking.
Tip: Help your child to develop her kicking skills by having soft, lightweight balls available. You can even play one-versus-one soccer at this age. Use your imagination: create goals using patio furniture, trees, shrubs, and other objects. Let her score lots of goals to encourage her, and make sure you cheer and celebrate.
Swimming is essential, in part because it’s a survival skill. Your child doesn’t need to be racing lengths of the pool by age four, but she should certainly be exposed to water and start developing her fundamental swimming skills.
Tip: Investigate swimming lessons at your local recreation centre by age three or four. Many programs encourage parents to be in the water alongside their child at the early ages.
Skating develops your child’s sense of balance on slippery surfaces. It’s also an essential skill for sports like figure skating, speed skating, and Canada’s great pastime, hockey.
Tip: Like swimming, skating is a fundamental skill that requires a little more planning on the part of parents. Check out the beginner programs at your local recreation centre.
2 responses to “Physical literacy checklist: 2-4 years”
I really enloy seeing these types of articles, especially in my role as Youth Development Coordinator for Special Olympics. I hesitate to use the benchmarks for the skill acquired for the different chronological ages because parents of children with an intellectual disability may see these and go through a grieving process if their child is not reaching the milestones outlined by your site.
I would encourageyou to highlight the challenges faced by the parents and children who are going through this struggle and include it, along with physical disabilities, as part of your whole, comprehensive look at physical literacy.
Keep up the good work!!
Thanks, Tom, for your comment.
Developmental and relative ages in terms of physical development really are key. And we’ve got a few articles coming soon that will hopefully help parents understand the differences.
And as you suggest, providing information for parents of all children, regardless of ability, is also important.
We’ve addressed the special needs of children with autism in a couple of articles:
We’d be interested in publishing articles specific to the needs of other children, too. If you’ve got some ideas and suggestions, please get in touch.