The Role of Play in Physical and Social Development


Physical development refers to the physical growth of the child and involves both large and small-muscle development known as gross-motor and fine-motor development respectively (Brotherson, n.d.).

Running, jumping, climbing and throwing a ball are all examples of gross-motor development activities, as they involve the use of large-muscle groups.

Tying a shoe, putting together puzzles, painting with a paint brush and drawing with crayons are all examples of fine-motor development activities, since they involve the use of the smaller muscle groups.

Both types of muscle development are necessary for a child’s overall physical growth and development and are supported through play activities such as those mentioned above.

Social development involves learning the values, knowledge and skills that help children relate to others effectively (“About Social Development”, n.d.)

Through play, especially group play, a child learns to understand others and to take other children’s needs and views into account. Turn-taking, learning to share, communication, making friends and resolving conflict; these are all skills which are necessary for children to develop in childhood and through to adulthood.

Up Next: The Role of Play in Emotional Development


  • About Social Development (n.d.) Retrieved 2nd December, 2014 from
  • Brotherson, S (n.d.). Understanding Physical Development in Young Children. Bright Beginnings. Retrieved 2nd December, 2014 from


This is a series of guest posts by Raquel Marshall, a registered Clinical Psychologist in Barbados providing counselling and psychoeducational assessment services for children and adults. You can visit Raquel’s professional Facebook page here.

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