In perspective: Firm foundations - preparing young children to fulfil their potential

As the experts in movement, physios play a key role in helping children to get the best possible start in life, argues Ripal Patel.

The foundations for almost every aspect of emotional, intellectual, physical and social development are laid in the early years (from conception to five years).  These foundations are a critical determinant of health and wellbeing and progress throughout the life course.

Yet a recent report by the Institute of Health Equity suggests that nearly half of all five year olds in England are not achieving a good level of development in readiness for school. In low income families just one child in three meets early learning goals, in the areas of communication and language, physical development, and personal, social and emotional development.

Physios working with adults and children are ideally positioned to help children to meet these milestones. First, we have the knowledge and skills to engage children and parents in physical activity. Physios working with pregnant mothers may advise or, in some cases, provide interventions to optimise maternal fitness and physical activity levels during and after pregnancy.

Those working with adults who have young children may link their physical activity goals to helping their children achieve a minimum of three hours of active play every day (for children from nought to five) or help identify parental health and wellbeing issues, such as mental health or social concerns, that may impact on children’s lives.    

Many physios will have seen increasing numbers of otherwise healthy children with poor levels of confidence, control, co-ordination, stamina, and strength in fine and gross motor skills. These can affect children’s ability to move and function safely and confidently – whether that is handling pencils for writing or independently managing dressing and toileting. While the causes are multi-factorial, paediatric physios can offer specialist advice and treatment, ranging from advice on ‘tummy time’ to providing graded exercise, motor skills and weight management programmes.

For children with specific physical needs, rehab aimed at physical activity and sport participation can be beneficial.   

As the experts in movement, we, in conjunction with others, have a crucial role to play in ensuring all children get the best possible start and fulfil their potential in life – their future depends on it!  

The Department of Health and Public Health England are running a week of action on these issues from 17 to 21 November. CSP members can find out more on Twitter using the hashtag #PHPCYPWeek or via Viv Bennett’s blog page here.

Ripal Patel CSP professional adviser

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