Describe theoretical perspectives in relation to physical development

Qualification: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.11: Promote the physical development of children
Learning outcome: Understand theory and current frameworks in relation to children’s physical development
Assessment criteria: Describe theoretical perspectives in relation to physical development


As the field of early years education continues to evolve, so too does our understanding of physical development in children. With advances in technology and scientific research, we now know more than ever about the best ways to nurture and promote physical development in young minds. In this blog, we will take a look at some of the most prominent theoretical perspectives that are used to guide physical development in early years settings.

Behavioral Perspective

The behavioral perspective seeks to understand how children’s behavior is shaped by their environment. This perspective suggests that through positive or negative reinforcement, children can be taught certain behaviors. For example, if a child participates in physical activities such as running or jumping, they may receive praise from their teachers or peers which would serve as positive reinforcement and motivate them to participate in similar activities again. This perspective focuses on reinforcing desirable behaviors and eliminating undesired ones through reward or punishment respectively.


Cognitive Perspective

The cognitive perspective proposes that physical development is largely driven by an individual’s thought processes. According to this view, children actively seek out information about their environment and then apply what they learn when performing physical tasks such as balancing or throwing a ball. Furthermore, this perspective also takes into account the idea that mental processes can influence physical performance; for example, if a child believes that they are not capable of doing something then it is likely that they will not perform well physically either. Thus, it is important for educators to ensure that children have an optimistic outlook towards their abilities so that they can make optimal use of them.

Social Learning Perspective

The social learning perspective emphasizes the importance of observing and imitating others when it comes to learning new skills and behaviors. According to this view, children learn best by observing how others act and then modeling their own behavior after those role models. Thus, it is important for educators to provide children with positive role models who demonstrate safe and effective ways of performing physical tasks such as running or climbing stairs without falling down. Additionally, educators should also provide ample opportunities for children to practice these skills with their peers so that they can build confidence in their abilities over time.



In conclusion, there are various theoretical perspectives that inform our understanding of physical development in early years settings. Behavioral, cognitive and social learning perspectives all emphasize different aspects of learning but together they offer educators a comprehensive framework for guiding physical education with young learners. Ultimately though, each individual child’s needs must be taken into account when designing curricula so that all students have equal opportunity to achieve success both mentally and physically throughout their educational experience!

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