Children grow the most physically from age 10 to 15. This period is often called the middle-childhood years.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the middle-childhood years is the rapid growth of the arms and legs in comparison with the torso. (No wonder these children bump and spill as their judgments of distance change rapidly.) The need for the child here is patience on your part as theadult. Now that you have the knowledge that their limbs could be a little longer and that they are unaware that they have the extra reach, thus bumping, crashing and breaking things, you should be able to exercise a little more patience. As far as I know, very few children bump and break things on purpose. Usually these collisions have to do with the unexpected growth spurt. A child should not be given a tongue-lashing for something he or she has done by accident.

From about 10 to 11 years, girls’ height and weight increase much more rapidly than that of boys.

The acquisition and refinement of a variety of psychomotor skills are some of the most prominent development characteristics of the middle-childhood period. Children like to run, jump, skip, cycle, skate, swim, kick a ball, do ballet and take part in a variety of other sports. With practice, children can achieve almost the same level of skill as adults. Children in middle childhood, however, do not have the same strength, speed and stamina as adolescents (16 to 18 year olds), but their coordination, timing and concentration are often just as good.[1]

Children are developing the most physically at this stage of their lives, so it stands to reason that we should be doing plenty of physical activities and encouraging them to be involved in or experience as many physical activities as possible. Dad, this is a wonderful bonding moment with your child. So get out into the garden or on the sports field and share some good time together. Remember, they do not have the same strength, speed or stamina. The best advice that I could give is allow your children to beat you. It builds up their self-confidence and self-worth. Other children will give them the needed competition and bring them down to size. Our job as parents is to build our children up. Mum and Dad, please focus on mastery rather than score. See the victory as a by-product of the pursuit of excellence. Concentrate on effort rather than outcome and on learning rather than comparison with others. The investment of time with your child in this area can fill their love tank, and you should experience fewer disciplinary problems. I started playing outside regularly with my children when they were pre-schoolers. The investment of my valuable time had many positive returns on our parent-child relationships.

“Invest in children today, not repair men tomorrow” ~ Trevor Farley

It is often during these times that your child will open up about his or her day or ask you that life-changing, character-building question and allow you into the secret chambers of their world. One day while on a short jog with my son, he popped the s-e-x question. It was easy to chat on the road, as we did not need to look embarrassingly at one another. Hadwe not gone out on our own, he might never have asked the question and then learned the answer from some more undesirable source or other.

Regarding motor activities, such as running, jumping and throwing, boys tend to develop more quickly than girls do, usually because they have more muscle tissue than girls have and are therefore stronger.[2]

A Child’s motor development facilitates the development of their personality. Children’s social development is enhanced by their participation individually and in team sports such as soccer, netball, gymnastics, rugby and tennis; where they learn to obey rules and to co-operate with their fellow team members. Children who can run fast or play soccer and netball well are usually popular among their friends. This popularity could enhance their self-esteem.[3]


Children have a need to be involved, and as their physical development is most prominent at the middle- childhood stage of their lives, I believe that it is healthy for them to try as many physical challenges, sports and activities as possible. This is where they also get the opportunity for self-discovery, to find the answers to the questions, “What can I do and what can I not do?” “How much can I do?” “What is my capacity; how much I can handle?” Remember that FREE PLAY is an important part of your child’s development and must be included as part of their co-curricular activities.

Physical dexterity can be very different from one year to the next, depending on the child’s physical growth over the previous year. One year I remember two eleven-year-old girls “fighting” it out for top honours in athletics. That year they shared the honour of Junior Athlete of the year. The next year I eagerly awaited the strong competitive challenge between the two of them — only to experience no challenge at all! One of the girls hadmatured more physically than her counterpart, thus coming out tops in all their competitive challenges. Today the one is top Senior Athlete; the other no longer takes part in athletics.

Life can be so unfair. But discovering that life is unfair is a great lesson to learn. We don’t have to go far to find examples, but when you get the opportunity, with all the empathy you can muster, point this out to your child. The sooner we learn that life is not fair, the better.


If you have a pigeon pair whose ages are close to each other, please be mindful and patient of the fact that girls’ muscles develop later than boys do. The boy might succeed more quickly than the girl might. This does not mean that she cannot do the physical activity at hand; it just means that she needs more time and practice to develop the immature muscles. Try to take the competition out of games that require physical dexterity. Boys want to compete and to win; girls want to have fellowship and to do things together. Competition can cause great stress in the family. We can sometimes play games without the competition, and then the girls have an opportunity to develop their muscles until they have enough physical power to compete equally with their brothers or male friends.

Activities to Encourage Physical Development

Individual Activities

Team Sports

Coaches are, first and foremost, teachers; they are among the most influential people in a young athlete’s life. Because coaches are such powerful role models, young athletes learn more from them about character than about athletic performance.”[1]

There are three major elements to the “job description” of a Positive Coaching Parent:

[1] (DA LOUW ET AL 1998:326. Human DevelopmentCape Town, Kagiso Tertiary).

[2] (DA LOUW ET AL 1998:326 Human DevelopmentCape Town, Kagiso Tertiary).

[3] (DA LOUW ET AL 1998:326 Human Development Cape Town, Kagiso Tertiary)