Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Developmentally Appropriate Games

From UBC Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Developmentally appropriate games are physically engaging games designed by Physical education teachers that target the individual physical, motor, social, and cognitive characteristics of their students to improve their physical literacy (Gallahue & Donnelly, 2003). The purpose of developmentally appropriate games are to meet the developmental characteristics of children and create positive experiences that will allow them to increase their physical, motor, social, and cognitive skills and to be physically active throughout their lifespan (Gallahue & Donnelly, 2003).

Components of Development

  • Physical

The Growth and Development of different body systems that occur as a child develops. Examples of areas of growth and development include height, weight, bone maturation, muscle growth, and development of the cardiovascular system (Nichols, 1994).

  • Cognitive

Changes and development of intellectual skills such as thinking, memory, and problem solving (Boyd, Bee, & Johnson, 2009). Also can be referred to as decision-making component.

  • Motor

The development of motor skills. Motor skills are movements that are purposeful and controlled by the individual (Nichols, 1994). Examples of motor skills include: running, jumping, walking, hopping, etc.

  • Social

The development of an individual’s social behaviours, interactions with other, feelings and attitudes (Rink, 2006). This is sometimes also referred to as the affective domain.

Creating Developmentally Appropriate Games

To create developmentally appropriate games a teacher must know 1) Developmental characteristics of the students 2) Learning styles of students 3) Growth and Development theories

Developmental Characteristics of:

5-7 year olds

  • Physical

Very Flexible, increase in muscular endurance and strength, moderate height and weight gain (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Psychomotor

Steady improvement in hand-eye coordination, consistent improvement in ability to balance (static and dynamic), Consistent gains in locomotor and manipulative skills, rhythm and control of body movement are developing steadily (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Cognitive

Attention span is still quite minimal; however, is gradually increasing, very interested in understanding ‘why’ and try to gain knowledge through many questions, like to participate in activities where they can be creative and imaginative (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Social

Self-concerned therefore like to play in small groups and enjoy self play, want adult approval, which means they are very sensitive to any adult criticism, don’t have a sense of danger (Fishburne, 2005).

8-9 year olds

  • Physical

Start to decrease in muscular flexibility, some girls may start to have characteristics of puberty, and gain in muscular strength is continuous (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Psychomotor

Great gains in manipulative skills, interest in sport develops, and steady gains in hand eye coordination (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Cognitive

Starting to become less individualistic and enjoy small and large group activities more, attention span continues to improve, and become interested in their own health and skill level (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Social

Begin to feel hostility towards opposite gender, begin to build self-competence based on ability and success levels, and desire to improve their own skill level (Fishburne, 2005).

10-12 year olds

  • Physical

Great variability in height and weight between classmates of the same age and between females and males, flexibility continues to decrease, and muscular strength continues to increase rapidly (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Psychomotor

Begin to see differences in skill between individuals, male and females, coordination steadily improves (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Cognitive

Great interest in one’s own body and how to improve their own fitness and skill level, major increase in attention span, and very curious about the purpose of activities (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Social

Increase in self consciousness, especially girls, Males and females don’t show much concern or care for each other, and prefer to work individually or in small groups compared to large ones (Fishburne, 2005).

It is important to mention that these are general characteristics and do not affiliate with all children. Individuality is key, some students may not fit these characteristics and in that case it becomes the teacher’s job to identify what the developmental characteristics of that student are. Also it is crucial to avoid elimination games and focus on games that promote inclusiveness (Pica, 2009). Games that emphasize elimination tend (1) not to foster children’s development; (2) to embarrass children in front of their classmates; (3) to focus on eliminating children, and thus (4) to afford players limited participation time in the physical activity; and (5) to carry a high risk of injury or harm (Williams 1994). Popular games such as musical chairs, Simon says and tag need to be modified to where no student eliminations take place (Pica, 2009). Elimination games stall development because students feel highlighted when repeatedly “tagged” or are “out” (Pica, 2009). Furthermore elimination games sometimes halt participation in sport and physical activity into adulthood. If a student has a negative experience during their school years, they may not want to engage in physical activity later in life (Pica, 2009).

Learning Styles

Creating developmentally appropriate games requires teachers to know the 3 different learning styles so that students can understand the games.

  • Visual Learners

Visual learners learn best from watching demonstrations, looking at diagrams, by observation, and prefer written instructions (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Auditory Learners

Learn best through verbal directions, verbal descriptions, verbal reinforcement, from group discussions, and group activities (Fishburne, 2005).

  • Tactile Learners

Learn best through physical activity and movement, hands on approach, doing demonstrations, and showing others how to perform the skill (Fishburne, 2005).

However it is difficult to determine a child’s learning style. Furthermore, children’s learning styles change based on the context or the environment they are in (Fishburne, 2005). It is important for teachers to understand that there will be a variety of ways students learn in each class so they need to adapt their teaching methods to cater to all the leaning styles (Fishburne, 2005).

Growth and Development Theories

It is vital for PE teachers to have a strong understanding of growth and development theories otherwise they will not know limitations, appropriate progressions or activities that will stimulate development of a child. It is important for the activity to accommodate towards the developmental characteristics of the students.

Importance for Movement

Fundemental Movement Skills

“Developing Fundamental Movement Skills can be used to enable movement in formal and informal activity sessions (play, games, dance and sport) in schools, sports clubs, community groups and at home” (Sport and Recreation NZ [SPARC], 2012, p.3). There are three categories of fundamental skills.

  • Locomotor Skills

involves the body moving in any direction from one point to another (SPARC, 2012).

  • Stability Skills

maintaining balance when in a stationary position or moving (SPARC, 2012).

  • Manipulative Skills

Skills that involve using hands and feet and other parts of the body to control objects, sometimes with an implement (SPARC, 2012).

It is critical for students to partake in developmentally appropriate games or activities to attain fundamental movement skills. When creating activities that build fundamental movement skills its important to remember that children learn and develop movement skills in different ways and at varying rates, that children’s motor skill are related to age and experience, and that children learn when they have achieved the physical, social and cognitive prerequisites (SPARC, 2012). The description of an activity that promotes the learning of fundamental movement skills directly coincides with the criterion of what a developmentally appropriate activity is. Hence, developmentally appropriate games lead to the development of fundamental movement skills.

Motor Development

Developmentally appropriate games aid in the development of motor skills in young children. Motor development encompasses the use of muscles, joints, and limbs and is divided into two categories: gross and fine motor skills (Technical Assistance and Training System [TATS], 2010).

  • Gross Motor Development

Gross motor skills use large muscle groups that plan and coordinate together to walk, balance, run, jump, etc. (TATS, 2010).

  • Fine Motor Development

Fine motor skill use small muscle groups that plan and coordinate together to achieve detailed everyday movements such as, writing, grasping and drawing (TATS, 2010).

Development of motor skills help in the development of the four developmental components that developmentally appropriate games target. The most significant consequence of basic motor skills development and movement concepts is that they enhance psychological, social, cognitive, and affective development as well (Payne & Rink, 1997). This shows an inverse relationship where developmentally appropriate games help enhance motor skills, which in turn helps promote developmental characteristics of children. When children take part in motor activities, their social development progresses as they become capable of successful interactions with others, such as helping and cooperating and learn to control aggression (Gallahue & Ozmun, 1998).

Promotes Physical Literacy

Physical Literacy is defined as “Individuals who are physically literate move with competence in a wide variety of physical activities that benefit the development of the whole person” (Physical and Health Education Canada [PHEC], 2015). Physical literacy is significant because it provides a firm foundation for children to develop skills and knowledge, which enables them to be proficient in various different types of activity (PHEC, 2015). Developmentally appropriate games help shape fundamental movement skills, which are the cornerstone of physical literacy.

Recommendations for Teachers


It is pivotal to keep in mind that there is individual variability when it comes to developmental characteristics of classmates. So it is crucial that teachers have easier and harder modifications for each activity in case a student finds an activity too hard or too easy. To make an activity easier a teacher may allow for larger space, fewer rules, less decision making roles in an activity and set slower a slower pace of an activity (Fishburne, 2005). Activities can be made more difficult by restricting space in a game, adding more rules during an activity, providing more decision making roles and setting a faster pace in an activity (Fishburne, 2005).

Optimal Challenge

It is also important to make sure the children are optimally challenged so they do not feel bored and disengage from the activity. Optimal challenge occurs when a learner is challenged appropriately based on their individual developmental characteristics and abilities (Fishburne, 2005). If optimal challenge is provided then the learners experience more success, which makes them feel good about themselves, which causes them to become intrinsically motivated and leads to continued participation in physical activity (Fishburne, 2005). If the activity is not optimally challenging the students get bored or frustrated causing them to feel bad about themselves, which demotivates them and redues their participation in physical activity (Fishburne, 2005). Some ways to provide optimal challenge are having modifications to the activity to make it harder or easier and have progressions so the students have goals to work towards (Fishburne, 2005).


Motivation is a key component of promoting physical activity and fitness throughout ones lifespan. An individual who has experienced early positive memories of physical activity is much more likely to maintain a physically active lifestyle (Weiss, 2000). It is important for physical educators to provide an environment where the students can be motivated so they will become and remain physically active (Alderman, Beighle, Pangrazzi, 2006). Students need to be intrinsically motivated, and the best way to achieve this is to allow students the freedom to make choices during physical education, giving them the perception of choice and control (Alderman et al. 2006).

Students with Disabilities

Teachers need to be prepared to modify their activities to cater towards students with disabilities. Some ways teachers can do this is by having a variety of specific adaptations for each of the motor skills based on a student's needs, a number of activities that utilize the motor skills and allow for modification based on need, and behavioural management considerations for each disability (PHEC, 2015).


  • Alderman, B, Beighke, A., & Pangrazi, R. (2006). Enhancing Motivation in Physical Education, JOPERD, 77(2) 41-45, 51
  • Boyd, D., Bee, H., & Johnson, P. (2009). Lifespan Development (3rd ed.). Toronto: Pearson Education Canada.
  • Fishburne, G. J. (2005). Unit Plans, Lesson Plans, and Yearly Programs for Developmentally Appropriate Physical Education for Children and Youth. Sherwood Park, AL: Ripon Publishing
  • Gallahue, D., & Ozmun, J. (1998). Understanding Motor Development. Infants, Children, Adolescents, Adults. NY: McGraw-Hill.
  • Gallahue, D., & Donnelly, F. C. (2003). Developmental physical education for all children. (4th ed). Windsor, ON: Human Kinetics
  • Payne, G., & Rink, J. (1997). Physical Education in the Developmentally Appropriate Integrated Curriculum. In C. Hart, D. Burts, & R. Charlesworth (Eds.), Integrated Curriculum and Developmentally Appropriate Practice–Birth to Age Eight (pp. 145–170). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
  • Nichols, B. (1994). Moving and Learning: The Elementary School Physical Education Experience (3rd ed.) Toronto: Mosby.
  • Pica, R. (2009). What Makes a Game Developmentally Appropriate? Beyond The Journal.
  • Rink, J. (2006). Teaching Physical Education for Learning. New York, NY: Mcgraw-Hill
  • Weiss, M. R., (2000). Motivating kids in physical activity. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, 3(11), 1-8.
  • Williams, N.F. 1994. The Physical Education Hall of Shame, part 2. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 65 (2): 17–20.