First grade physical development guide: Find out what you need to know

Here's what you should know about your first-grader's physical development.
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By Aisha Labi

First grade is a crucial transitional year for young children, as they make the change from kindergarten to big kids’ school. This may mark the first time they are eating in the cafeteria with their friends or playing outside during recess without their teacher’s supervision.

Just as children in first grade are beginning to establish the learning and studying habits that they will rely on throughout their education and working life, they are also forming physical habits that will determine their future health and wellbeing and shape the quality of their life.

Children in first grade are usually 6 or 7 years old, and the following guidelines are aimed at children in the typical age group. However, the information here is intended only as a general guide. If your child seems to be out of step in terms of physical development, you should consult your pediatrician.

Gross motor skills

Overview

Your first-grader is still developing gross motor skills, which involve whole-body movement. The include running, jumping, throwing, and catching. Physical activities at this age should include games and sports that focus on developing these fundamental skills through play, rather than competition.

Balance

Your child’s balance will improve significantly throughout this year. By the end of first grade, your child should be able to hop on one foot for up to 20 feet without stopping. Playing hopscotch helps develop this skill.

Tip toes

Your child should be able to walk on tip toes for up to 20 feet.

Skipping

Your child should be able to skip with ease for up to 20 feet.

Standing

Your child should be able to stand on each foot for at least 10 seconds, with their hands on their waist.

Sit-ups

Your child should be able to do several sit-ups at a time.

Push-ups

Your child should be able to do several push ups at a time, lifting only their chest off the ground.

Kicking

Your child should be able to kick a ball with accuracy at a target 10 to 15 feet away.

Dribbling

Your child should be able to bounce a ball and catch it with ease.

Fine motor skills

Overview

Your child’s fine motor skills, which involve the coordination of small muscle movements, will be developing as quickly as their gross motor skills. These skills become especially important as the emphasis in school turns to reading and writing.

Handwriting

Your child should be able to print around 20 letters a minute.

Coloring

Your child should be able to color within the lines in a coloring book.

Cutting

Your child should be able to cut shapes or varying complexity out of paper.

Sculpting

Your child should be able to mold different shaped objects with Play-Doh or clay.

Shoe-tying

Your child should be able to tie their shoes.

Dressing

Your child should be able to dress and undress, fasting and unfastening buttons and manipulating zippers, without assistance.

Sleep

Overview

Restful sleep is a fundamental requirement for a healthy child. While sleep gives a growing body time to recuperate and prepare for the day ahead, studies have also shown that well-rested children perform better academically, are less likely to act out in school, have lower rates of obesity, and are less susceptible to viral infection. It is important to prioritize sleep by ensuring that your child has a dark, quiet, and comfortable bedroom and by establishing a regular nightly routine with your child before tucking them into bed.

A well-rested child will wake up spontaneously and have energy throughout the entire day. If you notice that they are yawning at inappropriate times, or get reports from school about their hyperactivity and misbehavior, your child is most likely not getting enough sleep. Consult with your child’s health care provider about additional steps you can take to ensure your child gets a more restful night of sleep.

How much sleep?

First grade students need 10 to 11 hours of restful sleep every night. For students who need to be up at 6 AM to get ready for school, their bed-time should be between 7 and 8 PM.

Learn more about supporting your child with our first grade physical health tips and physical activity recommendations pages.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Dr. Jayne Greenberg, District Director, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.