Understanding appropriate developmental physical activity during middle childhood begins with examining the tasks and challenges of this particular period of life. Freud described this phase as a time of latency, meaning that energy is not solely focused on the development of the psyche, but rather a child can turn outward and start to form a personality based on social interaction. Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson, in his theory of lifespan stages, believed that middle childhood is a time when children strive to become industrious and successful in friendships and battle with feelings of inferiority when compared to their peers. As such, appropriate physical activities during this phase will honor these developmental tasks and level of readiness.
Given Erikson's stance that a major task of development in middle childhood is industry rather than inferiority, team sports can be useful in helping a child to better understand success within a group. By working together as part of a team, a child learns that while industry is sometimes individual, it can also be achieved as part of a larger whole. Team sports, such as soccer or baseball also focus on improving gross motor skills that began to develop during the preschool years.
The Smaller Movements
Fine motor skills begin to become more refined during middle childhood. Activities involving playing board games, putting together puzzles and playing musical instruments challenge fine motor skills, while at the same time take into account the child's developmental need to master new tasks. Encouraging children to engage in activities that require fine motor skills improves their dexterity as well as allows them to engage in new individual and group games.
Play and Logic
Play that involves gross and fine motor skills holds an important role in development during middle childhood. According to developmental psychologist and theorist Jean Piaget, play in this phase of life is related to cognitive development because children are beginning to use logic and reasoning in order to achieve their goals. Thus, team sports challenge a child's gross motor skills, but also appropriately allow him to test out new logic skills in order to win the game. Individual tasks involving fine motor skills, such as learning to knit or play an instrument focus on dexterity with a congruent importance placed on memory and pragmatics.