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What is holistic development and why is it the best approach for educating our children?

At Lydia’s Tuition, we are proud to use holistic teaching methods with our students in order to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment that children want to be a part of. Our focus is on developing the whole child through creating and sustaining meaningful relationships, instilling a love for learning and supporting the growth of confidence and resilience in each child.

What is holistic development?

Holistic development focuses on nurturing a child’s social, emotional, physical and mental wellbeing through creating a comfortable and safe environment that allows a child to learn and grow. It is about developing the ‘whole child’ not just their academic understanding.

Every child is an individual and learns in different ways according to their strengths and areas for development. By looking at different aspects of the child’s development, such as social skills, language skills and overall development, we can identify within which areas a child may need additional support and target these areas in your child’s tailored learning plan.

What is the “whole child”?

The holistic development approach is centred around the idea of nurturing and developing the whole child. This means not simply teaching the required content in order for a child to pass exams and succeed academically. It is about taking a holistic approach to a child’s growth in all areas such as social development, emotional wellbeing and all other aspects that make up this whole child. By creating a safe environment for learning and providing a mindful space full of positive reinforcement, we give our students greater autonomy in understanding their personal learning styles along with building their confidence in approaching new and unfamiliar tasks, and resilience to setbacks.

The five aspects of the holistic development approach

The five aspects of holistic development are; Physical, Social, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual development.

Physical Development

Physical development focuses on fine motor skills and gross motor skills. A few examples of this would be walking, running, catching, building towers, creating bead necklaces and completing jigsaw puzzles.

Social Development and Emotional Development

Social and Emotional development encompasses a range of things including the child’s thoughts and feelings about who they are as people and as learners, what they are feeling at any given moment, how to work through this, and how they interact with other children and adults. This is where the ability to form and sustain relationships begins, starting with the child’s parents, teachers and siblings. These developmental areas link together as they both contribute to a child’s overall wellbeing and their ability to navigate relationships throughout their lives.

Intellectual Development/Cognitive Development

Intellectual development is a child’s ability to think and reason, and includes aspects such as their ability to solve problems, language skills, memory and their own moral compasses. These cognitive aspects allow children to understand the relationships between ideas, to grasp the process of cause and effect and to improve their analytical skills.

Spiritual Wellbeing

Tying into the Intellectual and Emotional developmental areas, a child’s Spiritual Wellbeing relates to the important inner questions we ask ourselves such as the meaning and purpose of our lives. Spiritual development is not religious, but rather relates to where one feels their place is in the world. This may seem like a very big concept for a child to grasp, but childhood is where these fundamental thoughts and reasonings begin, and thus our experienced and mindful input here, has a great impact on what kind of adult each child becomes.

Where does the idea of holistic development come from?

Holistic development can be identified as being born in the 18th/19th century, most likely by a German educator called Friedrich Froebel who created the first ever “kindergarten”. By using his knowledge of mathematics and science, Froebel created a set of “gifts” he would provide to children in his care, that would allow them to learn and create using their own initiative thus developing their own individual learning styles.

Frobel would provide a set of six wooden blocks to his cousin, for her two younger children, and ask her to observe their play. This one small and simple game allowed the children to engage in creative play. Where one would use the blocks to build a tower and tap into their fine motor skills, the other may use the blocks for counting and other problem-solving activities. The goal of this “gift” was to allow the child to indulge in creative play and use this to develop their own learning opportunities.

Thanks to Frobel’s focus on observing childhood play and self-expression, we now have the tools to enhance a child’s early childhood education experience, and give them a more positive learning experience. By observing childhood play, we can pinpoint key areas of cognitive development in real time, and can subsequently identify where additional support and guidance may be needed from the early stages in a child’s life.

What are the Frobelian Principles?

  1. Childhood is seen as valid in itself, as part of life, and not simply as preparation for adulthood. Education is seen similarly as something of the present and not just preparation and training for later.

  2. The whole child is considered to be important. Health, physical and mental, is emphasised, as well as the importance of feelings, thinking and spiritual aspects.

  3. Learning is not compartmentalised, everything links.

  4. Intrinsic motivation, resulting in child-initiated, self-directed activity, is valued.

  5. Self- discipline is emphasised.

  6. There are especially receptive periods of learning at different stages of development.

  7. What children can do, rather than what they cannot do, is the starting point in the child’s education.

  8. There is an inner life in the child, which emerges especially under favourable conditions.

  9. The people, both adults and children, with whom the child interacts, are of central importance.

  10. Quality education relates to three things: the child, the context in which learning takes place, and the knowledge and understanding which the child develops and learns.

Articulated by Professor Tina Bruce (1987, 1st edition and 2015, 5th edition). Credit to

How can holistic development help in developing my child’s gross motor skills and fine motor skills?

What are gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills involve the use of large muscles and movement of these body parts to do activities such as walking, running, jumping, catching. These skills are usually the first signs within child development, as noticed in babies, where they may start crawling or sitting up. In early childhood, it is important to support children’s physical development through activities such as throwing a ball and asking the child to retrieve it, singing songs with standing up and sitting down actions and assisting them in walking around the house etc.

As children develop, gross motor development can be addressed through activities such as trampolining, dancing, obstacle courses around the house and learning how to ride a bicycle. Playing games such as football or tennis are also wonderful physical activities that will allow children’s gross motor skills to flourish.

What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscle groups, such as in the hands and mouth, and working with the brain and nervous system to complete more complex tasks, such as drawing and colouring, eating and getting dressed. Fine motor skills often tie into tasks associated with intellectual development, especially in a learning setting, such as holding a pencil correctly, writing, or being able to play a musical instrument. Therefore, there is great importance in ensuring a child feels supported in practising these skills for the sake of focussing on the developmental skill, rather than the emphasis being placed on having ‘neat handwriting’ simply for visual purposes.

Where does the holistic development approach come into play?

Supporting your child’s gross and fine motor development with a holistic development approach, can be as simple as allowing them the freedom to move around and create independent play in your home. A childhood favourite game, “the floor is lava”, is a perfect example of using balance and problem-solving skills to move from one piece of furniture to the other. It is important to note that playing games like this creates a need for child-friendly furniture and tailored environments, to ensure injuries do not occur.

Group activities such as football, netball and rugby not only assist in children’s physical development, but also in their social skills. By learning to work as a team and communicate amongst friends, children gain key skills in negotiation and compromise, but also in communicating their wants and needs.

Fine motor, skill-based, activities can include drawing and colouring, creating pasta shell necklaces, dressing up games or building with Lego blocks. These activities can be completed independently to promote self-guided learning, or with friends to improve skills like team work and communication.

Why have we at Lydia’s Tuition decided to foster a holistic approach to learning?

LS Tuition is built on holistic education. This means that just as much, if not more, emphasis is placed on developing each child as a person, as well as academically as a learner. Positive praise and environment are a hugely important tool in achieving this.

Part of childhood maturing is learning how to regulate emotions and how to handle setbacks. For children who are not yet at the stage of having developed regulation and having this resilience to perceived ‘failure’, positive reinforcement is 100% effective in supporting their fragility until they are more able to cope with the understanding that nobody is perfect and that we can nevertheless overcome challenges.

Our tutors are highly skilled in developing the whole person, and can say with full confidence that the way in which your child feels about themselves as a learner, and their attitude towards their learning, is the number one indicator of their success academically.

Support the whole child, and the learning will follow. This is what ‘tutoring’ means.”

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