By Vanessa Rasmussen
One of the most common concerns for a parent is whether or not their child is developing normally. Motor skills are deliberate and controlled movements requiring both muscle development and maturation of the central nervous system. The development of fine and gross motor skills allows them to perform better in other, more academic and physical ways. Fine motor skills are those skills that allow you to develop the ability to do such things as write and manipulate small objects. Gross motor skills are big motor skills; i.e. running, jumping and hopping etc. They require balance and coordination.
The sequence of gross motor development is determined by two developmental principles that also govern physical growth. The head-to-toe development which refers to the way the upper parts of the body, beginning with the head, develop before the lower ones. The other pattern of both development and maturation is trunk to extremities. First head control is gained as the nerves supplying the neck muscles mature and the neck muscles gain strength. The shoulder, upper arms, and hand control improves. Upper body or trunk control is next, then the hips and pelvis, and finally the legs!
Although rapid motor development in early childhood is often a good predictor of coordination and athletic ability later in life, there is no proven correlation between a child’s rate of motor development and his intelligence. In most cases, a delay in mastering a specific motor skill is temporary and does not indicate a serious problem. If gross motor skills are associated with delays in the other areas of development, this is more concerning for the child’s overall well-being. However, seek medical help if a child is significantly behind his peers in motor development or if he regresses, losing previously acquired skills.
Try the following activities to help your children develop their gross motor skills:
- Create a running game such as race or a chase. This activity will teach co-ordination and balance.
- Create a climbing game, such as climbing the stairs, or take your children to a park and let them climb the jungle gym. Each time your child climbs, he or she improvises on this skill which in turn enhances the motor skills.
- Play hopscotch. Teach them how to skip ropes. These activities will help them to balance their bodies on their feet.
- Activities involving ball play such as kicking or throwing a ball encourage gross motor development. Make sure that you select a ball of the right size for your child.
- Batting is also a great way to develop gross motor skills. Baseball, tennis, racquet ball, etc. are slightly difficult sports to master, but they are well worth the reward.
If you have any concerns about your child’s motor skills development, always talk to your child’s pediatrician or your family physician.
Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center, http://www.startingadaycarecenter.com.