Motor development is the process of acquiring movement skills and abilities. Motor development is divided into group types: gross motor, which involves the large muscles, and fine motor, which involves the small muscles. Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are less developed in younger children than in older children. Both types of motor skills are important in the child’s development.
Motor development occurs in a predictable, orderly sequence. This pattern of development is universal in children all over the world. For example, most children sit up around seven months, walk around 12 months, hop by three years, and skip at five years of age. It is important to remember that each child will develop at his or her own rate, and that different children will have different abilities in both gross and fine motor development. Children should not be pushed to perform motor skills before they are ready.
During the first two years of life, motor development is rapid. Motor development proceeds from the head down to the toes. The muscles closest to the head are the first muscles an infant learns to control. Next shoulder, arm, and stomach muscles develop, followed by the muscles in the legs and feet. Most motor skills are developed by six or seven years of age. Giving infants, toddlers and children opportunities to move their bodies and develop their muscles is critical to physical development as well as social, emotional and intellectual development.
Handedness is the area of motor development that involves hand preference. This preference may occur
in children as young as two years of age and is usually established by age five. Hand preference is deter- mined by the brain. As the brain develops, one side of the brain becomes dominant. If a child’s hand preference is left, then the right side of the brain is dominant. If the left side of the brain is dominant, then the child will be right handed. Children should not be encouraged to change their hand preference.
Depending on the age and development of the child, gross and fine motor activities should be encouraged. Activities that include running, jumping, skipping, kicking, walking, climbing, throwing and catching become the foundation for children to learn more complex motor skills as they get older. Some suggestions for large motor development include playing Follow the Leader, jumping over things, dancing to music and playing with balls.
Fine motor development occurs when children have control over the finger muscles. Children should be offered manipulative activities that are age-appropriate to develop this skill. Activities for young children include putting together puzzles, zipping, stringing beads, using scissors, playing with Duplos or Legos, scribbling, drawing, and painting.
Every day age-appropriate activities to promote motor development should be encouraged for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children. These activities should include indoor and outdoor play. Interact and play along with the children while you are supervising them. Make sure children have adequate time and space as well as safe equipment and materials that are age-appropriate. Each time you provide these activities and interact with the child, you are contributing to their development.