Child development is a long journey that parents take their kids on as they grow. Poetically, as children walk the path of development, parents grow alongside them as well, as mothers and fathers.
One of the most important parts of this growth is the development of motor development. This starts early on as babies, as their tiny arms and hands move around and their feet perform natural kicking motions.
However, there’s more to motor development than just hand motions and legs kicking. Motor skills involve physical capacities that intertwine with key mental abilities as well. This article will serve as a guide for you, parents who want to do your best for their children, so you can be informed as you facilitate and grow with your kids.
This guide will hold your hand through the important questions you have and exploration of all there is you need to know about enhancing motor development in babies. The first five years of a baby’s life can be a haze. However, during this time, children learn and develop the four main areas of development. These areas are motor, communication, cognitive, social, and emotional development. This article is here to help you gain a better understanding of motor development, lighting a spotlight on this important aspect of growth particularly.
What are Motor Skills?
Motor skills are the body or person’s capability and mastery of the process of moving. To carry out motor skills, your babies will need to strengthen and sharpen their brains, muscles, bones, and nervous systems. They also need to learn how to make all these elements work together through exercise, simulation, and repetition.
Motor skills power the movements and motions people do today as they execute and perform tasks. Motor skills enable babies to move – albeit at a limited capacity – and allow them to explore the world around them. As children, these skills will aid them in playing, exploring, and even doing their chores.
There are two main types that categorize motor skills: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Essentially, fine motor skills allow people to execute delicate tasks that require manipulating smaller objects with their hands and fingers. Gross motor skills, on the other hand, help people coordinate larger muscles to execute larger movements like jumping, walking, or running.
These, essentially, are the primary definitions and differences between the two types, but to fully understand how each of these types works and how your efforts contribute to the development of your kid’s fine and gross motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills vs. Gross Motor Skills
The body is a complex system. Bodies, even for babies and children, have smaller and larger muscles that require certain amounts of skills to manipulate and control. Some muscles are harder to control than others. Mastery over muscles takes time and practice – some even practice and develop their motor skills their whole lives, like athletes and artists.
Fine Motor Skills
People have small and delicate muscles in various parts of their bodies, such as hands, feet, and tongues. The development of children’s and babies’ fine motor skills allows them to engage and control smaller muscle groups in certain regions of the body, such as fingers and wrists.
Fine motor skills help kids perform tasks that require control, such as grasping, holding things, gripping, and pinching. Other practical tasks that involve mastery over fine motor skills that will surely help kids in the future are basic tasks such as picking up food, writing with a pencil, using keys, and buttoning up shirts.
The development of fine motor skills, in a nutshell, allows children to be independent. Fine motor skills enable kids to feed themselves, dress themselves, and play on their own. Aside from independence, fine motor skills have also, according to studies and research, been proven to be connected with other important facets such as language, literacy, and even brain development.
Here are some tasks that are possible through fine motor skills:
- Clapping and Playing with Percussion Instruments
- Shaking Toys and Musical Instruments
- Picking Up and Putting Down Objects
- Molding Clay and Playing with Play Dough
- Putting Shoes On and Dressing Selves
- Brushing Teeth and Performing Hygienic Tasks
With practice, regular exercise, and a lot of support, your kids will surely enjoy their journey towards sharper fine motor skills. Mastery of fine motor skills can lead to amazing things, allowing them to unlock their potential in fine arts, music, and other marvelous pursuits.
Gross Motor Skills
Tasks that involve developed gross motor skills are those that involve large muscles or large muscle groups. The development of gross motor skills leads to incredible milestones that parents will remember forever. Developed gross motor skills enable children to use their bodies and explore the world.
The skills that involve gross motor skills are essential day-to-day tasks such as walking, running, jumping, crawling, and many others. These tasks require children to engage and work on larger muscle groups to perform and execute. Gross motor skills encourage exploration and open the world up to children. As kids start to develop and strengthen their gross motor skills, you may start to notice that they begin to become less still and more active.
Gross motor skills, primarily, are what allow people to navigate and explore the world they live in on their own. This skill enables people to exercise their strength and do the necessary tasks to survive, such as gathering food and moving to safer places. Mastery of gross motor skills opens opportunities for strengthening people’s affinity for athletics and sports, and performing arts.
Here are some essential tasks that involve improved gross motor skills:
- Walking Home From School
- Running With Friends
- Jumping Over a Puddle
- Climbing in Playgrounds
- Dancing to Music
- Throwing and Catching Balls
Gross motor skills heavily affect people’s bodily coordination, allowing them to develop athleticism and an affinity for sports and the performing arts. Babies can sharpen gross motor skills through exercise and practice, so as parents, your job is to make sure that you equip your kids with the resources they need to grow.
How Can I Improve My Baby’s Fine Motor Skills?
Parents play a key role in ensuring that their babies have the tools and guidance they need to grow. This is why parents also need all the help they can possibly get when raising their kids. Improving your babies’ motor skills takes time, effort, and resources, so it’s important to research as much as you can before you dive into it.
Improving the fine and gross motor skills requires very different exercises. Fine motor skills require sharp and dexterous control of muscles, while gross motor skills, while still needing control, rely on strengthening certain muscle groups.
Fine motor skills cover activities that involve manual dexterity, requiring mastery over muscles in the hands and fingers to manipulate and control smaller and more delicate items. Development of fine motor skills can include the ability to grip and hold on to objects, use both hands for tasks, and use just the thumb or one finger to pick up in lieu of an entire hand.
Improving Fine Motor Skills
At a young age, the only way children learn is through their senses and play. To improve this fundamental skill, you will need to create activities with varying play mechanics to diversify the learning experience.
Children get bored very easily, so make sure you find engaging and entertaining play mechanics to make the learning experience fun. Babies have yet to develop the muscles and bones needed to play, so toys that engage their senses work best for improving fine motor skills.
Here are some games you can prepare for babies and toddlers:
- Rattles they can use to practice shaking and grasping
- Hanging toys that they can reach out to
- Lego sets they can put together
- Spades and buckets for scooping sand
- Small and large containers they can use to move water around
- Clay and playdough
- Buttons and buckles they can use for sensory learning
- Tong and tweezers for picking up small objects
- Art activity for painting, drawing, gluing and cutting
- Toy phones and keyboards
These are just some of the classic toys professionals recommend for parents. Each of these activities provides a challenge for children as they learn how to control the small muscles on their hands and wrists.
What Activities Help Develop Gross Motor Skills For Babies
While actions like running, walking, and jumping are often associated with gross motor skills, it’s much different at very early stages. For babies, gross motor skills are tummy time and learning how to lift their heads, sit up, pull themselves up to finally stand, taking their monumental first steps.
Gross motor skills are generally more energetic and broader than fine motor movements. Most athletic skills require mastery over gross motor movements such as shooting a ball into a hoop, throwing and catching a ball, swinging a bat, and many more.
Here are some games, toys, and exercises you can try with your babies and toddlers to strengthen their gross motor skills:
- Exercising sitting up
- Exercising how to roll over
- Practicing crawling skills
- Standing up to take a few steps
- Visiting parks and beaches to explore
- Playing catch
- Blowing bubbles and chasing them outdoors
- Pushing, pulling, or riding toys
- Encouraging them to assist with everyday tasks such as cleaning after their toys
- Outdoor play
These are just some of the activities you can consider. There are many activities you can try and games you can explore to help your children get excited with moving and developing their gross motor skills. Your mission, as parents, is to ensure they are equipped with the necessary resources and guidance as they explore the world around them.
How Can I Help My Baby Develop Sensory Motor Skills
As children have limited movement capabilities during their early development years, they learn how to develop skills or motor movements that help them gather information around them. These skills and movements are called sensory motor skills or sensorimotor skills.
Babies and toddlers have limited capacities to learn through language, so spoonfeeding them with information isn’t an ideal way to teach them about the world. Instead, professionals encourage parents to help kids develop sensory motor skills so they can explore their surroundings through stimuli independently.
To help kids develop their sensory motor skills, experts recommend sensory toys such as activity bins, boards, and tables. For younger children, games that provide excellent stimuli such as visual, auditory, olfactory, textile, and gustatory cues will massively help sensory motor skill development. Exposure to a varied array of stimuli will allow them to process and learn through recall, memory, and cognitive development, enabling recognition.
What Age Do Babies Develop Motor Skills?
Babies develop motor skills as newborns. Their skills, however, look very different as they move on from one stage to the next. Babies and children develop core motor skills as soon as they learn how to move.
Motor development is important all throughout a child’s life as physical development intertwines with other development areas as they grow. For instance, should a child learn how to crawl and walk, they will have the opportunity to explore their physical surrounding, allowing them to process their environment, affecting their cognitive development. Speaking, eating, and drinking independently help children survive and interact with kids their age and their family, allowing them to improve social and emotional progress.
Children develop at their own pace. However, thanks to science, professionals have established a benchmark for milestones for certain age ranges.
Fine Motor Skills Milestones
Babies start to develop how to grasp using their hands at around five to six months old. Children often start to play with hand-held toys at six to twelve months. At around 18 months, many toddlers will seek to achieve more complex skills like using coloring materials and pencils. They will also try to learn to drink from a cup independently at this age.
It is also at 18 months when they start dressing themselves on their own. By 25 months or two years old, toddlers might start giving signs for which hand they prefer, establishing their dominant hand.
Two years old is an interesting juncture for kids’ development. Kids will start to show an interest in scribbling and drawing and will even attempt handwriting. It is also at this juncture that they might learn to turn door knobs and screwing jar lids.
Gross Motor Skills Milestones
Much like fine motor skills, gross motor skills start developing when children are babies. In their first two months, children will start kicking with their legs and waving their arms around. Their movements will start to become bigger over time as they age.
At about six to eight months, a baby will start exploring how to roll. They will also be able to reach for things and try sitting on their own, albeit for just a few moments, as they need to develop their strength.
One of the most exciting milestones for kids starts at about 12 to 18 months old. This is when babies start to learn how to take their first steps and eventually walk on their own. When they reach two years old, most babies would have learned how to jump about five centimeters on both feet.
Learning how to walk up and down stairs also starts at two years old. They may also start throwing small balls at this age and hit targets about a meter and a half away. Kids or toddlers learn complex movements at about two to three years old as they start becoming more capable of more sophisticated motions. They will be able to walk on a balance beam, negotiate starts without the help of handles or railing, and climb on playing equipment.
Children grow at their own pace. However, there are times when children need extra help. When your kids take a different amount of time to reach each milestone, it doesn’t mean your kids aren’t normal. But if you have any worries about your kids’ motor skills and how they’re developing, it is recommended that you consult with your General Practitioners or Child Health Nurses.
Babies can take differing amounts of time with their development. If you feel like your children have any developmental concerns, you may want to consider seeing your GP or child health nurse – especially if your kids who are two to three years old can’t do the following:
- Walk up and down the stair (even if you help them)
- Manipulate small objects like pencils or crayons
- Scribble and have no interest in drawing
- Move consistently
Parenting takes heart. It certainly isn’t easy. But with research, help, and professional guidance, you can equip yourself with the knowledge you need to do the best you can. Never hesitate or avoid discussing any concerns you may have with your pediatrician. As parents, you never really know how you’re doing. You can only know you’re doing your best as a mother or a father. Work with the resources you have and trust in what you believe is best for you, your family, and your children.