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Children start developing their motor skills from birth. These include gross and fine skills, which allow your child to move their muscles when doing small or bigger tasks. You can help your child learn motor skills by doing fun and productive activities with them. If your child develops their motor skills more slowly, they may benefit from a professional assessment.

What are Motor Skills for Children?

The word motor comes from a Latin term meaning mover, so your child's motor skills mean their movement or moving skills. These are divided into two categories, namely gross and fine motor skills.

Examples of activities that use gross motor skills include jumping, walking, running and sitting. Fine motor skills refer to dexterity, like playing with puzzles or wriggling their toes.

Motor Skill Milestones

Physical development in children happens over time, so you can observe how your child's motor skills develop as they grow. Remember, different skills require different muscle groups, so knowing what to look for is essential. Gross motor skills for kids typically involve their arms, spine, torso and legs. Their fine motor skills will be movement with their fingers, wrists and toes.

You can keep an eye on your child and look for both gross and fine motor skill development. These generally come naturally, and any noticeable delays may call for professional guidance.

Gross Motor Skills Milestones

Gross motor skills occur at different phases of childhood development. They are often identified by a steady improvement in your child's head movements, sitting, crawling, walking and running:

  • 3 to 6 months: During the first six months, your child may be able to move their head independently, including turning it. They can support their head while on your lap and lift it when on their belly. Your child can push themselves up by their forearms, hold their own and roll from their back to their tummy.
  • 6 months to 1 year: Your child's spine should strengthen so they may start sitting on their own. Their leg strength could improve, allowing them to walk while you hold both their hands. By this time, they may be able to crawl and fiddle around your furniture.
  • Age 1 to 3: Your child's legs are getting stronger as they can walk when you hold only one of their hands. By 2, they start walking and running reasonably well and begin jumping with both feet lifted from the ground. Your child could learn to catch a large ball and balance themselves on one foot by this time.
  • Age 3 to 6: Your child's fine and gross motor skills may be well-developed at this stage. They can likely ride a bike, run, jump, kick and climb. Your child may start skipping on alternative feet and can walk up and down the stairs while holding objects.

Milestones for Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills also happen at various stages of your child's growth. Look for a gradual difference in how your child uses their fingers, hands, wrists and overall dexterity:

  • Birth to 9 months: From birth to 9 months, your child may be able to hold their hands together and reach for toys. They can squeeze objects and transfer them from one hand to the other. Your child may also watch their own hand and bring them to their mouth.
  • 9 months to 1 year: You may notice your child prefers one hand over the other at this age range. They may start holding objects using their index and thumb fingers and turning several pages at once in a book.
  • Age 1 to 3 years: Your child could begin clapping, waving goodbye and turning pages in a book one page at a time. They may start to turn door knobs, wash their hands without your assistance and play with dough.
  • Age 3 to 6 years: Your child's hands are stronger from 3 to 6 years old. They could begin grasping pencils, getting dressed on their own and working clothing buttons well.

How Can I Help My Child Develop Their Gross Motor Skills?

Doing exercises that develop your child's bigger muscles can help them grow and improve their gross motor skills. Give them the freedom to explore and play while trying these fun activities with your child:

  • Dancing to music at home: Dancing involves all your child's major muscle groups and can help them with foot and hand coordination.
  • Climbing safe playground equipment: When your child climbs, they learn how to use their muscles to support and move their body.
  • Playing at the beach: This is a fun and helpful way to assist your child in developing their motor skills. Running and swimming, if they're old enough, will work all their muscle groups and help with balance and coordination.
  • Pushing large toys: For arm strength and mobility, have your child push a toy slightly larger than them if possible.
  • Chasing you or other children: Running teaches your child to place one foot in front of the other while keeping their balance.
  • Playing throw with a large ball: Balancing a large softball is safe and effective at teaching your child to balance a big object with their arms.
  • Chasing bubbles: Chasing bubbles helps your child focus on an object while running, which can help them develop their gross motor skills.

How Do I Help My Child With Their Fine Motor Skills?

Children use their fine motor skills when doing smaller tasks. You can help your child feel more independent by having them practice using their hands. Let them help you with household chores, or encourage them to practice these skills during playtime. These fun and productive activities help your child develop their fine motor skills:

  • Cutting with child scissors: Cutting with scissors is an intricate exercise. When you let your child do this safely, it can help them improve their hand-eye coordination.
  • Using a paintbrush: Painting with a brush helps your child move their arms and fingers in a straight line and shapes, which is good exercise for their early childhood education.
  • Playing with clay: When manipulating clay with their fingers, your child can learn how to bend and move their fingers in relation to the object they're holding.
  • Finger painting: Finger painting serves as a visual aid for your child, helping them see how their fingers can move and create objects. It also promotes hand strokes for handwriting.
  • Getting dressed: Your child uses their fingers, wrists and hands while getting dressed. These movements allow them to get a holistic fine motor skill exercise.
  • Pouring juice: Pouring juice is a balancing act, and your child will learn to grasp an object firmly with their fingers and hands.
  • Setting the dinner table: Setting the dinner table allows your child to balance and touch various objects with different weights.

Discover Your Child's Potential With Premier Pediatric Therapy

Your child's motor skills are an essential part of their pediatric development. It helps them to use their small and more significant muscles and may be used to gauge if your child needs professional assistance and therapy. In some cases, minor delays needn't be a concern, and you can help your child practice developing a skill at home or while they play. In other cases, your child may require professional assistance if they experience several or severe delays. Delays in motor skill development could have many causes, and it's best to have a professional diagnosis.

As a part of the Kids SPOT Family of Companies, Premier Pediatric Therapy understands the importance of motor skill development in children. With years of expertise using science-based methods, our pediatric services provide you and your child with comprehensive options that suit your needs. Our Board-Certified Behavior Analysts and therapists use the latest medical trends with a loving touch to create unparalleled results for your family. If you need help with your child, request an appointment with us online.

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