Movement – Gross and fine Motor Skills

Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body and are responsible for activities like walking, running, jumping, and balancing. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, involve the smaller muscles, particularly those in the hands and fingers, and are needed for tasks like writing, buttoning clothes, and manipulating small objects.

Both types of skills are crucial for a child’s physical development and overall functioning. Gross motor skills provide the foundation for activities that require strength, coordination, and balance, while fine motor skills are essential for tasks that demand precision and dexterity.

Developing both gross and fine motor skills helps children build strength, flexibility, and coordination, which are essential for overall physical health and well-being. Mastering these skills enables children to become more independent in their daily activities. For example, being able to dress themselves (fine motor skill) or navigate playground equipment (gross motor skill) boosts their confidence and self-esteem.

Fine motor skills are particularly important for curriculum readiness, as they are directly linked to activities such as writing, drawing, and using scissors. Developing these skills early can facilitate smoother transitions to school and academic success.

Many social activities and games involve both gross and fine motor skills. By developing these skills, children can actively participate in group activities, sports, and games, fostering social interactions and teamwork.

Research suggests that there is a strong connection between motor skills development and cognitive abilities. Engaging in activities that promote motor skills can stimulate brain development and enhance cognitive functions such as problem-solving and spatial awareness.

Developing gross motor skills in young children involves providing them with opportunities for movement, exploration, and practice. Some suggestions:

  • Provide lots of opportunities for children to engage in physical activities such as running, jumping, climbing, and playing sports. Outdoor play areas, playgrounds, and open spaces are great environments for promoting gross motor skills (and all aspects of movement)
  • Provide toys, equipment and loose parts that encourage gross motor activities. These ‘objects’ allow children to explore and practice different movements while having fun.
  • Join children in active play and physical activities. Play games that involve running, jumping, hopping, and throwing, and encourage children to mimic animal movements like hopping like a frog or crawling like a bear.
  •  Activities that challenge balance and coordination, such as walking on a balance beam, hopping on one foot, or navigating obstacle courses, help children develop these skills.
  • Incorporate sensory experiences into gross motor activities, such as playing with sand, water, or sensory bins filled with various materials. Sensory play enhances motor development by stimulating different senses and encouraging exploration.
  • Outdoor play offers a diverse range of surfaces and environments that stimulate gross motor development. Allow children to play in different terrains like grass, sand, gravel, and playground surfaces to enhance balance, coordination, and proprioception.

Developing fine motor skills in young children involves providing opportunities for activities that strengthen the muscles in the hands and fingers, improve hand-eye coordination, and promote precision and control. 

  • Provide toys and activities that require manipulation and precise hand movements, such as building blocks, puzzles, shape sorters, and stacking toys. These toys encourage children to use their fingers and hands to grasp, pinch, and manipulate objects.
  • Engage children in art and craft activities that involve using tools like crayons, markers, paintbrushes, scissors, and glue (not glue sticks as these foster the palmer grip rather than pincer grip). These activities promote hand-eye coordination, finger dexterity, and creativity.
  • Provide opportunities for children to draw, colour, and trace lines and shapes. Start with large crayons and gradually introduce smaller writing tools like pencils and markers as their skills develop. Sunny Markers are designed by an occupational therapist and are great for developing pincer grip.
  • Playdough and clay offer excellent opportunities for squeezing, rolling, shaping, and molding, which help strengthen hand muscles and improve fine motor control.
  • Activities like picking up small beads, transferring objects with tweezers, or threading beads onto a string promote the development of the pincer grip.
  •  Toys that involve sorting, stacking, and nesting, such as nesting cups, stacking rings, and shape sorters, help develop hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness, and fine motor skills.

Provide opportunities for cutting activities, such as cutting paper strips, shapes, or playdough. Start with simple cutting lines and progress to more complex shapes as children develop their skills.

Observe your children to see who has strong gross and fine motor skills. Who are the ones who need development in these areas? What will you do to support the development of these skills?