We have all heard the term ‘Motor Skills’ in our lives. Understanding what this term implies, however, varies amongst individuals. By coincidence or fate, you have come to the right place to learn all about motor skills and their importance in your child’s development. This article presents a detailed explanation of the concept of motor skills and explains the critical role that they play in the physical and socio-emotional development of a child.

What does the term ‘Motor Skills’ mean?

Motor Skills refers to a person’s ability to make movements of different body muscles, such as when moving their hands, feet, legs, arms, or full-body. Motor skills are further categorized into two subtypes: Fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

Fine motor skills refer to bodily movements for performing more petite, more complex tasks that require precision—for example, moving the lips for talking, moving fingers, toes, tongue, etc.

Gross motor skills refer to movements of the more significant body parts, such as arms, hands, legs, feet, and the torso. We use gross motor skills to perform everyday physical activities, such as walking, running, or swimming.

Child playing with stacking toy

Be it gross or fine motor skills, both require the muscles and the nervous system to work with cohesion to complete physical tasks. Infants are born with no motor skills at all. They have little or no conscious control over the movement of their body. Motor skills such as the ability to grasp toys develop over time as the baby is exposed to stimuli like touch and sound. The term motor coordination defines the level of precision with which an individual can complete a physical task. Infants, we can say, have a shallow level of motor coordination. Motor coordination gains maturity by the age of 5-6 years. The table below can be your guide to keep track of your child’s gross and fine motor skills development: 

AGE

Gross Motor skills of age

Fine motor skills of age

0-1 month

Trying to hold up their head but failing

Reflexive grasping only

2 months

Able to hold their head up during tummy time

Reflexive grasping only

3 months

Able to hold themselves up using their forearms

Attempting for Voluntary grasping

4 months

Able to hold their head up when made to sit

Able to hold a toy

5 months

Able to control their head completely

Excelling at voluntary use of hands

6 months

Able to roll themselves over. Can stand up with support.

Able to grab their own feet

7 months

Can stand up with support

Able to sit on their own for a short time

Able to put things in their mouth

8 months

Able to sit independently and start to attempt getting into a crawling position

Moving objects between hands

9 months

Start crawling and walking around while taking support from the furniture

Able to hold objects using thumb and forefinger

10 months

I have mastered the art of crawling. Start attempting to hold things and stand up from a sitting position.

Learning to point at

11 months

Able to walk with the support of both hands being held

Attempting to release objects deliberately

12months

Able to stand with no support and need the support of only one hand to walk

 Able to release objects deliberately

15 months

Able to stand up on their own and crawl onto the stairs.

Child starts to take off shoes, loves throwing things on the ground.

1.5 years

Able to walk without falling, also while dragging toys along. Starting at running and climbing.

They start to eat on their own

2 years 

Able to kick. Able to climb stairs.

Twist doorknobs

2.5 years

Learns how to jump

Holding a pencil

3 years

Able to run well and climb stairs.

Wear shoes on their own

4 years

Learning to balance on one foot.

Attempting to use scissors

5 years

I have attained a good balance. Can hop and ride a bike.

Independently dress up, button and unbutton included.

Child playing with Montessori toy

Why are motor skills essential?

Besides playing their essential role in performing everyday tasks, such as walking, eating, talking, and moving, motor skills are also linked to children’s social and behavioral development. It is a known fact that a child’s behavior is immensely affected by the social interactions that they make. Motor skills such as locomotion, hand-eye coordination, and balancing help a child in being able to play, run and walk are necessary for the child’s social and behavioral development. These motor skills allow the child to move around and empower them to reach out to their peers and interact with them. Without these motor skills, the basic movement is hindered, hence leaving the child unable to take part in physical activities with their peers. Similarly, the absence or weakness of fine motor skills required for making conversation — use of the tongue, lips, and facial muscles — a child cannot communicate his thoughts and feelings. This would leave the child feeling isolated, and it may also adversely affect the child’s behavior.

The development of motor skills is also closely related to the cognitive development of children. Cognition is how a mind thinks, understands, absorbs, and processes information. Motor skills are essential in children’s cognitive development as they help children explore new things and gain experience from interaction with their surroundings. Their tiny brain processes this experience and any future information, opening new windows for cognitive thinking and cognitive growth. The child’s brain works like a chain process, building connections between what they learn from their physical experiences. For example, falling from a bed for the first time is an entirely new experience for a child. As a result, the child’s brain would process the experience and could then associate pain with falling from a high up.

We can introduce the child to educational toys such as blocks and bead mazes in order to improve fine motor skills. Children can be engaged in outdoor activities such as skipping rope and hopscotch to enhance gross motor skills, which also helps improve hand-eye coordination.

Dad and child playing in sand

Motor skills development is thus crucial for a child. Suppose a child does not meet the standard age-appropriate benchmarks of motor skills. In that case, it is likely that the child is facing a developmental coordination disorder and requires immediate attention from a certified health practitioner.