Motor development refers to the development of your child’s bones and muscles, and the ability to move around and manipulate his or her environment.
Motor development is most often divided into the following two areas, with some overlap:
- Gross Motor Development involves the development of large muscles in your child’s body. These muscles allow your child to be able to sit, stand, walk, and run — among other activities.
- Fine Motor Development involves the small muscles of the body, especially the hands, feet, and mouth.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills develop the use of small muscles of the fingers, hands, feet, forearm, arm, and shoulders to complete a variety of skills.
These muscles also express some of your child’s behavior, such as feelings and emotions.
Be thankful when your child picks up a spoon and bangs away. This activity is a very important function and behavior for your child in building the basis of its future success with fine motor skills.
Children learn through movement, whether big or small, by touching and feeling the world around them.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross Motor Skills start at the head and move down to the toes.
Infants first develop control of their head and neck muscles and develop the ability to hold their heads up and look around.
Next, infants develop control of their core (trunk) muscles and their arms and gain the ability to roll and sit up.
When these core muscles are strong enough, infants develop more control of their legs and learn to pull themselves to a stand, walk with support, and eventually walk unassisted.
Gross Motor Development
Gross Motor Development also starts from the center of the body and moves outward.
Initially, infants move their limbs in an uncontrolled way — most often as reflexes.
As infants mature, they begin to move their limbs intentionally. Infants will first make large movements with their arms and legs.
As they continue to mature, they start to develop the small muscles of their hands, feet, and mouth.
Infants and toddlers learn as they move around their environment. Here are some ideas to help encourage more movement in their daily activities and routines:
- Hold toys where your infant can see them and encourage your child to reach for the toy
- Say “so big!” and encourage your child to raise its arms high as you model that behavior
- Let go of your inhibitions a little bit, by dancing and waving your arms with scarfs, bells, or shakers
- Encourage your child to feed himself or herself with age-appropriate finger foods
- Fill baskets and containers with toys and encourage your child to reach in to grasp and manipulate and/or play with what your child touches
- Encourage rolling, crawling, scooting, cruising, walking, running and dancing
- Help your child play in many positions, such as sitting, kneeling, standing, and laying on its back and tummy
- Play music and have a dance party with your child
- Encourage your child to bend, reach, and squat by placing toys in low baskets or on higher surfaces
- Help your child climb a pile of sofa cushions, push a laundry basket, or climb in or out of a large box
- Sing nursery rhymes that encourage your child to be aware of their feet, hands, and other body parts
- Encourage your child to cruise on the floor along the length of the sofa or a low table by putting toys on it
- Show your child how to walk in different ways, such as tiptoes, backwards, stomping, jumping, hopping, etc.
- Help your child move its legs through water in the bath
- Place toys on the floor around your baby so they can see them. This will encourage reaching, which will in turn promote raising their head. This strengthens the neck and tummy muscles
- Encourage crawling over or through objects such as tables and chairs
- Show your baby how to crawl by doing it yourself
- Help your child grasp and let go of things, such as rings, blocks, rattles, favorite blanket or stuffed animal
- Stack blocks together
- Draw with crayons (do not use regular crayons at this age, rock crayons are triangle and work best)
- Help with snapping and buttoning (large or extra-large size buttons)
- Encourage the use of music toys, such as rattles and bell shakers
- Encourage your child to turn pages of a board book
- Play hand-clapping games with your child
- Encourage your child to squeeze bottles, such as a ketchup bottle, with both hands
- Have your child use tongs (preferably plastic) to pick up cotton balls, cereal pieces, rice, or beans
- Have your child scoop objects such as rice, beans, or small pasta with a small plastic spoon
- Help your child screw and unscrew lids on containers
- Encourage your child to put small objects into a container or a cup
- Help your child count objects such as buttons, beads, or cotton balls
- Make a sound box by using rattles, drums, bells or any other musical instrument. If that is not available, get various-sized pots and pans and different kitchen utensils that a child can use to manipulate and do banging or other noise making.