Motor skill is simply the ability to perform a task using the muscles in your body. It is like running from one part of the garden carrying a toy in one hand and reaching the other side without dropping the toy or tripping yourself. And to successfully do that, you make sure that the muscles involved in running and carrying the toy are well-developed. Developed muscles are essential in the overall growth of a child. That is why there are plenty of available toys in the market that eventually boost motor skills.
So what are motor skills?
Motor skills have two types: fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
Well, think of these skills as trees. The twigs and branches are the small muscles in your fingers, toes, hands, wrists, lips and face. They carry out small tasks like holding a pen or as simple as making a facial expression like smiling. Such a task is an example of a fine motor skill because it involves small muscles to execute the task.
The trunks of these trees, however, are the muscles in your arms, legs, thighs, torso, or shoulders. They are the big muscles responsible for keeping yourself from going out of balance. So when you reach out to an object and you need to stretch your body a little longer, you should be able to grab that object without you falling off. Such action is a gross motor skill.
Do these skills work without the other? No! Fine and gross motor skills work together. They are a team that makes your body function well. For example, when your daughter is playing with shape-sorting toys, she will use gross motor skills to hold her body steady enough to grasp the shapes firmly. She will then use fine motor skills to twist or turn each shape to fit the right slot.
Fine Motor Skills Versus Gross Motor Skills
- Fine motor skills are involved in small movements or actions like tying shoelaces while gross motor skills are responsible for large movements such as throwing balls.
- Boys tend to develop gross motor skills quicker than girls, while girls refine their fine motor skills faster than boys.
- Fine motor skills almost always require objects. For example, picking a pen, threading a thread
- Gross motor skills have two divisions: locomotor skills and object control skills.
Fine motor skills include the coordination of muscle movements in the body like the eyes, toes, fingers, etc. Gross motor skills come from a huge group of muscles and the movement of the entire body.
- Fine motor skills enhance one’s strength, fine motor control, and dexterity in the hands.
- Gross motor skills are developed during the infancy stage, while fine motor skills are developed during the preschool age.
- Gross motor skills can be enhanced by allowing a child to play with a ball or in the playground. Fine motor skills can be enhanced by keeping the child’s hands busy.
Motor Skills Delays: Signs and Causes
If your son is taking too long to acquire those physical skills that he is supposed to be mastering at his age, then your child has a motor skills delay.
Here are the signs and causes:
- no signs of walking by eight months
- walking on tiptoe
- stiff limbs or low muscle tone; unable to hold much weight
- having trouble holding or using objects like spoons or crayons
- using one side of the body more than the other like only kicking with the right foot
- having difficulty in chewing or swallowing food
- fumbling often
- Cerebral palsy and dyspraxia are two of the neurological conditions that impact motor skills making it difficult for the child affected to plan and complete tasks. The brain is not properly sending signals to the muscles; hence, the inability to perform a task.
- Premature birth that results in muscles developing more slowly
- Genetic causes such as Down syndrome
- Nerve and muscle disorders such as muscular dystrophy
- Developmental diagnoses such as autism
- Hormonal causes such as hypothyroidism
Typically, children develop certain motor skills at specific ages, but not every child will reach milestones at precisely the same time. Hence, there are appropriate toys that reinforce motor development.