Motor Skills: What Are They and Why Are They Important?


There are many milestones that babies and children are expected to meet. There aren’t definite dates or ages by which a child should be able to do certain things however there are guidelines. We explore what motor skills are, the difference between gross motor skills and fine motor skills as well as what to do if you have any concerns about development.

There are two motor group “types”, both of which focus on different muscle groups and include different ways of moving and using the body.

Gross Motor Skills
These skills focus primarily on the larger movements, for example, walking and running, using the arms and legs, how a child stands, uses their torso and so on. Good examples of gross motor skills in action might include playing active games with friends, learning to climb steps or stairs, how a child sits, balances, and so on.

These skills are important as they will help your child become more independent. For example, being able to use the bathroom by themselves and move around the home safely and without help.

Fine Motor Skills
These are the small, or more precise movements. Using their fingers, wrists and toes as well as being able to use the lips and tongue correctly are all examples of fine motor skills. Put in practice, fine motor skills would include holding a pen correctly, being able to use a knife and a fork, pick up small items between their finger and thumb (the pincer action) and to be able to hold and use a zip on a coat etc.

Again, these are important skills for a child to learn.

First Past the Post
Keeping up with the Jones’ takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to comes to parenting, although instead of a materialistic slant some parents start to compare their child’s progress with other children around them, and this can cause worry and stress.

The important thing to remember with babies and children is that they keep their own schedule and will learn and develop in their own time and at their own pace. There is no race to be the first to speak, no prize for the first child who can write their name or the first parent to tick the “mine can walk along a bench without falling off” box.

The Guidelines
While there is no hard and fast rule about when children should be able to do something there are guidelines. You will find some information on milestones in their Personal Child Health Record (their red book) and your health visitor will be happy to chat if you have any concerns. Little ones have regular check-ups and assessments as they grow, particularly in the first three years or so and during this time especially there will be plenty of information and support on how to help your child develop,

Is Something Wrong?
If you have any worries about how your child is developing make an appointment with your health visitor or GP as appropriate. They will be able to reassure you and if there is a slight delay development-wise, help you to identify ways to help your little one along, perhaps with games and similar from home, or they will help refer you to someone experienced in early years development for further support.

Again, it is so important to remember that children do all develop at different rates and if your child is a little slower than others or does have some developmental issues, this is not unheard of and there is plenty of help available.

What Can I Do?
Gross and fine motor skills develop naturally over time, usually as part of a child’s every day playtime and general routines. If you want to tailor their play to help them practice their skills encourage active time, i.e. running, throwing, rolling, lifting and similar (gross motor skills) as well as using construction-like toys, playing games, doing jigsaws, threading beads and so on.


Don’t Worry
Easily said, we know! Do try not to worry about developmental stages and so on because you’ll twist yourself into knots and worry. Let your child progress, while enjoying a range of different fun activities, at their own pace. They may pick up a skill very quickly, they might need more time or they might need a little helping hand and that’s just fine.



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