Children developing normally will achieve a basic level of gross motor skills. Most will be average, some gifted and some not so gifted. So why worry about a preschooler’s gross motor skills? And just what is a gross motor skill anyway
Gross, in this case refers to ‘large’ and ‘motor’ refers to muscle. The gross motor skills are the things humans do with their large muscles. This involves and includes the coordination and movements of the arms, legs, and other large body parts. This contrasts with ‘fine motor’ which are the muscles involving movements in the wrists, hands, fingers, and the feet and toes. Your child’s motor control is developing from the top down and from his or her core out to their fingers and toes.
The child who dresses him or herself uses fine motor muscles to button and zip. However, it is the gross muscles which contributes to the ability to put arms and legs in openings while remaining balanced and upright. The child coloring or drawing at the art table is able to practice these fine motor skills because his gross motor muscles of the shoulder, neck and trunk are supporting his body’s upright position.
Just as there are prerequisite skills for reading, such as vocabulary development and book knowledge, there are prerequisite skills for letter formation, drawing, socializing, paying attention and sitting still. Good gross motor skills are foundational to mastering these and many other preschool and elementary school skills. Unfortunately, poor gross motor skills often are not recognized as cause for behavior or problems in a child’s life.
Picture the child who does not sit still, legs crossed at story-time. She is probably the same one who squirms in the chair at snack time. You might know a child who makes a mess of simple art projects. Or maybe you’ve seen the child who is a bit clumsy, maybe knocks over another child block creation while trying to go around it. Or you know the child hanging back from playground activities because she lacks confidence in her physical abilities to join in.
Some children need more time developing and more practice using their gross motor muscles. They need to be encouraged to be active more often and for slightly longer periods of time. Fortunately building those large muscles also involves having a bit of fun for both parent and child, A quick stop at the park on the way to the store, a footrace across the yard or down the sidewalk, or a ball to kick back and forth are excellent ways of muscle building. Children’s exercise, dance and yoga videos can be good for mom and dad too. Remember, this will not take much of your time because your child’s interest and stamina are limited by their age. However, your child will reap great rewards in improved self-confidence and abilities if you make gross motor exercise a part of every day.
Evelyn Satterlee, M. Ed.