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Motor Skills Development

Motor Skills Development

Gross motor control refers to the movements of the large muscles of the body.

Children acquire new gross motor skills by practicing a movement or activity until that particular skill is mastered.

From birth, a baby starts developing gross motor control, beginning with the control of her head and torso. The development of gross motor control continues until the baby has learned to sit, crawl, stand, walk and then progressed to running, jumping and the range of activities that an adult can do.

Gross motor skills include: 

  • Body awareness - for improved posture and control
  • Balance - the ability to maintain equilibrium
  • Laterality - awareness of the left and right sides of the body
  • Coordination of major muscle groups
  • Spatial orientation - awareness of the body position in space and in relation to other objects or people


Fine motor skills require movement of small muscles, usually in coordination with the eyes, but also include movements of the tongue and lips, wriggling of the toes and foot-eye coordination.

They are often for communication purposes, both functional and expressive, e.g. writing, manipulating tools or creating works of art.

Between the ages of 3 and 5 children usually make rapid progress in developing fine motor skills and manual dexterity.

Fine motor skills include:

  • Hand-eye coordination - the ability to execute activities with the hands, guided by the eyes requiring accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
  • Ocular motor control - the ability of the eyes to follow and focus on an object in the field of vision as required.
  • Manual dexterity - the ability to accurately manipulate the hands and fingers for neat handwriting, drawing, typing skills etc.
  • Foot-eye coordination - the ability to execute actions with the feet, guided by the eyes.
  • Tactile perception - the interpretation of information transmitted via the fingertips to the brain.
  • Stereo gnosis - the ability to recognise unseen objects using the sense of touch.

In order for children to develop good fine motor skills, there are also other supporting skills that need to be well-developed. For instance children need to have strength and dexterity in their hands and fingers before being required to hold a pencil correctly and begin writing activities. This can help avoid incorrect pencil grips. 

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