If you’re working with toddler, preschool, or kindergarten ages, you’ve probably heard the importance of motor skills development like fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
It’s easy to get excited about specific study unit or some fun unschooling that you’re going to do with your young ones and forget about the importance of motor skills in child development (an important part of the ages & stages milestones).
So, how do children’s motor skills develop?
What Is Motor Skills Development?
What are the two types of motor development?
Motor skills development simply means using muscles to perform actions. There are two types of motor skills development that you need to be concerned with, especially for younger children like toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergarten: gross motor skills and fine motor skills.
What are examples of motor development?
Motor skills examples include those that use small muscle groups and large muscle groups.
Gross motor skills coordinate large muscle groups like arms and legs like running and catching a ball.
Fine motor skills activities include movements in small muscles in the fingers and hand like buttoning clothes and painting.
What’s the difference between fine motor and gross motor skills?
Gross Motor Skills Definition
Gross motor skills are those movements and coordination of larger muscles like arms and legs.
Examples of gross motor skills activities are running and swimming or anything that uses large muscle groups.
Fine Motor Skills Definition
Fine motor skills are the smaller muscle movements like using the fingers, hands, and wrists, as well as feet and toes.
These are also the skills that will also help your child with holding a pencil and writing.
Fine motor skills activities include things like painting, sorting small items, writing, popping bubble wrap, brushing teeth, modeling and molding with clay, or even blowing bubbles with a bubble wand.
Fine Motor Skills vs Gross Motor Skills [VIDEO]
Why Is Motor Skills Development Critical for Young Children?
Developing motor skills helps children also development their cognitive skills, helps kids control their bodies, and also helps them perform everyday life functions.
So, while it’s nice to focus on the cognitive development of your younger kids, you definitely want to incorporate motor skills into your daily learning.
How do you do it?
Gross motor skills activities are easy!
Take your kid to a park or playground and let them go crazy. They’ll easily use their gross motor skills running, jumping, climbing, balancing, and playing.
However, you may have a little more trouble coming up with some ways to improve fine motor skills.
Just think of anything that a child does using mainly their fingers and hands and you’ll probably cover most of the fine motor skills activities.
HOWEVER . . .
Before we move on to the motor skills development list of activities, I want to talk to you about an alarming trend we are seeing with younger kids today.
Alarming Decline of Fine Motor Skills in Young Children
Effects of Touch Screen Tablet Use on Fine Motor Development
Today, teachers, educators, and parents are seeing a decline in fine motor skills (especially in younger children).
SO . . .
Why are our children’s fine motor skills declining?
(I bet you can guess . . .)
Some studies are blaming the early use of electronic devices as one of the causes of loss of fine motor skills in hands and declining dexterity.
(You know, like when we let our young ones play with the phone or on the iPad and other touch screen devices.)
Children today are holding things less and spending less time cutting with scissors, coloring with crayons, painting with a small paintbrush, and doing other things that use a grip.
The increase in popularity of handheld electronics for young children has had a significant impact on fine motor development in young children—often with long term effects.
Parents are providing fewer opportunities for children to hone in on their fine motor skills with fewer hands-on tasks.
As a result, teachers of young children are noting that they have less endurance and weak pencil grip.
With this weakened hand and lower arm muscle strength, students struggle with both basic academic and life skills.
Skills that require fine motor skills, such as cutting, writing and dressing are dependent on hand strength.
So, why are fine motor skills important?
The article went on to state, “Weak fine motor function affects the quality and speed in which a child can perform tasks that require the development of those smaller hand muscles such as writing, cutting, dressing, eating and other everyday tasks.”
If you want to do more research, you can read an official white paper study, Effect of Touch Screen Tablet Use on Fine Motor Development of Young Children, from the National Institutes of Health.
SO, how do you improve motor skills (fine and gross motor skills)?
Have fun incorporating some of the activities on the lists below!
50 LIST OF MOTOR SKILLS ACTIVITIES
Here’s a list of fun, fine motor skills activities and also gross motor skills examples to get you started!
(BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GROSS MOTOR SKILLS ACTIVITIES AFTER THIS SECTION.)
23 FUN Fine Motor Skills Activities for Motor Skills Development
What activities develop fine motor skills?
Anything that works the fine muscles (like in hands) are great for fine motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills Ideas:
- • Use sticks and stones to form letters and shapes outdoors
- • Work on buttoning and tying
- • Make fun paper shapes with safe craft scissors
- • Paint with a small, fine-tipped paint brush
- • Use sidewalk chalk
- • Play with Playdough
- • Thread beads onto pipe cleaners
- • Sort different items into specific jars
- • Make a pasta necklace
- • Finger paint
- • Play with kinetic sand
- • Put cotton balls into a bowl with a spoon
- • Use use sticker books
- • Stack blocks
- • Pin clothespins onto a yarn line (or laundry onto a clothesline!)
- • Draw with colored pencils
- • Hole punch with fun shapes
- • Make a peanut butter (or other spread) sandwich
- • String Cheerios cereal onto yarn for a necklace
- • Hammer golf tees into the ground with a crab mallet
- • Blow and pop bubbles (or pop bubblewrap)
- • Swing on the playground monkey bars
- • Play string games
Now that we’ve talked about the importance of fine motor skills and why it’s important for child development, now let’s cover gross motor skills activities.
27 FUN Large Muscle Gross Motor Skills Activities for Motor Skills Development
- • Toss bean bags
- • Play hopscotch
- • Roll down a hill
- • Go skating
- • Ride bicycles
- • Host a fun dance party
- • Create a ninja obstacle course
- • Jump on the trampoline
- • Set up home bowling
- • Dance and dust
- • Paint a fence (with water or paint) using a large paintbrush
- • Host a kickball party
- • Go on a nature hike scavenger hunt
- • Hula hoop
- • Fly a kite
- • Go to a climbing wall
- • Throw frisbees
- • Play flashlight tag
- • Walk the dog
- • Pretend to be an animal in the jungle
- • Play in a ball pit
- • Have a sack race
- • Stomp in a shallow stream
- • Go swimming
- • Play water balloon toss
- • Balance on a balancing beam
- • Play move and freeze (video bel0w)
GROSS MOTOR SKILLS DEVELOPMENT: HOW TO PLAY MOVE AND FREEZE [VIDEO]
These are just a few examples and gross motor (large muscle) activities are only limited by your imagination!
Get out and get creative with your kids!
The fine motor skills activities are a bit more difficult, but just do anything where the kids are using hands, fingers, wrists, and yes, even toes!