Moving Up the Developmental Pyramid: Motor Development for Children

by Joye Newman

For many adults, exercise is a luxury. For children, however, physical activity isn‘t a luxury; it‘s the key building block for growth.

The motor skills of crawling, pulling up, walking and climbing are the foundation for the cognitive skills that school-age children are expected to acquire. For example, a child will be ready to read only after she has acquired the fine-motor skill of moving her eyes smoothly across a page (visual tracking). She also requires the gross motor skills enabling her to sit still in a chair (balance) and to move each side of her body independently of the other (laterality). In reading, laterality facilitates the ability to move the eyes from left to right.

Foundational Motor Skills Are Critical to Cognitive Growth

Leap Ahead, Fall Behind

Encourage Your Child‘s Motor Skills Development

Most children naturally enjoy physical activity, but sedentary activities increasingly compete for their attention. Computer games and videos are entertaining, and many have educational value. However, when it comes to classroom learning, kindergartners won‘t be at a disadvantage if they haven‘t mastered preschool computer programs. But children who aren‘t offered adequate opportunities to develop motor skills may find it harder to build the cognitive skills needed for elementary school.

We can foster children‘s motor skill development by offering them suitable movement experiences. We may enroll them in therapy or in movement programs specifically designed to strengthen basic skills. Children participate and benefit most if the activities are well planned, age- appropriate, and fun. Whether or not daily physical activity is a priority in your life, for young children, it‘s a necessity.

Joye Newman is the founder and director of Kids Moving Company in Bethesda, MD. She also maintains a private perceptual motor therapy practice.

[Initially published in New Developments: Volume 3, Number 3 - Winter, 1997-1998]

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Page last modified: February 23, 2009
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