Importance of Physical Motor Skills for School Readiness

by Christina Schnell

Both fine motor skills and gross motor skills fall under the umbrella of physical motor skills. Fine motor skills include control and manipulation of the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers, while gross motor skills describe the coordination and strength of larger muscle groups. While both areas support school readiness, strong fine motor skills enable your child to practice and master many of the more academically related school tasks, such as writing, according to

Gross Motor Skills in School

Gross motor skills allow your child to climb the jungle gym with her friends, skip on the playground and play cooperative games like duck, duck, goose and tag. Poor gross motor skills result in clumsy stumbling and poor coordination. Kids who don't feel comfortable playing tag or using certain pieces of playground equipment may end up excluding themselves in other ways, which can affect their self-esteem and social development, according to the Centre for Developmental Psychiatry & Psychology at Monash University in Australia. Strengthening your child's gross motor skills can also help make her physical education experience a more positive one when she is confident in her movements.

Activities to Develop Gross Motor Skills

You don't need special equipment to foster strong gross motor skills in young children. Jumping rope and playing hopscotch both require jumping and coordination, while walking a straight line or a low-lying beam help build balance. Practice throwing bean bags into a bucket or play catch with a large rubber ball to improve hand-eye coordination. Smaller children can build arm and core strength by carrying buckets of sand and water at the beach or lake during the summer and climbing over piles of pillows in a padded obstacle course.

Fine Motor Skills in School

Strong fine motor skills allow your child to use small scissors, properly grip a pencil and write letters. Children with weak hand and finger muscles may struggle to write letters properly or experience fatigue or discomfort when doing so for an extended period. Using a paint brush to draw pictures or coloring inside the lines of a worksheet are other common tasks at the start of school that require strong fine motor skills to complete successfully.

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills

Strengthen your child's finger and hand muscles with a variety of pinching and manipulation activities. For example, opening and closing clothes pins, beading large wooden beads on shoe laces, using a small spray container and squeezing an eye-dropper all require controlling very small movements with precision and concentration. Molding clay, rolling dough and shaping sand castles also engage and strengthen the small hand, wrist and finger muscles so your child is physically prepared for school.

About the Author

Christina Bednarz Schnell began writing full-time in 2010. Her areas of expertise include child development and behavior, medical conditions and pet health. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international relations.

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