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Motor Skill Development in Action

By Meredith Cavallaro, Primary faculty

Note: Our Primary classes combine Kindergarten and Grade 1 to offer students continuity during a time when they are rapidly developing. It also gives faculty the opportunity to pair like-learners, regardless of their age, allowing for even greater differentiation.

Making Halloween decorations, fine motor skill practice

Making Halloween decorations, fine motor skill practice

During the fall, as Halloween approached, our students applied their fine motor skills to help decorate the classroom. Over a two week period, children had several different projects they could choose from such as: coloring and cutting out a ghost in a long, springy shape, bats to trace, cut, glue and decorate, and witches faces with hats to design and build. Opportunities like these are fun, and very developmentally important, as they work small muscles. Children use their fine motor skills when writing, holding small items, buttoning clothing, turning pages, eating, or cutting with scissors. Mastery of fine motor skills requires precision and coordination.

We create many chances for children to apply these skills throughout the school day. One of the most important times is when the tools and materials are available to them without a prescribed process. The opportunity to fold, color, cut, glue, trace, and more as they wish is a powerful time for them. Students take risks, repeat actions to fine tune or master them, and become invested in their process. The opportunity to do something at their own pace and in the order they choose is a powerful learning tool.

An equally important part of motor development is gross motor development. Fine motor skills develop after gross motor skills, which control actions like throwing and kicking balls, as well as walking and jumping. Gross motor skills utilize larger muscle groups and require less precision. If your larger muscles are not fully developed, it makes small motor development even more difficult. It also makes sitting up and listening in a classroom setting challenging. Gross motor development helps children develop the stamina needed to fully participate in the school day.

Parents often ask us what they can do to reinforce what is happening in the classroom. Our answer is first and foremost, go outside and play. When children have opportunities to use their large muscles, they are preparing for the expectations of the classroom. Being outside gives them lots of space and tons of sensations to experience. Do you remember sitting on something requiring you to balance or hanging upside down and swinging your arms? Can you describe the feeling of jumping from one surface to another or jumping off of something as tall as you and learning how to land?  

With many of these play situations, there is an element of nervousness mixed with the desire to try, often followed by the feeling of accomplishment when you’ve succeeded. Play for the sake of play is not a waste of time. It is an opportunity for your child to get to know their body. This is how children learn to take risks and try again even when it doesn’t work the first time. By allowing them to go up the steps and down the slide for 20 minutes straight you are allowing them to fine-tune the way they manage the steps or balance as they slide down as they learn, for example, when to put their feet down to catch themselves. These are skills that come with experience and parents can provide opportunities for these to grow just by going outside to move around and explore.