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  • Your Complete Guide To Baby's Motor Development From 0 to 5 Years

    The development of a child's motor skills is linked to all other areas of development!
    by R.M. Mauhay .
Your Complete Guide To Baby's Motor Development From 0 to 5 Years
PHOTO BY Shutterstock/sutlafk
  • Growth and development is a big part of every child's life. And it's important that you, as their parents, are there to help them reach these developmental milestones. One of the areas where you can help your child is nurturing their motor development.

    What is motor development?

    Motor development is also known as physical development. Quite literally, this means the physical maturity of your child, from their bone and muscle strengthening to performing movements as a way of interacting with their environment. Think of it this way: every change in your child that you see — crawling, grabbing, smashing — is part of their motor development.

    What is the importance of motor development?

    There are five areas of development for a child. First is physical or motor development, which is marked by their physical growth.

    There’s also cognitive development where your child learns to perceive their environment. Another area of development is the language formation which establishes the speech progress of your child.

    The last two developmental areas are behavioral and emotional development, as well as social development. And you know what? The development of motor skills is linked to all these other areas of development!

    For example, when a child learns to grasp things or hits the crawling and walking milestones, which are tied to gross motor skills, it will be easier for them to explore their environment. This can influence cognitive development. When they learn how to eat, drink, and speak, which are all tied to fine motor skills, they can improve social and emotional development.

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    What are the types and examples of motor development?

    Motor development can be categorized into two types. These are gross motor skills and fine motor skills. The difference between the two is that gross motor skills are activities that use the bigger movements of the muscles in your child’s body, while fine motor skills mostly need hand-eye coordination and involves smaller movements.

    Gross motor skills

    Did you know that sitting is a skill? For babies, that is.

    It may be the default state of most adults, but sitting is a big achievement for developing children. When a baby is able to sit properly, this means that their necks are developed enough to help them support the weight of their head against their body.

    This is one of the gross motor skills you’ll be able to witness during your child’s motor development. Here are other examples of gross motor skills according to Healthline.com:

    • sitting
    • standing
    • walking
    • running
    • jumping
    • lifting (a spoon, a hairbrush, a barbell — they all count)
    • kicking
    • riding a bike or a horse
    • playing sports like football or baseball
    • swimming

    These are just general examples. There are actually different gross motor skills that your child should be able to achieve once they reach a certain age.

    0 to 3 months

    Your baby’s startle reflex will fade gradually. Along with this is the start of your baby’s movements becoming more intentional than random.

    Your baby might just be able to bat and swipe at the hanging toys in their crib. When you’re having tummy time with the little one, they should start being able to lift their head and chest.

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    3 to 6 months

    Your baby will start moving around at this age. They will begin rolling from their back to their side, then all the way over to their belly and back, and then vice-versa.

    When your baby is on their back, try to gently hold their hands to slowly and carefully set them to a sitting position. At this point, you’ll see how they can now raise their head.

    6 to 9 months

    After your baby has started sitting with your assistance, they will gradually be able to do it alone. They would first use their hands for support as they try to sit longer. Then, as their abdominal muscles and back muscles get stronger, they will then be able to sit on their own.

    They will also use their tummies to slide around and explore their surroundings. At this age, you would witness them rock themselves back and forth, and maybe even get a surprise first crawl along the way!

    1 year

    Your baby’s muscles strengthen just like how adult muscles would do — with constant exercise. This kind of exercise for babies, mean pulling themselves to a standing position. As soon as your baby is able to do this, always be ready with a camera because you’ll want to record what may come next.

    This exercise enables them to work-out their leg muscles which, with enough coordination, would soon help your baby take their first few steps. Just be sure that they have something sturdy they can grab on like, maybe your pants or leg.

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    2 years

    We’re sure you’ve heard of the “terrible twos.” This age is notorious for a reason. It’s the peak of their curiosity and since they can now walk well on their own, they will definitely start running toward anything and everything that interests them. This would have been fine if they’re stable enough while doing it, but they’re still at that age where they can easily fall.

    Instead, let them run free on soft-landing surfaces like sand or assemble playmats indoors. Most of the time, you’ll have to hold their hand and shuffle itty bitty steps while they get used to running.

    When your child is stable enough while walking and starts to get eager to run around, you can also take this opportunity to introduce them to the challenges of the stairs. You’ll be surprised to see how they can now jump with both feet.

    3 years

    By the age of three, your child will be able to achieve stronger leg muscles and improved balance, allowing them to stand on one foot for a few seconds. You may then want to start to train them on developing their hand-eye as well as arm-leg coordination with cycling. And when it is safe again to be out there, take your child to the park and let them work on their muscles more as they enjoy playing on climbing frames.

    4 years

    Once your child has mastered balancing, they will now be able to start and hop on one foot. And with improved coordination, ball-catching will be easy-peasy for them at this age.

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    5 years

    As your child reaches the age of five, they are now supposed to have well-developed gross motor skills. You can introduce them to a sport or a hobby that would help them get moving more as they get older. One popular choice is to introduce them to swimming at an early age.

    Fun activities to develop gross motor skills

    Here are more fun activities that you can do with your child that can further develop their gross motor skills. It's also a great way to bond with them!

    Bubble play

    One great way to start is having bubble playtime with your kid. With bubbles all around, it would be difficult for them to resist popping all of the bubbles.

    They will chase after the bubbles and this, of course, will require them to get up on their feet and run after them, or even do some jumps just so they can reach the bubbles. A good fun activity, right?

    Dance time

    Another exciting activity to do with your kid is to play good music that they enjoy to encourage movements. We all know that good, upbeat music makes them dance and groove.

    Plus, it is a good exercise which promotes gross motor skills. It will require them to move their whole body, try to get a sense of balance and some coordination. 

    Create a fun obstacle course

    An age-appropriate obstacle course encourages movement with a goal in mind to accomplish. Lay pillows, blankets, and boxes that will encourage your child to crawl and explore. Stack cushions that will challenge them to climb over the "hills."

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    If they're a little older, you can also give them balls and baskets or boxes to play with. They can try to toss it so that it goes into the basket or box.

    Those are just few of the fun and exciting activities you can do. There are a lot of other activities you can try to help your child further develop their gross motor skills.

    Fine motor skills

    Lifting an arm is a gross motor skill. But grabbing onto something? That’s one fine motor skill right there. It’s all about the movement of the small muscles of our fingers, hand, and wrist that is in coordination with our eyes.

    You can now say that developing fine motor skills is important for completing a lot of our daily activities. Here are some examples of fine motor skills: 

    • dressing up
    • opening and closing of jars or food containers
    • combing of hair
    • brushing of teeth
    • drawing and writing
    • playing instruments
    • playing with building blocks
    • holding a spoon and fork when eating

    Now, there are things that your kids will learn to do on their own just like how fine motor skills develop in your child as early infancy. Of course, the development of each child varies, and in some instances, your child might be taking their sweet time developing this skill.

    How can you help your child develop and strengthen their fine motor skills? You can get started with these activities that not only help your child improve their fine motor skills, but are also great ways to bond and connect with them.

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    0 to 4 months old

    Play with dangling toys

    At this stage, your child’s hands are becoming more relaxed. They put it in their mouths or have their hands balled up into a fist.

    One way to develop their fine motor skills is by investing on dangling toys which can easily get their attention and encourage them to play using their hands. It will inspire the movement of of your child’s hands when they try to reach the dangling toys which, as a result, improve their hand and arm reflexes.

    Lay them on their tummy

    This is also a great way to get your child started with their tummy time. Tummy time not only encourages development which leads to the crawling milestone, it also promotes the development of their upper body as they will learn to lift their heads and shoulders from the floor. It also gives them the opportunity to reach out for items on the floor while they are lying on their tummy and will make them want to play with the objects.

    4 to 8 months old

    Play with dough

    At this stage your child will frequently want to grab objects, so it will be a good time to introduce play dough. It will help improve their hand muscles as they play as they squeeze, pinch, and put it from one hand to the other.

    Play with a squeeze ball

    Playing with a squeeze ball improves their hand muscles as they slowly develop having a better hand grip. Since at this stage, they will love to roll over and reach for things, playing with a squeeze ball when they’ve dropped it and then trying to reach and get it can be a pretty good exercise for them to develop their fine motor skills.

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    8 to 12 months old

    Play with a shape sorter

    By this time, your child gains interest in putting things in a container, mainly with large openings. You can start letting your child play with a shape sorter, which will not only enhance their fine motor skills but will also develop keen eye observation and problem-solving skills.

    Play with building blocks

    Another fun activity to do with your child is to let them play with building blocks. Let them build a tower with their blocks – apart from encouraging them to use their hands, it also develops hand-eye coordination.

    Get them to doodle

    You might think it’s a bit early but letting your child make doodles will help strengthen their hand muscles. And what’s more interesting to a curious child but to doodle on anything and everything?

    Read more here on how you can help your child achieve their best and be there for them throughout their growth and development.

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