Early Learning Success Curriculum Manual, pages 58-60

From the time a baby is born until they reach early adulthood, they are continuing to physically grow and develop. The Physical and Motor developmental domain provides information and guidance in helping children develop the physical muscle strength and coordination needed to accomplish the many tasks required of them every day. It also provides information and guidance in developing healthy living practices that can become life-long practices. The physical and motor developmental domain affects your child’s ability to interact with and understand the world around them. Children need to be physically and mentally healthy to be ready to learn.   

Common components within this area of development used in the Early Learning Success curriculum include:  

• Gross motor – the development of large motor muscles; this includes muscle control and coordination, and the development of body strength, balance, flexibility, and stamina; use of equipment for physical development 

• Fine motor – the development of small motor muscles; this includes control and coordination, eye-hand coordination to perform a variety of tasks; exploring and experimenting with a variety of tools 

• Healthy living practices – understanding practices that are necessary for a healthy lifestyle including eating, physical fitness, hygiene and avoiding at-risk behaviors; these healthy living practices promote a healthy self-image 

This domain details for infants and toddlers how young children gain increasing skills and the ability to coordinate their eyes, hands, arms and legs with their whole body. This is a time of huge development as babies and toddlers are acquiring new skills almost daily. Babies and toddlers are also very vocal and insistent on getting their basic needs met. As children become preschoolers, focus is placed on supporting the continued development and mastery of basic gross and fine motor skills. Preschool children are developing eye-hand and body coordination to master increasingly difficult levels of activity.  Children at this age begin developing fine motor skills to use tools such as crayons, paint brushes and scissors. They are developing balance and coordination for running, jumping, kicking and throwing.   

Fine motor skills involve finger/hand strength, fine motor control, and dexterity. Stacking blocks, eating with a fork and spoon, putting on socks, and brushing teeth or hair all use fine motor skills, an important part of a child’s development and school readiness. Fine motor abilities allow for increasing independence by being able to open doors, zip and button clothes, self-toilet and wash hands. These abilities and skills are crucial for developing positive self-esteem, self-help proficiency and the academic skills needed in later years as well as life in general. As children enter school, they need to be able to hold a pencil, manipulate materials, use a computer, turn the pages of a book, as well as take care of their personal needs. Children with poor fine motor skills may experience low self-esteem and frustration which can lead to social and school struggles. Fear of failure often results in children avoiding participation in activities which could help them improve these skills. Running, skipping, kicking or throwing a ball—all of these require children to use gross motor skills. From babies just learning to sit up, crawl, and walk to preschool children playing on swings and teeter totters, to the school age child jumping rope or playing in group sports such as baseball or soccer, all of these help to development gross motor skills.  

In Practice  

Educators/providers can help children be ready to learn by: 

  • Providing opportunities for large muscle play and development, indoors and outdoors 
  • Encouraging children to learn and practice new skills like running, jumping, skipping, and balancing 
  • Providing opportunities for manipulating small objects and tools such as crayons, pencils, and paintbrushes 
  • Providing opportunities to play with small manipulative objects and toys such as puzzles, blocks, and beads 
  • Providing adequate nutrition, rest and exercise 
  • Teaching children about personal care tasks such as brushing teeth, washing face and hands, and combing their hair-offering help when necessary  
  • Proving activities such as stringing beads, O-shaped cereal, and noodles on yarn 
  • Having supplies for children to scribble or write (as young children like to call it); this is the first stepping stone to learning to write; as their control develops, the scribbles will become pictures and writing 
  • Teaching children to trace letters, shapes and words in various mediums such as flour, paint and pudding with their finger 
  • Allowing children to sort beans, beads or other small object into egg cartons or ice cube trays 
  • Encouraging children to tear paper into small pieces to create a piece of art 
  • Putting out scissors so children can practice snipping and cutting on lines 
  • Offering Play-dough so children can squish, pinch, cut and roll it    

Using these kinds of play opportunities help children develop and master both gross and fine motor skills.