What are motor skills?

Motor skills is a term which therapists use to describe how a child is moving his or her body.  Motor skills are generally described in either one of two ways; gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills refer to dextrous movements of the fingers and thumbs. Some examples of fine motor activities include; writing or drawing, fastening buttons or zips or opening and closing boxes or jars.

Gross motor skills refers to movements which involve the whole body. Examples include; running, jumping, swimming, cycling and throwing and catching a ball.

Who might need to work on their gross motor skills?

All children need to develop their gross motor skills in order to be able to participate in; exercise, sport, P.E. at school and to ensure that they lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Most children will acquire gross motor skill through play, social interaction with others and through education. They will not need specialist input to help them with this. However there are also a number who find it more difficult to develop gross motor skills. If a child appears not to be performing gross motor skills at the same level as other children their age, they may benefit from practising games and exercises which will help them to improve.

How can I help my child to develop his or her gross motor skills?

There are three links below to activity sheets full of ideas of activities which might be helpful for your child to try. The activities are grouped into the following categories:

The activities are targeted for children aged 6 – 10. Many of the tasks are likely to be too difficult for children younger than this but the activities are fun and younger children might like to try!

Are there any medical conditions which make gross motor skills more difficult to acquire?

There are some medical conditions which make it harder for children to acquire gross motor skills. Some of these include;

  • Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) (also known as dyspraxia)
  • Developmental Delay
  • Global Delay
  • Down’s Syndrome
  • Learning difficulties

The advice sheets may be useful for children with any of the conditions above.

In addition, many neurological or orthopaedic conditions will result in difficulty acquiring gross motor skills. Please discuss your concerns with your usual therapist, or ring the advice line if you do not currently have a therapist to speak to.

What if I am still worried about my child’s gross motor skills?

Please feel free to call the physiotherapy or occupational therapy advice lines to speak with a therapist who will be happy to help.

Here at the Child Development Centre, we encourage every child to be as active as possible. Although your child may experience difficulty with movement, it will almost always be beneficial for them to remain active!  

With your help and guidance, exercises that best improve your child’s welfare will be identified by your physiotherapist. The exercise programme provided by your therapist is carefully tailored to meet your child’s needs. Therefore, if you wish to amend or add to their exercises, please consult with your physiotherapist beforehand.

When creating an exercise programme, it is always helpful to assess how you might complete the activities at home. For more information on what to consider, download this document.

Quick links