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Characteristics of Motor Development

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

Gross-Motor Skills 

Whereas toddlers are gaining control over basic movement skills and mobility, preschoolers refine mobility skills through a range of motor activities involving the entire body. Gross-motor development includes (1) locomotor dexterity, which requires balance and movement, and (2) upper-body and arm skills.

Locomotor skills are those movements that permit the child to move about in some manner, such as jumping, hopping, running, and climbing. Jambor (1990) extended this basic list to include the following types of locomotion: rolling, creeping, crawling, climbing, stepping up and down, jumping, bouncing, hurdling, hopping, pumping a swing, and pushing or pulling a wagon. Marked-time climbing, or climbing up one step at a time, is mastered by toddlers, but preschoolers can use alternating feet to climb stairs. At the latter stages of locomotor development during the preschool years, children are able to add galloping and skipping to running and jumping. They advance from riding a tricycle to a bicycle, and some older preschoolers are able to roller-skate and kick a soccer ball (J. E. Johnson, 1998; McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004; Mullen, 1984). Two basic upper-body and arm skills practiced during the preschool years are throwing and catching a ball (J. E. Johnson, 1998).

Fine-Motor Skills

Preschool children gain more precision in fine-motor development, or the use of the hands and fingers, between the ages of 3 and 5. They acquire more control of finger movement, which allows them to become proficient in using small materials that require grasping and control. In preschool classrooms, children learn to work with puzzles; cut with scissors; use brushes, pencils, pens, and markers; and manipulate small blocks, counters, and modeling clay. They refine self-help skills used in dressing themselves by learning to button, use zippers and snaps, and tie shoelaces   (J. E. Johnson, 1998; McDevitt & Ormrod, 2004; Wortham, 1996).

Perceptual-Motor Skills

Perceptual-motor development refers to the child’s developing ability to interact with the environment, combining use of the senses and motor skills. The developmental process of use of perceptual or sensory skills and motor skills is viewed as a combined process. Perceptual-motor development results from the interaction between sensory perception and motor actions in increasingly complex and skillful behaviors (Jambor, 1990; Mullen, 1984; Puckett & Black, 2005). More specifically, visual, auditory, and tactile sensory abilities are combined with emerging motor skills to develop perceptual-motor abilities.

Perceptual-motor skills include body awareness, spatial awareness, directional awareness, and temporal awareness. Body awareness means the child’s developing capacity to understand body parts, what the body parts can do, and how to make the body more efficient. Spatial awareness refers to knowledge of how much space the body occupies and how to use the body in space. Directional awareness includes understanding of location and direction of the body in space, which extends to understanding directionality and objects in space. Temporal awareness is the development of awareness of the relationship between movement and time. Skills involving temporal awareness include rhythm and sequence. The sequence of events using a form of rhythm or pattern reflects temporal awareness (Frost, 1992; Gallahue, 1989; Jambor, 1990).

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