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On the Move: Motor Development and Activities for Infants to Preschoolers

written by: Kara Bietz • edited by: Laurie Patsalides • updated: 4/5/2012

From the moment they are born, children are learning how to control their small and large muscles. While there is a pattern to this motor development, no two children develop on the exact same schedule. Here are some tips to keep in mind while planning a motor curriculum for your classroom.

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    Dc72 When discussing motor development, it is important to note that children develop from head to toe and from the inside out; meaning, most infants will learn to control their head and neck first, then arms and finally their legs and feet. Also, this means that children will gain control of their trunk before learning to control their hands and fingers effectively.

    When planning activities for infants, toddlers and preschoolers, be sure to keep these simple concepts in mind. Keep a balance of appropriate gross motor activities with fine motor games and challenges. Know the learning level of the children in your care, as well as their special needs and general temperament before attempting any gross or fine motor activity.

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    Appropriate Infant Activities

    Infant Motor Development: 0 to 6 months: By the time a child is six months old, she will learn to lift and control her head and neck, roll from her back to her stomach and may even be learning to sit up independently and reach for objects. This month by month guide will help you understand what development can be expected, and ways to help young infants reach these milestones.

    Infant Motor Development: 7 to 12 months: By the time a child celebrates his first birthday; he will learn to sit independently, crawl, pull to a stand and may even be ready to take his first steps! Tremendous gross motor development takes place between the seventh and twelfth month of life, and caregivers should be ready to help facilitate this rapid growth. The tips included here will help you plan appropriate activities to guide both fine and gross motor development for older infants.

    What's Up With Tummy Time? Many infants will cry in protest when placed on their stomachs to play, but tummy time is something parents and caregivers can't afford to skip. Bright Hub author Dr. Anne Zachry, a pediatric occupational therapist, outlines the importance of this play time and provides tips to the types of games and activities infants should be engaged in while on their tummies.

    Infant Toys for Fine and Gross Motor Development: Most parents and teachers can appreciate the benefits of a homemade toys and materials. Not only cost effective, caregivers are also able to control the types of materials their little ones are exposed to. These quick and inexpensive ideas will get little ones moving and help develop both large and small muscles.

    The Importance of Crawling: Is it really important for babies to learn to crawl before they walk? Many cognitive connections are made when infants learn to crawl, including helping the left and right brain work together. This fascinating look at the relationship between crawling and other developmental milestones help you understand the importance of this skill.

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    Activities for Busy Toddlers

    Toddler Gross Motor Games: Toddlers may still be a little wobbly on their feet, but walking, bending and hopping are skills many toddlers have begun to perfect. Simple games will help toddlers practice these new skills, as well as build gross motor strength. Get those little legs moving with these fun activities.

    Toddler Fine Motor Games: Many toddlers are just beginning to gain control of their small muscles, including hands and fingers. Providing plenty of opportunities in your classroom for fine motor development will help toddlers meet these small muscle milestones. Try water play, boxes and clothespins for fun ways to help facilitate fine motor development.

    Exercise Games for Toddlers: Get those little bodies moving, hopping and running! Exercise can help toddlers understand the importance of keeping healthy, as well as provide plenty of gross motor skill development. These fun and easy exercises will keep toddlers engaged and those large muscles pumping.

    Assessing Motor Skills in Early Childhood: Identifying delays and differences early and putting the appropriate interventions in place can make a world of difference to a child with significant gross and fine motor development issues. The Peabody Motor Development Scale is one tool occupational therapists use to identify and assess motor delays. Learn more about this test and what to expect if you are caring for a child with motor delays with this informative guide.

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    Fine & Gross Motor Development for Preschoolers

    Preschool Physical Fitness Theme: Introduce your preschool class to the benefits of daily exercise with this fun theme. These cross-curricular ideas include activities for circle time, reading, math, music and art. Planning and implementing these ideas will also help you take stock of and assess the gross and fine motor development of the preschoolers in your classroom.

    Galloping: An Important Preschool Locomotor Skill: Can your preschoolers gallop? Can you? Galloping involves the use of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, control of the trunk, legs and feet, as well as the development of a good sense of balance. Try some of the games outlined here to help children learn this important gross motor skill.

    Preschool Obstacle Course: What better way to challenge your preschooler's gross motor skills than with a fun obstacle course? Include activities for crawling, walking, climbing, jumping and stretching in your indoor or outdoor obstacle course. The tips here can help you plan a course for optimum gross motor development.

    Outdoor Preschool Active Movement Games: When children play outdoors, they are able to stretch and move their large muscles more than they would be able to do inside of a classroom. Gross motor development is one of the main reasons preschoolers need outdoor play each and every day. These fun movement games will help you plan a solid outdoor curriculum and get your preschoolers moving!

    A List of Fine Motor Activities for the Preschool Classroom: Fine motor skills are important for learning how to write, zip a coat, tie a shoe, and many other school readiness activities. There are many preschool activities that can help facilitate development of the small muscles, including painting, turning book pages, playing with dough and manipulating puzzles. Keep this handy list in your classroom and refer to it whenever your fine motor curriculum needs a boost.

    Preschool Writing Activities for Fine Motor Development: Learning to write is a huge accomplishment for preschoolers. Getting little hands ready for this high level skill will take some time, and the activities in this article will help you. Learn the importance of repetition and reward, as well as some simple games you can plan for your preschool fine motor curriculum.

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    The Learning Environment

    As shown here, children learn both fine and gross motor skills through a variety of methods. When teaching these skills it is important for preschool students to learn through play. Whether the outcome is to throw a ball, hold a pencil, stand on one foot, or read there must be constant interaction between the teacher and student and teacher-modeling for success. Provide consistent feedback to these little ones so they know when they are improving, and most importantly, give praise and have fun!

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