Monday, 14 April 2014

Understanding the importance of motor development

by a Contributor (Carmen Dodds, a qualified Occupational Pediatric Therapist)

Being able to participate in gross motor activities is essential to a child’s optimal development. Gross motor activities stimulate the basic foundations of physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.

Due to the current environments in which we live a child’s opportunity to participate in free outdoor play and sports in the backyard or local neighbourhood are under threat. This is particulalrly so with the rise in children using technology and sitting in front of a computer, I-Pad, smart phone, handheld game or television.

Developing motor skills  is essential 
to a child's optimal development
Image from Sarah Nicholl

Gross motor skills inherently develop and help refine fine motor skills which are required for school readiness; and are a precursor for literacy, numeracy and independent activities of daily living such as independent dressing and toileting.
So what are fine motor skills?  Fine motor skills require hand-eye coordination. “Fine motor” refers to “small muscles” which is the use of the small muscles of the hand or upper limb to manipulate and control items. A preschooler (ages  3-5 years) will begin to master skills such as manipulating buttons, control scissors, and begin to develop writing/drawing skills to copy letters, numbers and shapes.  These are the skills that will further develop with their transition to school when they will learn to write with good pen control; refine drawing; cut with scissors; use a computer and play a musical instrument.
Occupational Therapists treat motor skill difficulties in children.  Common problems seen in children with gross motor skill deficiencies include a lack of poor core stability; low muscle tone, a weakness in truck muscles and a decrease in shoulder and wrist stability. These children will lack a stable base of support required for balance and to coordinate tasks. This results in fatigue when required to sit at a desk and undertake fine motor tasks. The child may display a lack of attention, focus and concentration and become easily distracted and then distract others i.e. in a classroom setting.

The benefits of a preschooler participating in sport are endless. Besides developing gross motor skills and assisting to refine fine motor skills required for school, sport is a healthy alternative. It assists in developing team work skills; promotes problem solving skills; and builds healthy self- esteem.
Gross and fine motor skills are important for 
pre-schoolers to get them ready for school

The Ready Steady Go Kids program assists in motor development.  Warm up activities completed weekly such as jumping, hopping, skipping, galloping and heel-to-toe walking promote motor planning and bilateral control. The child will use and coordinate both sides of the body by participating in star jumps, scissor jumps and the sporting activities such as footy, cricket and T-ball where they catch and throw balls.  By participating in a variety of sports they undertake catching; kicking; batting and throwing and learn to control objects and coordinate these movements in a busy environment  on the court;  and later on in life when involved in a sporting game.

The Gross motor sports circuits set ups in the Ready Steady Go Kids program provide a multi-sensory experience for the child and focus on developing physical strength, balance and coordination. These mini sports circuits are goal focused and teach the child to take on a challenge and fulfil a set goal such as shooting a puck, kicking a goal, smashing a volley or putting around an obstacle. Participation in this active and structured multi-sport program for 45 minutes each week re-enforces the importance of keeping physically active; taking instruction from others; taking turns; cheering on team mates and ultimately having fun and getting enjoyment from playing sport!

Develop and refine motor skills with 
Ready Steady Go Kids (psst, its fun too!)

Submited by Carmen Dodds, Franchise Owner Western and CBD, Melbourne. Carmen is a qualified Occupational Pediatric Therapist.

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