Sensory motor development is often described in two categories:
Fine Motors, which has to do with the small muscle control needed to button a shirt, tie shoes, draw straight lines, and write.
Gross Motor, which has to do with the large muscle control needed to bend, run, throw a ball, kick, catch, and so on.
Some children are strong in one area and weak in the other. Some are strong in both, and some are weak in both. Oftentimes, in children between the ages of four and six, girls will develop fine motor skills earlier than boys, while boys will develop gross motor skills earlier than girls. If this is reversed for your child, do not be alarmed; there is a wide range of development during this time. If you think your child is behind in either gross motor of fine motor development, there are several things you can do.
A quick way to check your child’s development is to ask a teacher in your child’s preschool, kindergarten, or elementary school. Teachers can probably answer your questions quickly, and they will be familiar with the terms “fine motor” and “gross motor.”
A second way is to observe your child’s work during open house. Often the children’s written work and drawings are displayed around the classroom. You should compare your child’s writing or drawing to at least ten to twelve other children of the same sex and age. If you only compare your child’s product to one or two others, or to a child of a different sex, you can easily get an unfair comparison. Also, remember that sometimes a teacher will exhibit only the best products, so be careful.
A third way to assess if there is a problem is to observe your child in his or her classroom or out on the playground. Again, remember to include your child in a sample of at least a dozen children. Do not compare your child to the best child and do not compare your child to your best friend’s child. These samples are too small and will do a disservice to you and your child. These comparisons will either inflate or deflate your opinion in an unrealistic way.
A fourth way to evaluate your child’s sensory motor development is to ask your pediatrician during one of your child’s regular exams. With some simple tests, your child’s doctor can tell you if your child is on track.
The best way to determine if your child has a sensory motor weakness is to evaluate a child using all four ways. If the child is behind in all four areas, you can be reasonably sure that he or she has some problem with sensory motor development. If there is no lag in any of these areas, then you can relax and stop worrying. If there is some mix, then you might consider an evaluation by a professional psychologist.
It’s important to remember that most of us have lags in one or two areas, so don’t be alarmed. Every child has strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t see them yet, you soon will.
What can you do about it?
Fine motor coordination can be improved by playing games with your child:
Gross motor coordination can be improved through the following activities: