Motor Development and Learning

by Sheri Present, OTR

Motor Development and LearningMotor development and learning:  Motor skills lay the foundation for all aspects of language development, attention, academic achievement and behavior. Before children can relate to concrete objects in the world, or understand how things relate to each other, they must first know where their bodies end and the rest of the world begins.

The crawling stage is extremely important for developing muscles in the arms and hands, which later are necessary for fine motor skills such as writing. When infants begin to become mobile, and start to explore, they learn to judge distance, size and shape of objects.

When infants move their arms and accidentally hit a rattle, they are functioning simply in a motor stage. However, this random act sets in motion a series of events that arouse the visual and auditory senses. The babies hear the noise, turn their heads and attend visually to the rattle.

As they become aware of the relationship between their arm movement and the pleasurable response of hearing and seeing the rattle, they will begin to move their arms purposefully to reach for the rattle. They have now advanced to the sensori-motor stage. Movement has made toddlers aware of their senses, and allows them to explore and manipulate their world.

When babies’ hands teach their eyes to see by directing movement, children move into the visual-motor stage. At first their movements are gross, grasping with their whole hands and bodies. Gradually they are able to control smaller and smaller parts, such as their hands and fingers alone, without head, shoulder, arm, and other gross movements.

Until this happens, the act of writing or other fine motor skills may be very challenging. Simple small motor activities such as buttoning, lacing and cutting, are a few necessary prerequisites to writing. Children who have not had a great deal of experience with these activi­ties can be ill-prepared for many of the academic de­mands of the classroom.

The ultimate goal is for children to be able to use their vision alone to gather information. Efficient vision is essential for reading, writing, attending and behaving. Eye movements must be isolated from head and body movements. Children should be able to control the muscles of their trunk, shoulders, neck, forearm, and wrist so that they can stay upright in a chair.

Poor posture is a sign that the body may not be ready to learn. The solution is not telling the child to sit still and attend, but in working with the whole body to improve cognitive attention. Here is a list of some activities for children who have trouble sitting still and paying attention at home and school:

Activities For Home and School

  1. Sit on a large rubber ball called a therapy ball instead of a chair.
  2. Jump on a trampoline prior to sitting.
  3. Push on the wall by placing the palms of the hands flat against the all and try to move the wall (do this to the count of 15 to 20).
  4. Play math games by having children solve additon or subtraction problems by jumping the number of times as the answer.
  5. Have the children get up every 10 to 20 minutes and engage in a large motor activity such as riding a bike, bouncing on a hippity hop, jumping on a trampoline or pushing the wall rather than watching TV or playing video games.
  6. Develop an obstacle course.
  7. Carry groceries or the laundry up and down the stairs.
  8. Go to a new playground and try out unfamiliar equipment.

Referee Bopbag:

This is no ordinary bopbag! He stands 40″ tall and is dressed in black and white. Great for all ages, but especially loved by older children, who don’t want childish toys, (and also by adult armchair refs, who disagree with every call!). Made of heavy gauge vinyl with an enclosed weighted sand base. Originally designed for aggression therapy, so he takes a beat­ing. Encourages arm movements, range of motion, strengthening, and cause and effect learning.

Referee Bopbag (item #U3101)               $11.95

Please include shipping/handling        $ 4.75 each (he’s heavy)

Soccer Pal:

At last, an unusual piece of equipment that allows you to practice ball skills, in a variety of positions and situations, without having to chase the ball! Developed as a soccer training aid, this durable hand knotted net, opens to accommodate a variety of ball sizes, and is attached to a heavy duty cord with a wrist loop and rubber handle. Cord adjusts and locks at any length for different activities and height sizes and can be held by adult or child. Try kicking, punching, bouncing or suspending the ball. Can be used while standing, kneeling, crawling, in wheelchairs and even laying. (Idea guide included, but no ball) We recommend using a soft ball like our Puff ball (which inflates and is a unique texture) for safety.

Soccer Pal (item #X6501)                         $9.95

Puff ball (item #XT2701)                          $4.95

These products are available from Pocket Full of Therapy, Inc.,