“Future Success of Children Depends Strongly on Their Motor Skills”

Did you know that motor skill development is a crucial aspect of a child’s growth, involving the coordination of muscles, the nervous system, and the brain? Did you know that excessive sedentary screen time can negatively impact both gross and fine motor skills in children, affecting their balance, coordination, and overall physical development? Are you aware of what kind of providing support, encouragement, and opportunities for physical activities can enhance motor skills? How can all this and more boost the mental productivity of child without laying a burden at him – this and more in an exclusive conversation this week with Senior Educator Ruchika Dua Kapoor, who specialises in training children to enhance their core skills.

Can you explain the importance of motor skills development in early childhood and how it contributes to a child’s overall growth and development?

Motor skill is a function that involves specific movements of the body’s muscles to perform a certain task. These tasks could be anything, like walking, running, riding, sitting, jumping, etc. In order to perform any of these tasks or actions , the body’s nervous system, muscles and brain have to all work together. In children, motor development refers to the growth in the ability of the children to use their bodies and physical skills. Learning these skills is a crucial part of child development and foundation of daily life. Children develop certain motor skills at specific ages, but not every child will reach milestones at precisely the same time. Because motor development can be fun and exciting, children often crave these type of activities which help them to develop the ability to grasp, sit, crawl, climb, feed themselves and more. Additionally, allowing your child to engage in different type of motor activities helps them to learn in a variety of ways leading to their overall growth and development.

What are the primary types of motor skills, and how do they differ in terms of fine motor skills and gross motor skills?

Motor skills fall in two categories- Fine and Gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are minor actions using small muscles, require high precision and involve hand and eye co-ordination. These include activities like drawing , writing, playing with blocks, handling fine material such as sand, and many sensory activities including playing with water beads, pouring, mixing, cutting with scissors which help to improve finger dexterity of the little children and strengthen their hand muscles. Children will reach fine motor development milestones at different paces, but family and care givers can surely support the process. On the other hand , Gross motor skills are bigger actions that use large muscles found in the arm, legs and core. They further allow you to have co-ordination, balance, improve reaction time and physical strength for doing any activity. As an educator I my self encourage free play. Play is crucial to the development of children’s fine and gross motor skills. You can make these activities fun by incorporating finger play, puzzles, stringing beads, creating a lot of sensory bins, encouraging pretend play, stretching exercises, swinging, running free, marching, throwing, catching, shooting down a slide or other classic games such as “Follow the leader”, “Mother May I”, “Simon Says”, “Fire in the mountain”.

In what ways has today’s lifestyle, including increased screen time and reduced physical activity, impacted the development of motor skills in children?

One of the major concerns these days for parents and society has been the impact of technology on motor development. Excessive sedentary screen time can lead to decreased physical activity among the kids, which can have a negative impact on both gross and fine motor skills. It can hamper their balance and co-ordination immensely. Screen time has also been a key cause with mental and social development of the children. Moreover, exercise boosts the blood flow to the brain which assists kids with everything, from concentrataion and alertness to problem solving. Therefore , lack of physical activity means that the child might not reach his/her full potential at school. Similarly, relying too much on smartphones and tablets for entertainment can limit the opportunities for hands on exploration and play that are crucial for developing fine motor skills.

Can you discuss the role of parental involvement in fostering motor skills development in children and how this may have evolved in recent years?

School, teachers and parents play a vital role in holistic development of the child. Parents are the first mentor of their child and hold an immense responsibility and contribution in shaping child’s personality. Parents bonding with their child develops a sense of feeling safe to explore and positive feedback helps a child to reach out more and push harder. Parents also provide support through a process known as “scaffolding”. Providing objects to encourage a baby to reach & grasp, holding hands of a toddler while they take a few steps, potty training them, helping them with buttoning and zipping clothing, playing with them are just a few examples of how parents provide scaffolding to help children develop physical abilities. Additionally parents may indirectly contribute to physical motor development by providing opportunities for physical activities like climbing the stairs, dancing, walking, jumping and much more. These development activities have evolved over the past few years in many ways.

Parents in older days use to knowingly- unknowingly help with the development of motor skills by giving them kitchen utensils and dough to play, playing outside used to encourage a lot of physical activities in earlier days, but now the parents are much more educated, have a lot of knowledge, there is lot of exposure and awareness through internet, social media and social circles and consciously promote motor skills in a controlled environment by giving time to such activities like providing them play dough, kinetic sand, colouring drawing and pasting books, crumpling and tearing paper activities, horse riding, hopscotch, dancing, trampolines, martial arts and taekwondo classes and the choices are endless.

How does the environment in which a child grows up, such as urban vs. rural settings or access to safe outdoor play areas, affect their motor skills development?

Many Studies point to the mental health benefit of living in greener areas outside city, but could living in the countryside also be better for us physically? A study out of Finland shows that young children living in rural areas have better motor skills than those living in urban areas. The cause of this appeared to be that rural children spend more time outdoors and are therefore more adapted to their environment. They have more control and balance which lends themselves to task like running, climbing and crawling. Urban children on the other hand play more organised sports and play outside considerably less often than their parents did. Urban or city living kids have negative impact on children’s development and have higher rates of most mental problems compared to rural areas. One study found an almost 40% higher risk of depression and over 20% more anxiety in urban Vs rural development of children. Many city children have never experienced the joy of playing in a river, picking and plucking fruits and flowers, or balancing across a fallen log, which are great ways to improve motor skills.

Are there any gender differences in motor skills development, and how can parents and educators address these differences to ensure equitable development for all children?

A study shows that motor development in boys and girls is similar up until the age of four, with girls having the slight advantage over boys especially before age three. It appears that by age four, boys surpassed girls in tasks that require strength and throwing. In gross motor skills (involving large muscles) boys typically outperform girls, while with fine motors skills (small muscles) girls outperform the boys. These improvements in motor skills are related to brain growth and experience during this development period. Possible ways that parents might influence children’s gender development may include role modelling, encouraging different behaviours and activities in sons and daughters. As a parent its important to be emotionally open and accepting with your child regardless of gender, being their friend and by encouraging them to express their feelings. It is also important to refrain from strongly assigning and asserting gender identity on to your child. At the same time, educators’ role is equally important in such cases. The best educational environments are those that are fair to all students irrespective of their gender. Teachers can gender neutral language while referring to the students. for example, instead of Guys’ when referring to a class or group , say “Everybody” or “Everyone”. Conduct activities that break gender biases, choose books wisely and always address your students equally.

With the rise of technology and digital devices, what strategies can be employed to encourage physical activity and outdoor play, which are essential for motor skills development?

Playing outdoors encourages children to explore their environment, use their gross motor skills and engage in active play. One can make physical activity part of your family’s daily or weekly routine by taking them for nature walks or playing active games , like hide & seek together. You can then involve them in collecting leaves, pebbles, running after butterflies or climbing trees, exploring insects and plants and many more such interesting activities. Let them carry drawing boards with them and draw what they see around. They can also be taken to public parks, basketball courts, swimming and many other places where they can actively participate in an obstacle course with benches, logs or a few stones. I mostly do it in my preschool class and kids simply love it. When outside, you can also carry picture books so that you can read and sing together which will build the child’s vocabulary, language and communication skills

What are the signs or red flags that parents and teachers should look for to identify potential motor skills delays or issues in children?

Rolling over, sitting, standing and walking: these are some of the typical motor skills that babies and young children develop in the first month and years of life. All children develop and grow at their own pace, achieving milestones such as talking, crawling and sitting up. When the Child’s development milestones are delayed, raising concerns that may require attention and intervention, they are called red flags. There are many signs of motor delay in children that parents and teachers need to watch out for. Children with fine motor delay do not show interest in grasping objects, have poor hand-eye co-ordination and may have trouble doing things with their hands that other children normally enjoy like building with blocks, scribbling on paper or even sticking their tongue out to taste food, using only one hand to complete tasks, difficulty holding head and neck steady, has a hard time staying balanced or has an unusual gait when walking or running, are signs of gross motor delays in a child. These delays can be a sign of something more serious. Spotting these signs and finding the health conditions as early as possible will help your child get the care they need.

Can you discuss the role of occupational therapy and physical therapy in supporting children with motor skills challenges? How can parents and educators collaborate with these professionals?

A physical therapy focuses on improving the child’s ability to move their body whereas an occupational therapy focuses on improving the child’s ability to perform activities of daily living. Occupational therapy can help kids who have birth defects, sensory processing disorders or traumatic injuries to the brain or spinal cord. It can be helpful for children with poor handwriting, kids who require toilet training and self feeding training of children as well. It majorly focuses on body functions and helps children to participate in social situations, specially special needs children, independently and with confidence. Starting physical therapy as early as possible is essential to help your child develop important motor skills. A physical therapist would be able to evaluate and determine you child’s strengths and weaknesses. They will guide so that the child can learn a new way to move. It also focuses on helping the child walk, run,jump or otherwise improve gross and fine motor skills. Its best to introduce physical therapy to children in the form of play so that sessions are fun and boosts the child’s confidence, Occupational therapy & PT workshops can help parents and teachers collaborate more effectively by providing education and training on addressing children’s needs, fostering communication and relationship building & promoting shared decision making. “Kids need you”. They need you to teach them. So if you approach a challenging situation as I’ve got your back & I’am here for you and we are going to get through this together, it can make a lot of difference in your child’s development.

How can schools and educational institutions adapt their curriculum and teaching methods to promote motor skills development while addressing the demands of modern education?

Learning should always be fun. You can start simply by little little activities like playing with dough, spooning activities, pouring and transferring, playing on the monkey bars, creating indoor obstacle courses , using chairs and tables and chairs inside the classrooms and incorporating many such fine and gross motor activities into your daily routine will help you get your students where they need to be. Teachers can provide frequent motor breaks throughout the school day and limit physical activity time. Yoga is also one of many strategies to support gross motor skills in the classroom. It’s important for the schools and educational institutions to understand that apart from education, the school also has the responsibility to develop a child both physically and mentally. Both the school and parents should play a vital role in developing the motor skills of a child.

What are the long-term implications of delayed or underdeveloped motor skills in children, and how can these challenges be mitigated as children grow into adolescents and adults?

A development delay means your child is continuously behind in developing skills expected by a certain age or the child is developing certain skills slower than their peers. These delays align themselves with the areas of child development which include:

1) Cognitive or thinking skills- A child with cognitive delay may have trouble from following directions or solving a problem.

2) Social and emotional skills- These skills include getting along with others, ability to communicate the basic needs and expressing feeling. A child with such delays may struggle having a conversation or dealing with changes to a routine.

3) Speech and language skills- These include using and understanding language. A child with such delays may have difficulty in understanding what the others speak and speaking words themselves.

4) Fine and gross motor skills- Your child has difficulty rolling over, sitting up, walking, holding an object or writing. If your child has a suspected or development delay diagnosis, “Early Intervention can make a difference”. It includes therapies, supports, education and so on to help children develop the skills they need to take part in everyday activities.

Some times children who get early intervention need less or no support as they get older. Long term development delays , also known as development disabilities for example- Learning disabilities, cerebral palsy, autism, down syndrome and attention deficit hyper activity disorder(ADHD) are common disorders affecting children and may interfere with their ability to lead normal lives.

In your experience, what are some successful interventions and programs that have effectively improved motor skills development in children, particularly in the context of today’s lifestyle?

Treatments for motor skills development in the present scenario-

1) Occupational Therapy- it helps people of all ages who have physical sensory or cognitive problems. It can help them regain independence in all areas of their lives. It also boosts the self esteem and a sense of accomplishment of a child.

2) Physical therapy- It focuses on improving gross motor skills which are those that need full body movement and involve the big muscles of the body to perform daily functions like sitting upright, standing, walking and running.

3) Speech therapy- The speech therapist will work with your child to improve speech and language skills and show you what to do at home to help your child. They also encourage oral motor exercise.

4) ABA or Applied behavioural analysis- this therapy is a systematic approach for children who have a development delay like Autism Spectrum disorder (ASD), down syndrome or those kids who have speech delays. These programs or therapies can be a big help to the children.

If you have a query pertaining to your child’s habits and motor skills, you can connect with Ruchika Dua Kapoor via her Instagram.