There's no turning back once a young child starts running.

Child Development & Motor Skills

by Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell

Learning to walk is a major accomplishment that helps launch the long list of gross motor skills a child will master during the developmental process. Holding a bottle or rattle are early signs of fine motor advances that will grow by leaps and bounds during childhood. Improving gross and fine motor skills contribute to other areas of child development. For example, holding a pencil allows a child to write numbers or letters while shooting a basket or catching a ball help improve hand-eye coordination.

Gross Motor Development In Toddlers And Preschoolers

Children between the ages of 2 to 5 can develop gross motor skills simply by moving about on a playground. Naturally active toddlers and preschoolers spend much of their time learning to skip, throw, climb, run and jump. A 2-year-old can typically run without tumbling, a 3-year-old is usually able ride a tricycle, most 4-year-olds can hop on one foot, while the average 5-year-old has the dexterity to walk from heel to toe and ride a bike with training wheels.

Fine Motor Development In Children Ages 2 to 5

When toddlers and preschoolers take a rare break from their seemingly endless physical activity they are busy honing their fine motor skills. A typical 2-year-old can hold a crayon with her fingers and thumb and pull her pants down with little help from you. By age 3, a preschooler can often get dressed with little guidance. A 3-year-old can also draw a circle and a stick person with three parts, explains MedlinePlus, a website published by the National Institutes of Health. Cutting a straight line with scissors, getting dressed independently and using a fork and spoon are among the fine motor skills most 4-year-olds have mastered. As a rule, a 5-year-old can brush her teeth, comb her hair and perform other grooming-related tasks. She is also able to button and unbutton clothes and zip a coat with ease.

School-Age Motor Skills

School-age kids -- between 6 and 12 years of age -- normally have developed strong and efficient motor skills. However, balance, coordination and physical endurance may differ considerably from one child to the next. A 6-year-old may have the agility and coordination to play games like "Twister," notes Brooks Rehabilitation. From age 7 and up, the average school-age kid enjoys running to kick a ball and jumping and rolling upon landing. Kids who diligently practice swimming, gymnastics, skiing or other such activities can show genuine competence. Fine motor skills may also vary considerable during the school-age period. For example, some kids have excellent penmanship while others struggle to write neatly.


Sedentary children will not perfect gross motor skills as fast as those who engage in team sports, schoolyard play or other activities that keep the body moving. A child who feels comfortable exercising his body is more likely to be physically fit than a sedentary child. A child who feels self-conscious about his lack of physical adeptness is more apt to shy away from playing hopscotch, jump roping or climbing the monkey bars with his peers, points out the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Expediting fine motor skill development is far more complex than developing gross motor skills. Encouraging a young child to play with puzzles and building blocks along with assisting with daily chores like pouring juice for breakfast or stirring cake batter can improve fine motor skills.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.

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