What Are Fine and Gross Motor Skills?

Skills Involving Movement and Coordination

Children running
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Motor skills are skills involving movement and motion. A child with motor impairments has trouble moving in a controlled, coordinated, and efficient way. Occupational and physical therapists will work to strengthen your child's motor skills, with occupational therapists dealing primarily with fine motor skills and physical therapists concentrating on gross motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor refers to movements that require a high degree of control and precision of small muscles. These may include drawing shapes, writing, cutting with a scissors, and using eating utensils. Fine motor skill activities often involve manual dexterity, using the hands and fingers, as well as the eyes, with hand eye coordination.

Children with neurological problems or developmental delays may have difficulty with fine motor skills. They may receive occupational therapy to help them catch up, or may need modifications or assistive technology to keep up with schoolwork in spite of these delays. The focus is on developmental milestones and the skills they need for school and play.

Fine motor skills can be assessed with force matching tasks and the Peabody Development Scales, which is used for children up to age seven. The Visual-motor integration assessment might also be used.

Components of fine motor skills include being able to use both hands for a task, crossing the mid-line of the body, using hand and finger strength, hand eye coordination, hand dominance, hand division (using just the thumb and one finger rather than the whole hand), object manipulation, and body awareness.

Activities that might improve fine motor skills include picking up objects with tongs, playing construction games such as with Lego or building blocks, and doing craft projects.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor refers to movements that involve large muscle groups and are generally more broad and energetic than fine motor movements. These may include walking, kicking, jumping, and climbing stairs. Some milestones for gross motor skills also involve eye-hand coordination, such as throwing or catching a ball.

Children with neurological problems, developmental delays, or disabilities that affect movement may receive physical therapy. to help with gross motor skills, or may need modifications or assistive technology to keep up with mobility or athletics in spite of these delays.

It may be easier for a parent to note when a child isn't reaching gross motor skill milestones than fine motor skill milestones. You are probably watching carefully to see when your baby begins rolling over, crawling, pulling themselves up along furniture, and then taking a first step. As a child grows, you note when they are running and playing and how well they do in physical games and sports.

Your Child's Motor Skills

While each child is different, it is good to discuss any concerns about motor skills with your pediatrician. If your child is referred to occupational therapy or physical therapy for their fine motor skills or gross motor skills, you will be involved in the therapy. You'll be given instructions on how to work with your child at home to build his motor skills.