Research indicates that gross motor skills are a major predictor of a child’s school readiness. In essence they reflect “brain skills,” yet many parents and caregivers overlook their importance.
When infants and toddlers move their arms, legs, and other large body parts with large muscle groups, they are developing their gross motor skills. However, studies suggest that as children develop crawling, walking, running, and jumping, they are also developing their cognitive abilities.
How? Researchers believe it’s because many of the brain regions employed in motor skills development are also common to cognitive and perceptual skills. In effect, when infants and toddlers begin to work their large muscles, they are also exercising the neural networks needed for cognition and perception.
The correlation between the development of gross motor skills and cognition is born out by studies showing that preschoolers with poor motor skill development tend to struggle when they enter grade school.
Helping your child develop motor skills
Parents and caregivers can help children develop gross motor skills by making sure the infants and toddlers in their care are active every day in age-appropriate ways.
They can also consult a physical literacy checklist for ages 0-2 years for short descriptions of essential motor skills for these early years and tips for helping to develop them.
Related read: 49 fun physical activities to do with kids aged 2 to 4
Physical activity in the early years doesn’t need to be complicated, but it needs to happen. After all, children are born with the potential to move but not the skills. To develop their skills and capacities, parents and caregivers need to create and support daily movement opportunities for the infants and toddlers in their care.