Motor skills are needed to control the movements of the different muscles in the human body. Motor skills are divided into gross and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are learned first and over the years, they tend to become almost automatic. They include, crawling walking, jumping or keeping balance. Fine motor skills are learned later. They require precise muscle control, and involve smaller actions, such as writing, holding an object between the thumb and a finger, or moving the tongue in the mouth.
Brain Motor Areas
The areas of the brain that control both gross and fine motor skills include the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and cerebellum. The cerebral cortex controls the movements of the muscles. The basal ganglia control position and voluntary movement. The cerebellum monitors muscles during movement. The motor cortex controls the muscle movements, as well. Different parts of the motor cortex are responsible for movement of different parts of the body.
Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor development follows two principles: head to toe and trunk to extremities. This means that the gross motor skills develop in the head before the development starts in the arms, and feet. Thus, a child learns to hold his head up before he learns to sit and walk. Also, the development begins in the middle and moves outward. Hence, a child learns to control his arms before his hands. The gross motor development starts at birth and is most intense during the first years of life. Many conditions, such as cerebral palsy or Parkinson’s disease, can affect the gross motor skills.
Fine Motor Skills
Fine motor skills are more challenging to perform and begin to develop later in life than gross motor skills. Yet, they tend to develop together because many activities depend on the coordination of both of these skills. When a baby is born, she is not even aware that she has hands, not to mention that she can control their movements. During the first year of life, an infant learns to control her hand movements. She also learn the basics of hand-eye coordination. When the child is approximately 1 year old, she learns to hold an object between the thumb and index finger. During toddlerhood, children typically develop a preference to use a left or right hand. Such complicated fine motor skills as tying shoelaces and handling silverware are learned during the preschool years. Development of fine motor skills plays a crucial role in school readiness. Fine motor development can be encouraged by providing the child with puzzles, building blocks and crayons.