Motor skills are typically separated into two categories – small and large. Large motor development is necessary for a baby to lift his head and shoulders, roll over, sit up, crawl, pull up, walk, and climb. Infants rely on the development of their small motor skills to master hand-eye coordination, and to pick up, hold, manipulate, and release objects.
Motor skills are about more than movement; these skills also allow infants to take in new sources of information, and learn about their world. For instance, when an infant learns to control his head movements, he is able to look around, and observe his surroundings. When he learns to hold and manipulate objects, he can explore them in depth. When a baby learns to crawl, he can explore different places in his environment such as a corner or under a table.
Many parents enroll their infants in early education programs as early as 6-weeks-old. This means moms and dads depend on you to help their bundles build the motor skills they need to thrive. Here are some things you can do to support motor development in infants.
Developing Motor Skills in Infants
• Give infants plenty of tummy time so they can learn to control the muscles in the neck and trunk.
• When infants are playing on their backs, put age appropriate toys off to the side of them, or slightly above their heads. This will encourage them to move their heads from side to side, and reach for things.
• When a baby is playing on his tummy, place your open palm behind his feet so he can use it as leverage to learn to scoot.
• Turn on some music and gently dance, sway and bounce with infants.
• Set up your infant classroom so that it encourages movement at every stage. You might consider placing firm cubes and pads with inclines, and large soft blocks on the floor. The uneven terrain of the inclines will encourage climbing, pulling up and balance.
• Provide low stable surfaces such as bolted shelves for cruisers to use for balance.
• Take infants outside regularly to give them a chance to interact with nature.
• Limit the use of swings, bouncers and walkers. Instead, let babies play on the floor. This will encourage them to use their bodies and explore their surroundings.
• Provide open space for mobile infants to crawl and cruise.
• Let older infants hold on to your fingers for support when they are learning to walk.
Motor skills are important for everything from rolling over to reaching to walking. When you use the above tips, you can help the babies in your care develop, and strengthen their motors skills so they can actively explore their world.