What are motor skills?

What are motor skills?

What are motor skills?

Fine and large motor skills - the physical development of your baby's body including their muscles and cognitive development (developing the skill to think and solve something) as well as developing their senses. With encouragement and support a young baby will strengthen their physical and holistic development to grow and achieve. 

Fine motor skills - The coordination of smaller muscles of the hands and eyes. When a baby is very small they will begin slowly moving their head to sights and sounds, slowly flexing out their arms and legs, stretching out their fingers from a fist position. Have you noticed your baby hitting themselves whilst they gain that hand eye coordination?

Research suggests that around 6-8 weeks a baby will realise their hands belong to them and watch how they can open and close their hands, beginning to manipulate an object. By creating a physical action they are stimulating their senses;  

  • Gripping your finger
  • Gripping their own hand 
  • Gripping toys 

They will begin to grip then manipulate to move from side to side, put to their mouth, drop and create a desired effect like creating the sound of a rattle.


Larger motors skills - This includes a baby;

  • Moving their head, arms and legs
  • Developing the strength in their neck and shoulders through tummy time experiences to fully lift their head and chest of the floor.
This will support a baby to control their core muscles and balance to support these physical skills.


Core muscles  - Can support a baby to begin to;

  • Sit
  • Lean forward
  • Roll
  • Begin to crawl 
  • Eventually walk
  • Run
  • Ride a bike and many more achievements

When creating these skills they will also become spatially aware of their surroundings. Research suggests that physical development in a child's early years contributes to a child's health and wellbeing. 


How can I support my baby's physical development?

Encourage your child to explore the world around them. Give your baby opportunities to see, hear, touch, feel, prod and explore resources that are intriguing and encourage them to become excited to learn and manipulate resources - therefore encouraging their physical and holistic development. 

  • Encourage a very young baby to explore their hands, make them aware by talking about their hands and touching, tickling, showing them, encourage their hand reflex by touching their palms so they open their hand and become aware of their body
  • Massage using age appropriate resources to touch and explore their body. 
  • Begin to show your baby things that will encourage them to touch - you can use a rattle/activity ball, encourage them to reach out for it. Put it above their chest and in their eye line, play peek a boo games. Move it to create a sound.
  • Roll a ball, pushing a toy along (This is called object control).
  • Lie them on textured blankets so they can feel the textures with their hands and feet.
  • Show your baby feely books to prod and touch. You can use different resources as they grow to excite them and further develop those physical skills.
  • Talk about things you are doing together that include fine motor skills - Use words in context to think about their physical development; 'You are creating that sound by moving the rattle with your hand'.
  • Tummy time experiences to encourage your baby to strengthen their neck, shoulders, core and balance skills.
  • Flash cards and mirrors from a young age can encourage tummy time and later resources that can be moved along and rolled to encourage those larger motor skills and balance skills.
  • When your baby's head is strong enough sit them up and play with them so they can develop this new skill and their balance. Support their head where necessary. You will likely notice how excited your baby is that they can see things from a different angle!! They can see their toes!! They may begin to focus on them and try to grab them or mouth them.
  • Once your baby has mastered the skill of sitting they may begin to enjoy reaching forward and moving back, until they start to move their legs in to a tall sitting position to get on all fours and crawl backwards first or forwards, some babies may bum shuffle forwards and backwards, others may pull themselves along on their tummy.
  • Support your baby to pull themselves up on to furniture and cruise around before taking those first steps. You can use resources to explore whilst they are stood with your support. Eventually your baby will usually begin to pull them selves up. 
Encourage motor skills development with our award winning My Sensory Journey Subscription  -You will receive resources every three months to support a baby's first year of development. Parent/carers receive a downloadable sensory guide to encourage ideas of how they can support their child's sensory stimulation. This includes their physical and holistic development. 

Please be aware all babies are different and may not follow these exact stages of physical development. If you are ever concerned about your baby's development you should speak to the doctor or health visitor for advice. 

Tag us in some of your pictures or stories of your baby enjoying physical experiences on our Facebook or Instagram page


Sources; Francesca Whiting, Gemma Caton.