Poor Motor Skills in Children

Motor skills refer to the actions involving the body's muscles. Gross motor skills involve the larger muscles of the body such as the legs, arms, feet and body. Fine motor skills involve the smaller muscles such as the hands, wrists, toes, lips and tongue. Generally, both types of motor skills develop together as many activities require the coordination of both fine and gross motor skills.

  1. Fine Motor Problems

    • According to education.com, a number of factors can cause poor fine motor skills or delayed fine motor skill development in children, including stroke, injury, illness or birth defects. Children up to age 5 who do not attain new fine motor skills may have a developmental disability such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy. Other causes can include visual impairments, hearing impairments and diabetes. Signs of fine motor problems are difficulty controlling or coordinating body movements, especially with the face, hands and fingers.

    Fine Motor Milestones

    • There are certain skills children generally achieve by certain ages, milestones. If children are lagging behind significantly, it's a red flag and warrants screening and evaluation. For example, by 5 months an infant should be reaching, at 6 months a baby should transfer an object from one hand to the other and at 8 months an infant should rake toys toward himself. By the first birthday a child should have mastered the pincer grasp, holding objects between the thumb and index finger, and also be able to point with the index finger in isolation of the other fingers.

    Gross Motor Problems

    • Gross motor skills can be caused by different things, including genetic disorders, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and some neurological conditions. Other causes include injury, illness, stroke and birth defects. Another cause can be developmental coordination disorder. This disorder will cause difficulty in a child's learning to ride a bike or being able to hold a pencil properly. They are clumsy and their movements slow or awkward, especially when a series of muscle movements are required.

    Gross Motor Milestones

    • As with fine motor skills, there are gross motor skills milestones. If a child is seriously lagging behind, an assessment should be done to check for problems in development. For instance, according to education.com, at 4 months an infant should be able to hold her head up steadily, by 6 months a baby will usually be rolling over and around age 1 it's expected a child will be standing and beginning to walk with support. At age 2, a child can kick a ball and go up and down steps.


    • If a child seems to be having fine motor problems, if a child stops developing normally or loses some skills, a physician should be consulted. For fine motor assessment, a test such as the Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration for those 2 or older or the Lincoln-Oseretsky Motor Development Scale for those 6 to 14 should be performed. In the case of gross motor problems, whether the child is behind in development or losing skills, a doctor needs to be contacted. Typically, the Lincoln-Oseretsky Motor Development Scale is done for gross motor assessment.

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  • Photo Credit little boy image by Valentin Mosichev from Fotolia.com

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