I have been involved in teaching physical education for many years. My colleagues and I often remark on how some movement skills are so natural to some children while others struggle with simple movements. Starting from infancy, children learn and develop motor skills. Many people think that all this is just natural movement and most motor skills do develop as a natural process with maturation. But maturation takes care of only part of the process – the part that allows a child to execute most movement skills. As your child develops and begins running, jumping, throwing and playing, you need to observe if there are any movements that look awkward. For example, if your child runs with stiff legs, or doesn’t bend their knees when they are jumping, or lands on their toes instead of their heels, then these are signs that your child may need some help to develop the correct gross motor movement. If children don’t get the help they need to learn physical skills at an early age, many will never master gross (large muscle) motor skills.
Enter MPA. We are teaching our children gross motor movement from Pre-Kindergarten through ninth grade in our physical education classes. Our knowledgeable and experienced staff can teach a skill by breaking it into smaller movements, then putting them all together to demonstrate the larger movement or skill. As parents, it helps to support this learning at home and make sure your child has enough play time where they are working on these new skills. It can be a simple matter of demonstrating the proper technique to your child and using words of encouragement. For instance, if your child regularly drops a ball when you toss it to him, explain to him/her to keep his/her eyes on the ball all the way into his/her hands, then squeeze the ball. As you watch your child play, encourage him to use the proper form when throwing or catching a ball, running, jumping, and just playing. Repetition is the key to learning and mastering a skill. If the problems of movement persist, consider talking to your child’s physical education teacher first. If you and the teacher feel that further help is needed, then you can talk to your pediatrician or occupational therapist for an evaluation.
All children develop at different speeds, so don’t jump to a conclusion about your child’s athletic ability because he/she seems to be learn a skill at a different pace than their classmates. Some children love sports, will play them in their spare time, and play on competitive teams, so they will develop their gross motor movements more quickly and to a finer degree than a child who isn’t on a team. Give your child as much opportunity as possible to just play with their friends; this is where they develop their skills because they are having fun and not thinking about working on skill development. Gross motor skills are related to physical fitness and we all want our children to be physically fit. Instilling physical activity at an early age and encouraging children to go outside and play will help children as they grow to remain physically active.