• Hannah OT

Practise Doesn't Always Make Perfect!

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

One day when my older daughter was in playgroup I was talking to her key worker and she happened to mention that my daughter was struggling to use scissors, and that she needed more practise in this skill. This I found rather odd as my daughter was barely three years of age and to be frank I felt had a lot more on her plate than using scissors - she was after all left handed, hyper-mobile, recently had insoles in her shoes due to flat feet and struggling to learn to swim, climb and ride a bike (all gross motor in nature). This began my frustration with the British system as my daughter (like all children her age) was being measured according to the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) framework - something that I don't believe is always conducive to natural child development, particularly at such a young age when the focus should be on gross motor skill development. Regardless of my stance on this measurement, I really just couldn't understand why such a focus was being put on my child's fine motor development when she needed encouragement to develop her gross motor skills - here began my consistent belief that without mature gross motor skills children will continue to struggle with their fine motor skills.

The building blocks of motor skills...

Gross motor skills are the foundation for fine motor skills - we need to start with large movements before we are able to produce small fine movements. This is clear from observing how a baby learns to move - they produce big movements such as raising their heads when lying on their tummies and rolling over before they begin to grasp/ reach for toys (fine movements). Gross motor skills are as follows:

1) Muscular strength

2) Muscular endurance

3) Coordination - bilateral integration comes into this too (the ability to use two sides of your body simultaneously)

4) Crossing the mid-line - crossing from left-right-left

5) Balance

6) Proprioception: this is the information that the brain receives from our muscles and joints to make us aware of body position and movement. 7) Body awareness

8) Muscle tone

9) Sensory processing

10 Postural control - maintaining a position

11) Motor learning - learning of a movement

12) Motor (muscle) planning - planning of a movement


Think of a fine motor activity - cutting, painting, drawing, writing etc.

Are there any of the 12 building blocks that you do not require?

* Thinking Time*

Correct! We need all of the building blocks for gross motor skills in all fine motor tasks e.g.

Writing: 1) Muscular strength - to support an upright position and hold a pen

2) Muscular endurance - to continue for as long as needed

3) Coordination - we need to coordinate both our hands and our vision

4) Crossing the mid-line - we need to write from left to right thereby naturally crossing the mid-line

5) Balance - we need to maintain sitting balance

6) Proprioception - we need to be able to recognise how tightly we need to support the pen and how much pressure is required to make a mark on the paper (often children who struggle to process proprioceptive information either press too lightly or firmly on paper and either present with a floppy pencil grasp or hold so tightly that it causes discomfort)

7) Body awareness - we need to be aware of where our bodies are in space in order to sit orientated to the page and direct our arm movements

8) Muscle tone - very important in maintaining good writing posture

9) Sensory processing - tactile (feel of the pen/paper), vestibular (holding our head up against gravity and still to support good hand-eye coordination), vision (needed to recognise where to write on the page), proprioception (to control our movements)

10 Postural control - maintaining a good writing posture

11) Motor learning - being able to recall muscle memories for letter and word formations

12) Motor (muscle) planning - being able to plan where and how to write on a page - it is this skill that enables us to write in a straight line, starting at the top of the page and appropriately spacing out words so that they are readable.

It is because of this link between gross motor skills development and fine motor skills that I say "practise doesn't always make perfect"! In fact, consistent practise can be very demoralising and in some cases won't make any difference if the route of the problem is a child's gross motor skills.

Tune in next time when I discuss common problems in the classroom and possible causes and solutions.

Hannah OT:-)

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