What Is Involved in Learning Motor Skills?

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  • Written By: Sandra Koehler
  • Edited By: M. C. Hughes
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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From the moment of birth, with a clumsy flail of the arms and a floppy turn of the head, a person begins learning motor skills. Motor skills are the ability to move in a coordinated, purposeful fashion. Every movement a child makes is another step in the process of learning motor skills. This skill develops over time as a child matures, and by the age of two he or she has the proficiency to stand, walk, and perhaps run.

The term "gross motor skills" refers to the ability to control multiple parts of the body to perform actions such as walking, which requires postural control, or the capability to hold the body upright and move the arms and legs in a specific pattern for forward mobility. This is accomplished first by perfecting head control, rolling, sitting and maintaining balance on all fours. Walking is then practiced by coordinating the movement of the arms and legs with crawling. This, in turn, progresses to “furniture cruising,” in which children begin to walk with the assistance of a firm grip on a stable object. After time, and a few falls, walking no longer requires the aid of steady piece of furniture.


Once a child learns the basics of forward mobility, more complicated movements begin to be honed. This type of motion requires learning motor skills more advanced that propelling the body in a certain direction. These skills include such things as timing, accuracy, and reflexes, in addition to overall coordinated movement of the body as a whole.

Learning motor skills, however, does not stop in childhood. Fine motor skills, or the ability to perform the precise movements for a specific activity, can be learned, modified, and perfected over a life time. Learning fine motor skills can also continue through a lifetime as an individual’s interests change. For example, with enough practice, an adult can learn how to play a musical instrument or sport not learned in childhood.

In instances of a major injury to the body, such as a complex fracture and a prolonged healing process or a head injury, learning motor skills over again becomes a major step in regaining mobility. When damage, especially to the brain, is significant, a person may lose the abilities long perfected in childhood. In these instances, it is important to begin the process of learning motor skills much in the same manner as a child, learning to roll and sit up before attempting to stand. In severe cases, however, prior motor skills may never return.



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