Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Challenging Motor Skills

Yesterday, I was spending some time with my 14 month old daughter outdoors. I was just watching her interact with the environment and see what choices she made to play. All of a sudden it hit me how often she challenges her motor skills to a more difficult level. There were many examples of this:
  • she was walking on the pavement (still somewhat unsteady being a new walker for about one month) and gets bored with that rather quickly and prefers the challenge of the uneven terrain of the grass (notice her crouched position and wide base of support walking on grass)
  • she had the choices of ride on toys, the Cozy Coupe car and balls to play with but it never takes long for her to gravitate towards the porch stairs so she can practice climbing up and down (this is an obviously dangerous task for her - she can make it up but if left to her own accord she would tumble to the concrete when descending the stairs)
  • she occasionally asks to go in the swing but much prefers to attempt to climb up the slide or up the ladder (also quite precarious when she stands on a slide)
  • she has the choice to play with balls, pine cones and leaves but she always goes back to these tiny round balls that fall from one of our trees to practice her fine motor skills to pick up the potential choking hazard
Now of course I am closely watching and guarding her throughout all these activities but I do let her explore them. It really made me wonder why some babies do this behavior? Why is he or she always looking for the next motor challenge? I realize that not all babies behave this way although she is my fifth child and her four previous siblings behaved in the same manner (especially obsessing with climbing the stairs). In addition, whenever we are at a gathering with other parents many of them see me closely following my children up and down the stairs repeatedly (babies love to perform the same tasks over and over and over again). Almost of all them say "I see they found the stairs, I remember those days".

Although my observations are based on typical childhood motor development, children who are developing at a slower pace also benefit from being challenged motorically. This is why when some babies or young children are not walking they will benefit from a standing program, gait trainer or wheelchair for social, cognitive and physical benefits. You can read more on this topic from a previous post Ready, Set, Go.

So I guess my questions for the day are:
  1. Do you let your child explore and challenge themselves to learn new motor skills and develop a sense of accomplishment?
  2. Why is it that when a baby could choose to play with toys or explore the outdoors they sooner or later gravitate towards something they can climb on or perhaps something they should not have?

    Is it the novelty, the fear, the sense of accomplishment or self driven motivation? I am guessing it is all those things together. I looked for research on this but came up empty handed. Would love to hear if anyone has anything on it I am very curious...


Tana said...

I'm sure it's a combination of all four. My kids are very curious and motor-driven and explore everything they can. (As I type this, my 8-month-old is pulling everything off of my desk) However, I know that a lot of kids are passive observers and prefer to just soak up everything around them. So I think that temperament also plays a large role in how kids play.

I definitely let my kids explore, especially my son with ADHD. They need both the mental and the physical stimulation!

As for kids playing with things that they probably shouldn't be playing with...I think a huge part of that is the attention they get from their caregivers. When kids play with balls, we sit back and let them do it. When they try to play with sharp objects, we run over there as fast as we can!

Your Therapy Source Inc said...

Very good point about the attention grabbing - you are completely right. Also true about temperament and children's sensory preferences but I still think the majority of children like to challenge themselves whether it be from a sitting position, crawling, walking or running. Still very curious about the psychology behind it not just the sensory motor component...

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