Common questions I get when people hear about what I do is, ‘What’s the difference between fine motor and gross motor?’ or ‘What’s the difference between occupational therapy and physical therapy and why do kids need occupational therapy?’.
In little kids most parents know what gross motor is because of the milestones each child hits as they develop. I like to tell people that gross motor gets you to where you need to go and fine motor helps you to do what you need to do once you get there. For instance if your child wanted to do a craft, they would walk to the table and sit down (gross motor) and then they would fold or cut or color the paper (fine motor).
Here is a brief description of gross motor milestones for your reference:
*0-3 months: Lifting the head up during tummy time. This movement strengthens back and neck muscles as well as ensures that your baby will be able to clear his/her face to breathe properly during tummy time. Encourage your baby to do this placing noisy toys in front of him/her during tummy time or by having him/her lie on your chest and talk or sing to them.
* 3-6 months: Propping on extended arms during tummy time. This position strengthens neck, back, shoulder and arm muscles and facilitates bone growth through weight bearing. It is an improtant precursor to crawling. You can assist your child with this by initially placing a rolled up towel or wedge under the chest for support.
* 3-6 months: Rolling is another important milestone that generally occurs during this time. This helps strengthen the entire body but most importantly the core.
* 6-9 months: Unsupported sitting. This facilitates trunk control and balance while leaving the arms free to explore and reach for objects. Also, during these months, your child should be able to accept full body weight during standing with support. Weight bearing through the legs is extremely important for bone growth and hip joint formation. Lastly, your infant should begin crawling. Crawling will increase strength and allow for increased exploration.
* 9-12 months: Pulling to stand at furniture and cruising along surfaces. Encourage your child to do this by placing fun toys up on couches or tables during play.
* 12-15 months: While some babies walk as early as 10 months, most will generally start letting go here and demonstrate independent standing and walking.
* 15-18 months: Here your child will generally master walking and may even start running!
* 18-24 months: Jumping! Jumping is great for strengthening of the leg and trunk muscles as well as improving balance. Also, your child will begin to walk up and down stairs by placing both feet on each step while holding onto a rail or your hand.
* 24-30 months: During this stage you can expect higher and bigger jumps, increased independence with stairs, ability to walk on tip toes and maybe even tricyle riding dependending on the eagerness of the child.
* 30-36 months: This stage is all about balance! Encourage your child to stand on one foot, walk in a heel to toe pattern on the ground or on a balance beam, jump over objects, and alternate feet while climbing stairs. This way they can run around the playground with other kids without you having to worry about any major falls or collisions.
*3-4 years: Kids at this age continue to advance their proficiency with earlier learned skills as well as develop some new ones. They can go down stairs alternating feet, gallop, ride tricycles, hop, begin jump roping, enhance their ball skills for kicking, throwing and catching and balance on one foot for short periods.
* 5 years: Kids during this year will begin to run more like an adult with long strides, trunk rotation and arm swing. They will also get good at walking on their tip toes, jumping rope, walking on balance beams and begin to use skates.
Here is a brief description of fine motor milestones for your reference:
Reaches for objects, but inaccurately
2 ½-3 years
3-3 ½ years
3 ½- 4 years
4-4 ½ year
4 ½-5 years
5 ½-6 years