The Importance of Motor Skill Development in Children Age 3 – 5

As your child reaches age 5 they should be running, hopping, climbing, and swinging with ease. Children learn and develop their motor skills through playing, so it is very important not to restrict your child’s physical activity or play time. These skills are the building blocks for future athletic activities, which can help to build your child’s self esteem and confidence.

motor competence self worth

A University of Notre Dame Australia study found that high motor competence has a positive effect on self-perceptions of global self-worth, athletic competence, physical appearance, and social acceptance, among other things. The graph above illustrates the relationship between motor competence (scale very low to high) and self-perceptions using Harter’s Self-Perception Profile for Adolescents (scale 1 to 4) in boys (blue) and girls (red).

Developmental Milestones and Exercises to Improve Motor Skills

By age 5 your child should be able to complete the following: balancing on one foot for 5+ seconds, do a somersault, use utensils, dress themselves, brush their teeth and take care of other personal needs unassisted. All of these activities stem from fundamental motor skills.  Exercises to improve these skills can be found below, as well as on our Motor Skill Development Program page.

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Swinging in nontraditional ways can help to strengthen back and core muscles, as well as improve spatial awareness and body control.

Swing

By age 3-4 your child should be pumping by themselves. You can use that pumping motion to build on other skills like coordination and balance by adding an objective like hitting an object or swinging in nontraditional ways (on their stomach, or standing on the swing). Swinging in nontraditional ways can help to strengthen back and core muscles, as well as improve spatial awareness and body control.

Rings

A 3 – 5 year old should be hanging from the rings unassisted, and working towards being able to do a flip and a front support – holding themselves up with their arms straight. Completing these activities can help your child improve their upper body strength and coordination, while also reaping the benefits of staying active: higher metabolism, stronger tendons and ligaments, and better overall joint health.

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Use the rings to help your child improve their upper body strength and coordination, while also reaping the benefits of staying active: higher metabolism, stronger tendons and ligaments, and better overall joint health.

Climbing the ladder without assistance is a tangible way to show that your child is improving, and can boost their confidence and self esteem.

Ladder

The ladder is a great tool to simultaneously improve your child’s mental development and physical development. If your child is new to the ladder they will probably need help stabilizing it as they climb up. As they climb more and more and their body control increases they will need less help stabilizing the ladder. This is a tangible way to show that your child is improving, and can boost their confidence and self esteem.

Rope

The rope exercises allow you to provide as much or as little assistance to your child as they climb and hold on, either through stabilization of the rope or assisting them in their climb. The rope can also be used as a fun tool to teach your child coordination motor planning skills by holding on to the rope and letting go while leaping to the other side. Improvement in motor planning skills help strengthen neural connections in the brain responsible for sensory processing.

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The rope can also be used as a fun tool to teach your child coordination motor planning skills

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As your child grows more comfortable and is able to hang by themselves, the different grip options add an extra degree of difficulty for them to master.

Trapeze

The trapeze can be a useful tool to improve grip strength, upper body strength, and core strength – all at once! All of these muscle groups are engaged while your child swings from the trapeze. Take advantage of the different grips to challenge your child and improve their grip strength.