The development of fine motor skills (smaller, more precise movements) is vital to the journey of becoming more independent. If a child has trouble with certain aspects of fine or gross motor skills then they are less likely to engage in that activity in the future, which can have a negative effect on their self-esteem. This produces a bad cycle where the end result is having fewer opportunities to practice and refine their skills. Children learn most effectively when they are doing something that they enjoy, so engaging in activities where they can improve these vital skills while also having fun is paramount.
Motor Skill Development and the Impact on the Future
During age 5 – 8, children start to refine the skills they have already learned and begin to apply them to play activities like jumping rope, riding a bike, and climbing a jungle gym. Children at this age also begin organized sports, where having well developed motor skills can translate to increased confidence in all other areas of their life. These skills also go far beyond playing. By building on the movements and skills they have already learned, children begin to apply them to everyday tasks such as getting dressed, feeding themselves, brushing their teeth and even to school activities like drawing and handwriting.
Underdeveloped motor skills or development at a slower pace than normal can be a sign of a motor skill dysfunction, learning disability, or an underlying health issue. If you think your child is not developing typically, it is best to consult your pediatrician.
Developmental Milestones and Exercises to Improve Motor Skills
At age 5, your child should be able to jump, skip, and hop. This is also the age where children's balance shows the most improvement. Improvements can be evident by your child's ability to walk backwards, balance on alternating feet, walk heel-to-toe without losing balance, and even riding a two-wheeled bicycle.
Our implementation of motor skill development exercises has made it fun and easy for children to reap the benefits of being active and engaged in a wide range of activities on any of the five attachments. Outlined below are motor skill milestones that typically developed children age 5 – 8 should be hitting. Exercises to improve those skills can be found in the video below, as well as on our Motor Skill Development Program page.
At age five your child should be comfortable swinging and pumping by themselves, and have the coordination to balance while standing on the swing. You can get more creative with the swing and have your child stand on it and engage their core muscles to pump themselves back and forth. This exercise will help your child improve their balance by learning to engage different muscles as the swing goes in different directions. The next step is to have your child bring their knees to their chest as they are standing on the swing and holding on to the ropes, working on their coordination and balance at the same time by having to engage multiple muscle groups to be balanced, lift their legs to their chest, and then locate and balance on the swing again. The most difficult swing exercise is the Superman which engages their core and back muscles to balance across the swing while extending their arms and legs. This exercise requires the most body control and strength to master.
Mastering the rings requires grip strength, coordination, and spatial awareness. By age five your child should be able to hang independently on the rings, and do a flip, or "skin the cat" exercise. If they can’t already, your child should be working toward being able to hold themselves up with their arms straight. In doing so, because of the way the rings move they will improve their upper body strength and balance. The most advanced exercise for your 5 – 8 year old is called a "bird’s nest" which involves your child putting their feet through the rings while holding on, and flipping their body over so they are fully suspended with their chest facing the ground. This exercise is the ultimate test of your child’s body control.
The act of climbing improves balance, spatial awareness and upper body strength. These skills are important to hone at a young age for success in sports or other play activities as they get older. The ladder can also be used for exercises: using one of the rungs as a swing can help your child improve their balance as they try to maneuver themselves into position while climbing the ladder.
The rope attachment offers an extra degree of difficulty for climbing, relying more on upper body strength and requiring more balance than the ladder. The rope can also be used to teach children leaping activities by going "island to island." This exercise teaches children coordination in planning jumping and landing, while holding on or letting go to the rope.
The trapeze is perfect for your child to master their spatial awareness and coordination while simultaneously engaging their upper body and core muscles. The different grip options allow your child to engage different parts of their upper body. By age 5, your child should be using the trapeze unassisted, and by age 8 they should be able to hang upside down on the trapeze, lift themselves up to a seated position on top of the trapeze, and return themselves to their original position; and switch their grip from the inside handles to the outside handles while hanging from the trapeze, like stationary "monkey bars." Spatial awareness and coordination are important to develop at a young age because they are the basic skills that most sports build off of, and athletic achievement in children has been linked to higher self esteem and confidence.
You should always supervise your child while they are doing these exercises, and make sure there is a padded surface under the Gym1 when doing any inverted exercises.