Some kids are naturally coordinated. Some aren’t. Some kids can tie their shoes at 5. Others are still working on it at 7. And some kids struggle with motor skills and need more time and extra help getting there.
Most kids develop certain motor skills at certain ages. But what if your child is lagging behind other kids that age? If basic physical tasks like using a pencil or getting dressed are a struggle, you may wonder what to do.
Here are steps to take if you’re worried about your child’s motor skills.
1. Learn about different motor skills.
There are different types of motor skills, and kids can have a hard time with any or all of them. Learn about fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and motor planning. Coordination is also related to motor ability.
2. Keep track of what you’re seeing.
The more you notice about your child’s challenges, the better a picture you’ll have of what’s happening. When you see your child struggle with a task, try to write down the details. That includes signs of frustration. Find out how to look for patterns in what you’re seeing.
3. Find out what’s happening at school.
Talk or email with your child’s teacher about your concerns. Find out what the teacher is seeing in class and share what you’ve seen at home. Sharing information can shed more light on patterns you’re seeing. And it can help both of you better understand how to help your child improve motor skills.
4. Know where to get answers.
Your child’s teacher and health care provider are great resources. They can suggest steps for finding out what’s causing your child’s trouble with motor skills. That might include a free school evaluation that looks at all of your child’s strengths and challenges. An occupational therapist can look specifically at motor skills.
5. Talk to your child about strengths and challenges.
Struggling with physical tasks can be frustrating and make kids feel embarrassed. Try to talk openly about the challenges at home. Explain that everyone struggles with something, but everyone also has strengths. Help your child identify strengths and develop a mindset that skills can improve.
6. Help build motor skills at home.
There are lots of ways you can help your child get better at tasks. Find out how to help your child learn self-care routines. Explore ideas to build gross motor skills and fine motor skills in kids. And get specific ideas to help older kids build motor skills.
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About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Priscila Tamplain, PhD is an associate professor in the department of kinesiology and the director of the Developmental Motor Cognition Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington.