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Influences to the Child’s Motor Skills Development

Introduction

When a child is born, he wakes up to the world with pure potential. He does not have control of his body and just performs very simple moves like blinking the eye or moving the lips, crying, wriggling the arms and legs. The child undergoes many changes as he grows. These changes revolve in hi personality, the way the he thinks, feels and moves. At first, all his moves are based on reflex; he cries when he is hungry or uncomfortable, he eats when he is fed. Put a finger on his hand and he will clasp it. As his body develops, his brain develops continuously through interplay of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor aspects of his personality that eventually take over these reflexes. So that at play when he sees a toy, he thinks and recognizes the color and the form (cognitive), he likes it (affective) then he balances himself, moves toward it and picks it up with his hands (motor). (Davies, 1999)  His mind is enriched with this experience and the many other experiences he encounters that mold his personhood. This paper presents a discussion on child motor skills, the different factors that influence motor skills development with related theories principles.

Developing Motor Skills

“Motor development is the development of action and coordination of one’s limbs, as well as the development of strength, posture control, balance, and perceptual skills.” (Davies, 1999) To develop any skill, one needs to explore, experience then practice. A skill is not automatically acquired. There are integrated processes involved to make a skill. There has to be thinking or cognitive process, feeling or affective process and physical activity or psychomotor process (Davies, 1999).

Factors Influencing Development

It is widely accepted that both nature and nurture are major contributors to the child’s development. There are biological factors as well as social factors that influence the development of the child’s motor skills.

Biological Factors

Heredity

Heredity is considered one of the major biological factors. The child’s physical make up, like his height, the shape and forms of his body, arms and legs can be inherited from his parents. He may not be able to play basketball because he is not tall enough or he may not be able to dance because his legs are deformed. There are also developmental delays are caused by genetic incompatibilities like down syndrome and autism, most common developmental disorders, which are also determined in the early development stage of the child (Child Development, 2008). Symptoms are observed in the delays, absence of motor milestones in the child’s growth. Not being able sit or stand at the age where most children sit or stand may be signs of psychological disabilities.

Acquired Illness

Acquired illnesses may also be biological factors. Children may at some point from birth to childhood, contract some illnesses that may deprive them of the normal development of their motor skills. Examples of these are polio, meningitis and hydrocephalus which result to physical and mental impairment (Davies, 1999).

Body nourishment

The child’s body nourishment makes a difference in the child’s capability to develop his physical skills. Delays in motor development of the child may be caused by improper nutrition. During infancy when the body’s development is fast, the child needs to be provided with ample nutrition to support his mental, emotional and motor development. A child may have the capability to be a good sportsman, possibly, a good swimmer but if he does not have the proper body nourishment, he will not have the energy to compete and excel.

Oxygen

            The air we breathe affects the development of our brain and our other body parts, including the muscles that control our motor skills. The body needs oxygen to make the body function well. Children have to have the proper ventilation. The development of the brain is at its peak during the early years of childhood so that the child’s body must have sufficient oxygen to allow for normal growth. Lack of oxygen in the body may slow down the development of the brain and may also lead to weak heart and muscles that affect the child’s motor development.

Water

            The human body, on the average, is made up of approximately 60% water (Chemical Composition of the Body, 2005). As the child’s body develops, water used up has to be replenished. So that when the child perspires after play or a sports activity or during a hot day, he needs to drink water. The child needs water to cleanse the body as well to develop a healthy body. A healthy body will allow the child to acquire the needed motor skills to live a normal life.

Social Factors

Parents

The child’s growth is also influenced by his environment. He explores, experiences and practices with the help of those around him. His parents are most influential in his early development. The mother’s love is expressed through breastfeeding, caring, bathing, cuddling and even tickling. The child learns his basic motor skills from his mother as his primary caregiver. Before he can walk, he makes many failed attempts, practices and eventually learns. He is helped by his parents who guide him in the acquisition of his skills. He is given feedback like “you can do it, try again baby” and given assurance that it is alright if he fails (Paplia, ; Wendkosolds, 1987).

Siblings

            Many children get support of their siblings, an older brother or sister, in adapting to new challenges as they grow. The moment they recognize other people aside from the mother and the father, they start to socialize. Because they see how their siblings move, like how they hold the spoon and fork when they eat, or how they chew the food and other movements in the house, children imitate them. Habits developed by children in the house are mostly influenced by their siblings. So that when an elder brother is fond of dancing or singing, the younger siblings also develop fondness in dancing. Same is true with other motor skills developed from association with other members of the family.

Peers

When the child reaches school age, his social influences increase. His peers add to his social community. He will go through more varied experiences. There will be gender influences and learn that there are different ways girls and boys behave and different things girls and boys do. He will learn to play more aggressive games because his playmates do that. He will learn to like toys that children of his gender and age play with. He will learn to blend with his peer groups.

Teachers

Teachers on the other hand have the opportunity to develop children’s habits through activities in the classroom. Children learn to read and write and perform basic chores. They also learn that they need to do their homework and need to participate in classroom activities so that they will be socially accepted. Teachers provide feedback and rewards by giving grades or verbally recognizing good performance. They also give corresponding feedback to improper attitudes and poor performance. (Paplia, ; Wendkosolds, 1987). This way, the child learns that good habits will receive good feedback. Motor skills are then developed along with mental and emotional development.

Economic Condition

The economic condition is also significant influence. The family’s financial capability to provide the child with his needed environment affects the child’s motor skills development. A child who has the dexterity and interest to play golf may not be able to acquire the skill because the family is unable to afford the sports equipment and the expenses for practice. A child may not be able to learn to play the piano because his family cannot afford to send him to a piano school or the family may not afford to purchase a piano where he can practice.

Cultural Norms

Cultural norms play important role in the child’s motor development. (Paplia, ; Wendkosolds, 1987). There are norms that dictate the ways children are raised in their families, schools or communities. In Japan, conservative families still make their women wear tight shoes so that their feet will not grow big. This tradition hampers the development of the feet and hinders skills that could have been developed using the feet like running or dancing. Some religious practices prohibit women from joining sports activities so that some girls cannot acquire skills even if they have the interest and potential to learn these skills. (Paplia, ; Wendkosolds, 1987).

Media

Media is a strong influence on the child’s motor development. The influence of television and internet is recognized worldwide (Motor Development, 1999). Children learn various sports by just playing in their favorite video arcades or in their personal computers. They even learn speed typing because they play games in the internet. Many children spend most of their free time watching television or surfing the internet and they are influenced both consciously and unconsciously. There are dangers though that some shows may do harm to the child’s development so that it is important that parents continue to guide their children on what shows and internet webpage to visit.

Self Esteem

Children need to socialize as they grow up. They need to make friends especially when they are in school. The child’s self esteem allows him to develop a positive attitude. When he is unhappy because he is alone and not recognized, or when he is bullied or is not achieving in school, he develops low self esteem. This can lead to the child’s reclusion and limits his development. A child who has low self esteem may not participate in school practices and athletics that were programmed to enhance motor development. He may have the potential to be an athlete but because he is bullied in school, he misses the opportunity and does not develop his skill.

Traumatic Experiences

A child may have suffered some traumatic experiences in childhood that hindered the development of some motor skills. According to Freud, stages in one’s psychosexual life are overcome as the child grows but may persist in adulthood if the child is experiencing psychological imbalances caused by traumatic experiences in childhood. A two-year old child may normally want to put everything that he grabs into his mouth (oral stage) but may be considered a sexual abnormality if the act is compulsive and persistent in adulthood. Same can happen to all the other psychosexual stages. (Child Development, 2008)

Feedback

            Feedback is important in the development of the child’s motor skills. There are such things as “motor milestones” (Needlman, 2004) in the child’s developing years; a recording of the child’s series of first time experiences like the child’s first time to lift his head, roll in bed, hold a toy, crawl or walk. Some are able to talk as early as 9 months and some are not; some are able to walk earlier than the others. Parents monitor these motor milestones to be able to guide the child and provide the opportunity to grow and avoid potential dangers. Parents need to know whether the child is developing normally and is not having any developmental delays so that they may know when it is necessary to seek professional help (Needlman, 2004).

Rewards and Punishment

            Rewards and punishments may either hinder or enhance the child’s learning of new skills. In schools where teachers with rewards like good feedback or gifts to motivate them to practice more; some are given punishments to discipline them. This can be explained by the reinforcement theory which is based on the premise that “people will more likely perform a specific behavior if it is followed directly by the occurrence of something pleasurable or by the removal of something aversive” (Davies, 1999).

Caregiver’s Knowledge

Studying child development provides practical guidance not only to parents and caregivers but also teachers and those who are involved in caring for children. Knowledge on how the brain and the body develop can eliminate possible obstacles in a healthy growth of the child. It can help educators and health therapists to provide assistance to children with developmental delays, special needs and those with learning difficulties. It also provides for better self-understanding so that individuals may recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and use this to solve their personal problems and improve their lives (Davies, 1999).

Society as a whole

American psychologist Erik Erikson asserts that there are eight psychosocial stages of personality growth that more strongly emphasize the effect of society as a whole. The theory supports that culture plays important role in the development of motor skills. The eight stages include: “Basic Trust versus Basic Mistrust (infancy); Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt (early childhood); Initiative versus Guilt (play age); Industry versus Inferiority (school age); Identity versus Role Confusion (adolescence); Intimacy versus Isolation (young adulthood); Generativity versus Stagnation (adulthood); Ego Identity versus Despair (later adulthood)” (Erikson, 2001). Though these theories are hard to prove, they represent valuable inference to the study of personality that may be helpful in better understanding child development.

Own Self

It is also important to recognize that children have significant influence in their own selves. Their past experiences guide them to make preferences and decisions. They choose their friends and peers. They have preferences as to what games to play, what sports activities to join. As the child grows older, he becomes mentally, emotionally and physically equipped that he becomes more independent on the other factors that affect his development. He develops a sense of maturity that allows him to weigh the pros and cons of every situation so that he is able to guide himself by setting his own goals to accomplish (Motor Development – Transition from Reflex Movement to Voluntary Movement, 2008).

Conclusion

            The child continues to develop motor skills through adulthood. As he matures, he becomes more independent of the forces that affect his development. He becomes honed to his gross and fine motor skills and able to perform combinations of tasks. From the infant that had no control of his own body and fully dependent on his environment, to the adult who has matured. But marks of his biological and social influences – his parents, siblings, teachers and peers; his school, community, culture; from birth, infancy, childhood to adolescence are deeply embedded in his mental, emotional and physical being. He becomes ready to actualize himself to achieve his full potential as an adult.

References

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