The role of the preschool in the development of a child is very important. Preschool education provides basic literacy to prepare children for higher levels of study. It also gives training to prepare them for the challenges of life. In particular, it is in the preschool that children learn and improve their motor skills. Teachers play a significant factor in developing and refining these skills. Also, the school is expected to provide enough opportunities and tools for harnessing such skills. In this paper, we discuss the role of the teacher and the school in developing gross and fine motor skills of young children.
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Gross motor are broad movements that involve large muscle groups (Mauro, n.d.) while fine motor are movements produced by the body’s small muscle groups. Gross motor activities include walking, jumping, kicking, crawling, climbing stairs, etc. Meanwhile, fine motor skills include writing, drawing, cutting or folding paper, etc. Both require coordination of the body functions such as the brain, eyes, and the muscle responsible to produce the movement (i.e., hand muscles for writing). Inability to perform motor tasks with precision may mean a disability. Therefore, it is important to observe the child closely when undertaking activities requiring motor skills.
As a child grows, certain motor abilities develop. For instance, a two-year old child holds a pen differently from a three or four-year old child. Likewise, a toddler may be unable to hold onto monkey bars while a seven-year old may find it easy to do so. Still, a nursery child will draw a human figure with incomplete features, while a kindergarten who is aware of the body parts may be able to produce a better representation of the actual figure. Given this, it is important to help develop the motor development of a child to avoid delays and identify disability in advance, if any. Particularly, teachers in the preschool should provide activities to make children develop the right skills they need to perform bigger tasks in the future. These activities should include both gross and fine motor activities.
Arnheim & Pestolesi (1978) provide indicators of average motor development in children 48 months to five years. These indicators imply that with only a four-month difference, normal children can develop additional gross motor abilities. For example, a two-year old child can hop two times on one foot while a child four months older can hop four times on one foot. Likewise, a three-year old child can jump from a small step with both feet while a two-year old can do so but with asynchronous feet. In terms of fine motor skills, children show development in fine motor as they age. Particularly in writing, toddlers and children out of school exhibit the so-called supinate grasp with the fist holding the pen while nursery students may have the pronate grasp with the pen between the middle and ring fingers. Meanwhile, a kindergarten student may show the dynamic tripod, which is the way most people, even adults, hold a pen. Considering this, it is important for every teacher to provide activities and monitor students’ motor skills, because a delay in fine motor could mean a disability.
Several activities should be included in the pre-school curriculum to enhance gross and fine motor skills. For gross motor skills, school activities could include hopping, jumping, walking, running, kicking, skipping, crawling, rolling, pushing and pulling and catching. Holecko (n.d.) suggest freestyle activities or dancing to the tune of children’s songs such as “I’m a Little Teapot” or “Wheels on a Bus.” Aside from improving gross motor, these activities bring an atmosphere of fun and camaraderie among children. Moreover, playing games that involve gross motor activities also brings excitement and makes children develop sportsmanship. Furthermore, pretend plays such as imitating movements of animals, things and people allow students to exhibit gross motor, and creativity.
Meanwhile, fine motor ability, which includes writing, drawing, sculpting, tying knots, folding and cutting paper, etc should likewise be given proper attention in the pre-school curriculum. Learners who exhibit inability in such activities should be noted and subject to further observation by the teacher and if possible, by the counselor. Children found to have evidence of disability in either gross or motor skills should be referred at once to the relevant authority for proper intervention. Considering this, it is important to know some standards set as regards developing motor skills in the pre-school classroom.
The National Network for Child Care, a private organization, has developed the Early Childhood Education Rating Scale, otherwise known as ECERS (Harms & Clifford, 1980). This is a set of standards which includes important requirements to look for in a preschool, including space and furnishings, personal care routines, listening and talking, program structure, etc. This scale provides relevant information to both administrators and parents on what to look for in a preschool in as much as developing motor skills is concerned. In particular, it specifies the tools and equipment needed to enhance fine and gross motor skills. A highly equipped pre-school will likely develop motor skills more comprehensively than an unprepared environment. Therefore, it is important to note which tools and equipment should be present in a pre-school.
The tools and instruments that ECERS recommends to develop gross motor ability include building blocks, sand and water boxes, balls, and playground equipment. All these should vary in colors to make them look attractive. They should also come in different sizes to provide allowance for improvement of skills. For example, younger children can play with smaller balls and put up lesser number of building blocks while bigger children can do otherwise. In any case, the school should provide a variety of resources for different kinds of children.
For developing fine motor skills, schools should ensure they cover for the child’s needs to practice fine motor and hand-eye coordination. Activities such as clay-molding, writing, drawing, playing simple musical instruments, and tying a knot are only some of the activities that help improve fine motor skills. Relevantly, writing, drawing and musical instruments, clay, and utensils should also be in place. Importantly, the preschool program should include the proper use of utensils when eating. As schools serve as the second home, so they should learn the proper way of holding utensils for eating.
The development a child’s motor skills may come naturally. It can occur even without the teacher’s intervention. Nevertheless, the pre-school teachers and school programs play a major role in harnessing and refining these skills. Teachers serve as the guide to check whether children are exhibiting safe and proper motor practice. They are also the record keeper to the child’s progress or disability. Meanwhile, pre-school programs and tools also help enrich the child’s motor skills by aiding practice of such skills. Together, these factors harness children’s ability to perform functions, thus preparing them for greater challenges in the primary level and later in the adult life.