Motor Development in Young Children

Authored by: Jacqueline D. Goodway , John C. Ozmun , David L. Gallahue

Handbook of Research on the Education of Young Children

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415884341
eBook ISBN: 9780203841198
Adobe ISBN: 9781136897023


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A group of preschoolers spills out into the playground running and squealing with the joy of being outside. Two little girls hold hands and start skipping around the playground together while a couple of boys start throwing stones toward a tree. It seems like a typical day on the playground. We often assume that young children naturally learn these motor skills of childhood and that all children look alike in the patterns of movement they demonstrate; but this is not so. If we were to look carefully at this picture we might see one girl skipping with an easy, rhythmical pattern with her arms swinging in opposition to her legs. Meanwhile her friend keeps up by showing a one-sided step-hop pattern with the right knee and right arm coming up together and the left side just stepping, never hopping (she cannot skip). If we look across to the boys, one boy can throw his stones a considerable distance showing a sideways stance, arm–leg opposition, and arm windup and follow-through. In contrast, the other boy performs a “chop throw” by standing facing forward with both feet planted wide, and making a chopping motion with his dominant arm; his stone only goes a few feet in front of him. It is clear from this closer analysis that these children vary considerably in their motor development and movement competence. So how do young children learn motor skills? And what factors influence their motor development?

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