QUESTION FROM A MOTHER IN A CLASS:
Why do some babies learn motor skills faster than others?
STELLAR CATERPILLAR’S ANSWER:
This week in class a very mother asked the question “Why do some babies learn motor skills faster than others?” I thought it was such an important question I would share the answer here. There are several factors involved in the learning of motor skills. Some factors are nature (we are born with) and some factors are nurture (a result of environmental factors).
PERSONALITY INFLUENCES MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Factors that a baby is born with (nature) which influence his ability to learn movement include his personality, body size, and muscle tone. Lets look at some examples of personality traits and motor skill development. An active baby may learn the motor skill of rolling sooner than a quiet baby. A fussy baby may cry when put on the floor for tummy time and then her parents pick her up. If this occurs often she will have difficulty learning her motor skills. A determined baby may crawl a bit sooner than others because he is motivated to get to objects just out of his reach.
BABY’S SIZE IMPACTS MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Babies range drastically in their size. A larger sized baby often will have more difficulty learning motor skills than a smaller baby. The larger baby’s body parts weigh more and thus require more strength to move. Learning the skill of lifting the head is more difficult for a large baby than a small one. A smaller baby may learn skills more quickly and may learn to crawl very early. I recently worked with a small and determined baby who learned to crawl at 4 1/2 months. She spent time in each of her motor skills and developed her motor milestones early but skillfully.
MUSCLE TONE AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Babies are born with muscle tone that varies from low to hight tone. The tone referes to the tension level in the muscles. A premature baby will usually have more of a challenge learning motor skills due to the lower muscle tone that is common among preemies. This means it may take longer for the preemie to learn to roll over since he needs more time to strengthen his leg muscles first. A baby that has too tight of muscles tone may also need more guidance to help the muscles relax. The level of tone in the muscle is a significant factor influencing the motor skill development.
ENVIRONMENTAL INFLUENCES AND MOTOR SKILLS
Much of our ability for skilled movement is learned and this is where the nurture part of development is important. The term “developmental play” evolved because research proved that certain activities improved motor skill development, coordination, balance, and strength. These attributes of movement are learned as infants and become part of our nervous system. As a child grows his ability to learn movement skill for dance, for example, depend on how the hip joint developed during the learning of skills such as crawling.
Environmental factors influencing development include the baby toys she plays with and how much time is spent on the floor. Some toys, such as bells on a stick, invite movement of the arm which creates important development. Learning developmemtal play, such as in a Stellar Caterpillar class, teaches hands-on movements to do with baby at home to teach skill and coordination in the earliest movements we learn–the motor milestones of infancy. These activities are part of the “nurture” group of factors influencing the learning of motor skills. A baby who experiences these lessons will learn improved coordination and balance which provide an advantage for life.