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MEP learning pack

Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Motor development


Developmental motor milestones

In general, motor development includes:

  • gross movements
  • fine movements
  • oral movements (feeding, swallowing, sound production, and speech).

Gross movements are controlled by the large muscles or muscle groups, e.g. legs, whereas fine movements are controlled by the small muscles or muscle groups, e.g. hands.

Development of fine and gross motor skills, e.g. drawing and handwriting, plays a crucial role in a child’s school performance.

We develop motor skills by going from immature movements to precise and goal-directed movements. Typical motor development generally follows a predictable sequence (see Figure 2); although the rate and the age of attaining motor skills vary from child to child the typical sequence tends to be similar. Motor milestones refer to ‘motor events’ that are often used to gauge the general developmental progress of a child. A delay in a child’s attainment of early motor milestones is often the first cause for concern for a parent/carer or health professional.


During late childhood, more specific movement skills will appear, while the general fundamental skills become more refined and will appear more fluid and more automatic. There are also gender differences at this stage. For example, females in first year primary school have been reported as having better handwriting movements than males (Genna & Accardo, 2012). Also, spatial and temporal accuracy start to play an important role during this period and an area that improves significantly both in terms of prediction and performance.


  • In your school find out if gender differences are considered in physical education?
  • Consider if there are gender biases in expectations of teachers such as ‘boys are untidy at writing, girls are usually neater’ and how this may affect the way we teach skills and our expectations?
  • What are the implications for physical education teaching and choices and types of sports in primary and secondary schools?

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