Activities that involve movement, known as motor activities, require us to send signals between our brains and the muscles that make our arms, legs, hands or fingers move appropriately. Ideally, with practice, motor activities become automatic and we are able to move the needed muscles without thinking about them.
There are three main types of motor abilities:

  • Gross motor abilities involve moving large muscles and coordinating the whole body to move in a particular way (such as when playing a sport, riding a bicycle, or dancing).
  • Fine motor abilities involve coordinating the fingers to work accurately and quickly when creating and constructing things (such as when drawing a cartoon, turning a microscope knob, eating with a fork, or coloring a picture).
  • Graphomotor abilities involve coordinating the small hand muscles that help form letters while writing.

People vary from each other in how well these brain-muscle connections function. It is possible to have a strength in one type of motor ability and a weakness in another. (For example, a talented surgeon can have terrible handwriting.)
Strategies for managing gross motor challenges

  • Self-paced sports (such as running or golf) may satisfy you more than activities where others set the pace (such as tennis or soccer).
  • Activities like yoga and lifting light weights can help you develop better balance, coordination, and body awareness.
  • When learning a new movement, think about that specific motion and create a mental image of what your muscles should do as you execute it.

Strategies for managing fine motor challenges

  • Computer games in which you control the action with a joystick or keyboard strokes can help promote hand coordination.
  • Strengthen hand muscles by working with materials such as clay or squeezing a tennis ball; strengthen finger muscles by practicing with precise tools such as tweezers.
  • As with gross motor skills, imagining hand and finger movements before doing a fine motor activity can help you do it more effortlessly.

 Strategies for managing graphomotor challenges

  • Use a pencil instead of a pen. Pencils provide more friction with the paper and generally smear less easily.
  • If holding a pencil is physically uncomfortable, try using a rubber grip or wrapping the pencil with tape. These things can provide greater sensory feedback and prevent you from gripping the pencil too hard.
  • If note-taking during meetings or presentations is difficult, make audio recordings (when appropriate) so you can review the information again at a later date.
  • Voice recognition software offers an alternative to writing or typing for people with graphomotor and fine motor challenges.

Learn more

  • Numerous online resources discuss the importance of (and tips for) helping infants, toddlers, and children develop gross and fine motor skills. For example, click here for an article with excellent suggestions with 15 indoor and outdoor gross motor activities to do with young children.
  • Classroom educators can find tips for supporting student development of motor control here.

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