What do making bead necklaces and playing with playdough have in common? What about climbing and running on the playground? Other than that these are typical activities in a school, they are all building motor skills! While children are playing, they are building core strength, as well as finger and hand strength that will aid them in their learning. Strong core muscles allow children to more comfortably sit and listen. Strong hand and finger strength leads to more coordinated fine motors skills, supporting writing.
More importantly, fine motor development has been found to be a strong predictor of academic achievement. An article in the journal of Developmental Psychology reviewed various research looking at which skills measured at Kindergarten entry best predicted academic achievement in third grade and beyond. While educators have long understood that many activities designed to build cognitive skills also require using fine motor skills, this more recent research points to a more multifaceted relation between motor and cognitive skills. In other words, when children are challenged by motor-related constraints, they find ways to adapt to overcome the challenges. For example, as an infant is quickly growing and changing (rolling over, crawling, walking), he is constantly learning to re-navigate his physical surroundings and his own motor abilities.
What I found most useful from this reading, as an educator, is that while early reading and math scores continue to be important indicators of later academic success, motor skills also play a very important role. In fact, many of the skills acquired in classes such as art, music, P.E. and recess are critical to children’s academic success. The Harbor School’s commitment to these “specials” demonstrate an understanding that not only are our students interested in, and enjoying, these classes, but they are developing skills to help them succeed, even after they have left our safe waters.