As soon as the first basics of muscle develop in the child’s body, the child begins to respond to various stimuli in the form of contractions of particular muscle groups or most commonly with a specific part of the body muscles and is manifested by movements of the limbs, head or the body. The first movements are of reflex nature that occur in the early fetal stage, while the child is still in the uterus, they are automatic and without the participation of the active consciousness. With the formation of the nervous system and over time the child manifests even more and different reflex our movements.
Baby motor abound with motions. They serve in part to meet its basic needs. In the same time, they represent a defense system of the organism from the constant stimuli caused by environmental or physical assistance in adapting to the environment. For its needs, child use movements such as: turning the head to the mother’s breast, sucking, swallowing food and the like. Defensive reactions include: blinking in bright light, crying, coughing, vomiting, pulling feet or hands in painful irritation, and the like. Reaching items, feet scraping that looks like walking, tries for crawling and other movements unconsciously represent gradual independence of the infant with the ultimate goal to be able to move and manipulate objects without anyone’s help.
In newborns so-called expressive movements observed, that represent the beginning of their psychomotor. Psychomotor is a muscle activity that is a direct reflection of human emotional processes. After birth, the baby has only one expressive gesture – crying, reflecting an uncomfortable feeling. At first, it’s just a cry without tears; even after 10 to 20 days later, the baby begins to cry with tears. In newborn it occurs and smile, as well. But in that period of life it’s just a reflex and an expression. By the time of the 2nd month, the baby is already giving a smile to her mother. Thus, initially reflex smile, as expression of pleasure, gradually turns into a social emotional reaction or expression of emotion to another person. By the 4th month, baby’s laughter has been accompanied and vocally – by voice. Along with the child’s psychological development, his emotional life is increasingly defined, and his expressive movements are becoming more diverse and numerous.
The child does not have to exercise the reflex reactions. They are innate as part of his nervous system, do not change and refine, remain stereotypical. Later on, reflex reactions become more controlled. Reflex reactions in the child at the beginning of its life arise spontaneously – on their own, without the use of a conscious decision for the child is not yet enabled. They reflect the instinctive reaction that stimulates the child to start to independently get use to the space around it. Consciously coordinated movements begin to occur when the corresponding neural pathways in the child’s body are functionally developed and matured. In that period in it appears natural need for repetition, development and improvement of these movements. Coordinated movements will take shape whether the environment has stimulated them or not. Their appearance is conditioned by the child’s general maturity, proper development of the nervous system, skeletal and muscular structure. In that period of his life, control of consciously coordinated movements more dependent on the health, physical and psychological condition, rather than it is afforded and allowed by the environment.
There are large individual differences among children in mastering coordinated movements as they mature. But the order of their occurrence remains always the same. Individual movements are increasingly improved, become more precise, it is reduced to control the smaller muscle groups than before and become handier with less effort. Coordinated movements are specialized for certain specific purpose and begin to differ from one another. At the same time, they connect into a harmonious, coordinated whole of complex activities with a clearly defined purpose, and consist of a series of simultaneous successive movements. With constant repetition of certain actions, we say that coordinated action appeared of consciously controlled individual muscle groups.
By perfecting a certain activity, unnecessary uncoordinated movements are being dropped. In this way, the motor becomes more efficient, safer and routine. This means, the child; is initially making a conscious effort every single coordinated movement as part of some activity, then gradually that activity begins to become a part of the routine, and again consciously performs only complex activity. With the full development of the nervous system for coordination, the child thoughtfully starts each activity, and all of its components are achieved without the participation of thinking – as a routine. With already thus perfected coordination of the torso and the limbs, the child can independently perform daily activities such as: walking, running, talking, swimming, cycling etc. Such activities are executed much faster and tidier than before when every single movement needed putting of thought.
In the first 2 years of life, the child reaches the coordination of the basic motor. It is already standing upright, walking and handling various objects. With these skills, in a great deal it becomes independent unlike the complete helplessness as a newborn. These are its first successes, which give some certainty, confidence and courage to the further full independence.
The rapid development of coordinated motor in the first 2 years has a significant impact on intellectual development. Along with acquiring new movements his psychological horizons are expanded. It notes an increasing number of items and events around itself, its experience is enriched, and with it creates and grounds for the development of the mental functions. When already independently succeeds to hold its head by its own and observe in the desired direction, its perspective to the environment in which it resides is wider. That world is becoming more diverse and more spacious when it succeeds to seat independently. And when it starts to walk, great limitation is overcome, it already can move without anybody’s help, to reach and grasp what is at hand in its immediate vicinity.
Pediatricians – psychologists, as Gesell A., Hunter B. Shirley, Bayley N., McGraw P., have conveyed detailed researches about the development of the motor skills in children. They have come to the realization that the basic movements appear and evolve according to certain laws. The development of motoric in the first year of a child’s life progresses from head down to the body, and from body to extremities. The infant first acquires the ability to control the view, then raises and turns the head in different directions. Then it activates the upper body, from the shoulders to the pelvis, the movement of the hands becomes more coordinated. During that time, the child still cannot use the legs for their basic function – such as standing and walking. Only when it can sit on its own and gains enough developed lower limbs (legs) to be able to support the weight of the body to keep it upright, can be expected its first attempts to stand and later to be able to walk.
At the very inception in the development of the motor, the child is still uncoordinated movements of arms and legs, arising from the work of the muscles in the shoulder part responsible for the arms, i.e. the muscles of the pelvic girdle responsible for movement of the legs. Smaller muscle groups on the hands, arms and on the legs and the feet have not yet been developed. It takes some time for them to be activated. At first, the clumsy movements become more proficient. This differentiation of motorcycles in more upright motions can best be seen on the hands. The 5-months-old baby can catch items and to hold them with whole hand, but still has no individual control over each finger respectively. Already at 15 months of age, it can catch and hold the subjects only with the thumb and index finger, the same as an adult. So, in this period of 10 months, the child is differentiated control of each finger individually and their combined use.
In addition, the development of children’s motor skills has shown an alternation in the coordination of the use of the hands and feet. At one point there has been a great deal of progress in coordinated hand use which disappears when the child begins coordinated use of the limbs. For example, when a child uses hands more often, and begins to raise them from a lying position, then the legs are proportionally inactive. When it again starts to raise on its feet, the hands follow that activity disproportionately. During this period, not only a slowdown but also a certain setback in the engine of the hands is observed. The formation of coordinate movements is not consistent. So parents are often confused when their child can not repeat a movement that has already mastered.
The newborn usually lies on the back, with the head turned to the side. While in sleep the limbs are more stretched on one side (Magnus position). When lying on the belly, it lies with the limbs beneath the body.
With the development itself, the baby’s motor skills become more diverse and they go from gross to fine, the order by months of the baby’s motor development is according to the research by the pediatrician – psychologist Gesell A.; Developmental diagnosis: Normal and abnormal child development, clinical methods and pediatric applications:
At 2nd Month: When an object is moving in the baby’s eye area, it follows it with its eyes, lying on its stomach and raising its head.
At 3rd Month: Already reaching out for objects that are handed to it, holding its head firmly, monitoring the movements and turning its head, leaning on the elbows, and lifting the upper chest.
At 4th Month: Tries to turn around, holds its head completely upright, can sit upright as long as it is assisted by support.
At 5th Month: Holds the chest steadily and boasted, interested in observing the surroundings.
At 6th – 7th Month: Manages to reach the feet with the hands, turns its head in all directions, the eyes are focused, tries to turn around, can sit only on a chair with a backrest.
At 8th Month: Can independently change position and turn around, stretching the arms to grasp objects in close proximity, it can sit on a chair without a backrest.
At 9th Month: Can turn around on the stomach without any help, and after a while, it will try and sit down, it can raise the hands upright and move from position to position, sitting upright, rotate the body, tilt sideways, lower from a seated to a lying position, if assisted can stand on its legs.
At 10th Month: Succeeds in lifting itself from a lying position on the back and remaining in that position, rising from a lying position on the arms and knees and trying to crawl.
At 11th Month: From the crawling position can raise to a sitting position and tries to sit down.
At 12th – 14th Month: Can climb a ladder, on all fours.
At 13th Month: Able to crawl, trying to stand upright, grasping its hand on the bed rail.
At 14th Month: Stands alone.
At 15th Month: May lie down on the stomach and stand upright and walk without support.
The stated age is expressed in average. From these values there are individual deviations that do not necessarily indicate that the child has developmental psychophysical damages, if it is not able to achieve them. There are children who start walking at 9 months, but there are also healthy and normally developing children, which are achieving this in the 12th month. However, any more delays in the development of motor skills, should prompt suspicion that a child is ill, probably from rickets or has a damaged nervous system.
Environment can significantly affect the development of basic motor skills of the child, because it was developed by naturally innate sequence of maturation of the nervous system and muscles. When the child will already start to practice a movement, the parent should help to shape it and to give a chance to perfect it as completely as possible. It is best to use various items (toys), which will encourage it to use the limbs even more actively and thus to strengthen the muscles.
During the first 3 months, it is enough to place hanging toys that will be in sight – above the crib. Toys should be different in shape and color. The movement will attract its attention and would suggest to follow them, first only with the look, and then with the head. Between the 3rd and 6th month, the child will attempt to stand up by itself and to reach them. Since at the end of that period the infant puts in the mouth everything it grabs, it’s necessary to have access only to items (toys) that are easy to wash and do not contain harmful substances.
When a child learns to sit independently, from 6th to 9th month, the bed should be equipped with a grip in order to stand up from a sitting position by itself. In this period, it can be allowed to play with inflatable toys in the bathtub while bathing, without risk to injury when reaching for them. While still a child is sitting, it is useful to have available toys that produce sounds, to allow them to play while there is interest, to knock and throws them around.
In the period from when the baby starts to crawl, it is necessary to be on a flat, smooth and sufficiently large area, where it would be able to practice the new adopted skill. At this stage of development, the ball is ideal as a toy because it allows the child to change position frequently in space and to intensively exercise the muscle.
When the baby will begin to stand on its feet, between 9th and 12th month, the bed should have high, grid-like fence, so it would be safe and have enough courage to exercise: to stand up on its feet, to tap in place. Once it feels safe, erected on its feet, starts independently but still clumsily to walk clutching at the edge of the bed’s railing. While not in bed, it should be allowed to move around the room, holding or moving independently while supporting of the furniture.
During this time, the child must be kept under constant parental supervision to avoid possible injuries. All objects that could injure, burn or poison should be removed from the environment where the child resides. Most of the accidents at home in young children are in the form of hot water burns and drug poisoning or detergents; at the same time, they are the most common cause of serious damage and even death.
Once all dangers from the immediate vicinity have been removed, the child should be allowed complete independence of movement. If it is still uncertain it should be assisted with support. This makes the child feel safer and encourages them to pursue independence. Holding hands or waist, it should occasionally be left to itself in an attempt to sit, stand or walk alone.
Parents are often scared to think that something will happen to them if they fall while walking. It will not be harmed by a simple fall on a flat surface. And if it does not have to rise immediately, it should be allowed to get up by itself. This, in fact is a great exercise for gaining greater independence, self-esteem and freedom from the fear of space. A child can only gain confidence in movement if he or she often encounters obstacles and difficulties in mastering space and persistently tries to overcome it. Only then will they learn to be cautious, to be able to properly assess and deal with dangers. If the parents are overprotecting and keep the child away from the challenges, then they are not given enough opportunity to get to know them and overcome them. It is impossible for the child to be protected from any inconvenience. It will surely find itself in a situation and be forced to cope by itself. But that would not work if it not had similar experience before and had not been left to deal with such a difficulty by itself. Then the child can underestimate its abilities and overestimate the difficulty that can cause it to panic. Or, vice versa, it can underestimate the risk of injury.
In order the child to become cautious, skillful and brave, it is necessary to allow him or her to self-manage in the case of a trouble, starting from its earliest youth. It should be allowed to face the many challenges that it often has to overcome with physical exertion and caution. Of course, parents should only allow what suits their age. The child’s interests are the best indicator of what it is capable of. It shows an interest in solving the challenge only when it develops the ability to solve it. When a child first tries to overcome a challenge, it means that his or her body has developed the physiological prerequisite for a successful attempt, then only the practice of that muscle function needs to be fully developed and perfected. Therefore, parents should allow them to exercise that muscle activity – ability as often as possible.
The child has to move freely in the space, to control and navigate it. Parents often limit it for fear, with constant warnings or unreasonable intimidation. Fear is a major obstacle to the proper performance of any action. It is not a precondition for caution; on the contrary, fear reduces or even excludes the ability to assess a child’s own abilities. Its attempts to successfully conquer space become uncertain, and the ability to peacefully and objectively assess the danger becomes less likely. Fear, therefore, often results in failure, while courage and confidence are the best counterbalance to danger. Fear inflicts psychological damage that will only make it difficult for them to walk alone.
It is also detrimental to a child’s mental development when parents are constantly assisting them in activities. The child has to overcome the difficulty on its own with its own physical effort, as it can only realize its own abilities. This is the basis for increasing self-esteem. They should therefore be allowed to climb the chair on their own, on stairs, on furniture, and so on. Independence is a natural need. You should not be disturbed, scared, or criticized if your endeavor fails, hits or falls. It is better to calm down if it is upset and to encourage it to realize that it will at some point succeed, or that such discomfort will no longer occur if it is more cautious.
It goes without saying, the child should not be allowed to engage in activities that could put him or her in serious danger. And if you find yourself in such a situation, you should act reasonably, without screaming, intimidating or threatening. You should call him calmly and without panic. If it doesn’t obey, approach carefully and remove it from there yourself. There’s no need for extensive explanation or illustration of any possible dangers in which the child may fall. All that is needed is parental supervision, caution and a sensible assessment of the situation in a timely manner.
By mastering the space, the child develops his or her newly discovered abilities and acquires various skills. But, besides, they also know the world around them, the properties of things and their uses. The parent’s task is to discreetly follow them, not interfering with their activity until there is a need for it. But they must always be close by to support them in the intent, to assist them in activities that they are not yet able to complete, or to protect them if there is a danger of injury. They should be allowed to finish their actions with their own strength in order to experience the success or failure of their own activity. At a crucial moment, when the child is near the goal and lacks the strength to accomplish it, only then can the parents intervene with support to enable the goal to be achieved.