Understanding Motor Development

In my second PE session today we learnt about understanding motor development.

The Session

We found out about this game in which the whole class had spots painted on their face. They had to work out without talking what colour spots they had on their face and get in that team. It gets the children communicating, collaborating and investigating. This is something that can’t happen in the same way digitally and can be more interesting. Although, the web can reach more people and can be more pro-active in terms of feedback on work they have done.

David Gallahue

David Gallahue is an American and trained as a PE teacher. He analysed movement in the whole child. Gallahue is a physical educationalist and studied developmental patterns of movement. He focused on observation and analysis of movement and was concerned with the development of the whole person.

Movement Categories

The movement categories are stability, locomotion and manipulation. Gallahue defines stability as balance, stature (e.g. standing on one leg) and dynamic balance (e.g. walking). Locomotion was defined as travelling/where your body travels from and to. Finally, manipulation was defines as any movement that you are using/moving objects. These are standard definitions of these words, but, the question is do you need all three of these to be a successful sports person in adulthood?

Hoppy can be an example of stability and locomotion.
Throwing tennis balls can be an example of manipulation.
Climbing is an example of locomotion.
Kicking a football is an example of manipulation.
A twist is an example of stability.
A handstand is an example of stability.

These skills can be in more than one category but people can not do most things without stability or balance. These are fine motor skills and all children should be able to do these.

One of these skills is punting which is a drop kick.
Another is trapping which is when you stop the ball with part of your body or equipment. These skills are important.

Phases of development

Calling these ‘phases’, ‘phases’ because you cannot talk about children in stages and it is more grey. This can take months or even years to develop and are guidelines to teaching and learning these. Some believe that the phases of development should not be called ‘stages of development’ because children are all different and not everyone should pass through the same phase at the same time. On the other hand, there are some guidelines towards this. These Stages are:

  • Reflexive: pre-birth to 1 year
  • Rudimentary: 1 year to 2 years
  • Fundamental: 2 years to 7 years
  • Specialised: 7 years to 14+

From about seven years old you can put skills together to make a more complex skill. If you have not got these fundamental skills you can not play adult sports because of choice but goes all the way throughout your life if you have the skills,

The Reflective Stage

In the reflective stage the babies begin to move 41 days after conception. Babies are also born with a range of reflex actions, which should ‘disappear’ during the reflexive phase. Finally, children who retain reflex actions will most probably encounter movement difficulties and other learning difficulties. Movement is the first language because it is the first communication with the world. Baby is practising movement before they are born – they come out with good skills and really good reflex skills. For example, the turning of the babies head when they feed which should be phased out – if not it should lead to poor reflexes. They need to practice movement.

Reflective Palm Theory

A theory of the reflective stage is the palm reflex theory. The theory suggests that if you stroke a babies palm its hand closes and crawling allows the palm to contact with the ground which gets the reflex phased out. It is said that if these reflexes are retained it affects grip / fine motor skills of the child. But there may be other factors affecting children’s fine motor skills and affects such as Dyspraxia.

Early years environment

Early years children should have many different activities to build up their reflexes including:

  • Tummy time
  • Run, roll, climb, spin, jump
  • Space
  • Encouragement to explore and experiment
  • Opportunity to take risks

The fundamental stage

The fundamental stage includes three aspects: Initial; elementary; mature.

The initial stage

The initial phase is the movement patterns of most two year olds are at this stage. It is the child’s first goal orientated attempts at performing a fundamental movement skill. In this stage you can miss out or improperly sequence parts of the sports or movements you do. Children at this stage have restricted or exaggerated use of the body and a poor rhythmical flow.

Elementary stage

The elementary stage is aimed at three or four year olds, who tend to display a number of fundamental movements at the elementary stage. The children develop a greater control and better rhythmical co-ordination of fundamental movements and their movement patterns are generally restricted or exaggerated although they are better co-ordinated than they were in the initial stage. Finally, some children do not get beyond the elementary stage in many movement patterns and even as adults some of us are not at passed this stage.

Mature Stage

Children of five or six can reach this stage in most fundamental movement skills. They are mechanically efficient, co-ordinated and controlled performances. Finally, the children use their manipulative skills that require tracking and intercepting moving objects (catching / striking) develop later because of the sophisticated visual-motor requirements of these tasks.

Skill analysis

In the skill analysis Gallahue breaks down activities into parts and teachers can use this as a base for their observations of pupils’ movement. Gallahue also highlights the potential developmental difficulties for each activity. Finally, teachers can use this to help children overcome these difficulties so they can perform the movement efficiently.


I also learnt about FMS which stands for Fine Motor Skills. FMS is a course that Primary School Teachers can take that examines the teaching and learning cycle and observes and analyse fundamental movement skills.

The Derby School Project

The Derby School Project looked at developmental milestones for seven year olds and found that 90% of children across Year 2 failed to reach the milestones and was then repeated across seven schools. Children with poor physical development may demonstrate:

  • Inability to sit still
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor writing skills
  • Poor behaviour
  • Low self-esteem
  • Clumsiness
  • Progressive turn-off from physical activity

Motor Intervention Programme

The motor invention programme for children is a six week programme with five exercises, every day for fifteen minutes. Then the children the re-tested.

Physical literacy

Physical literacy is physical competence, confidence, motivation, knowledge and understanding. The outcome of physical education is physical literacy. Leap into Life is a piece of software that helps with the development of physical literacy.