Toddler Body Control: “Big” Motor Movement

In the video, 40-month old Sam tries again and again to slide as well as his 6-year old sister, Stella. He works hard to move and control his body in the way he thinks he should in order to slide across the wood floor, but he simply can’t plan the gross motor, or large muscle, movements needed to do so. He needs to plan the lowering of his body slowly and carefully, such that his bottom/back side hits the floor (without a huge thud!) at the moment his legs push forward in order to propel him across the floor, all while he uses his arms/upper body to balance the whole act. It has nothing to do with the fine-motor, or small muscle, movement needed for such tasks as speaking, coloring, or putting a puzzle together, but it’s a great way to spend the time moving to get ready for school activities that Sam will encounter on the playground or in the school gym.

To me at the time, he seemed aware that his body would not do as he wanted it to do, despite the fact that he was trying so hard. It was a good lesson for him though in terms of “try, try again.” It was a positive social-emotional experience as he, Stella and I laugh about bodies flying in space. The activity provided him the chance to build sensory processing skills for watching Stella’s body move (visual processing), feeling his body in space and balancing (proprioceptive sense), and moving his body in space to accomplish a movement (kinesthetic processing). Despite his awareness of his inability to slide, the fun activity provided much opportunity for learning that will prepare him for school, especially in terms of social-emotional development for managing his feelings about “failure,” imitating positive behaviors of peers, and working independently (without direct instruction from an adult) to successfully accomplish a task.


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