How to Spot Delayed Motor Skills in Toddlers

In child development, the term “motor skills” refers to a child’s ability to use their muscles, limbs, and body in a coordinated way. Motor skills in toddlers are expected to improve as they grow and reach developmental milestones. However, some children may have difficulty with either fine or gross motor skills, which can lead to delayed motor skills.

The fact that each child develops at a different rate and in a unique way should not be overlooked. Some delay in motor skills in toddlers is considered normal, and for children who need additional assistance, physical therapy usually does the trick. However, if the delay is significant and continues past a certain age, then it may be considered a disorder. Don’t jump to conclusions and assume the worst though – more than likely, your child is developing just fine.

To learn more about delayed motor skills in toddlers, let’s first clarify the distinction between fine and gross motor skills. We’ll also explore the potential causes and the available treatments for both.

What Are Fine Motor Delays?

Fine motor skills involve using and controlling the smallest muscles to complete tasks like drawing and coloring, picking up and holding toys, cutting with scissors, turning pages, and eating. These skills require hand-eye coordination as well as nerve and muscle control. A lag in the ability to perform these skills is considered a fine motor delay.

Typically, children develop fine motor skills around two months of age and progress throughout childhood. If the delay is mild, it may be temporary and toddlers can catch up as they grow. However, if the delay persists or worsens, it can be a sign of an underlying issue and should be evaluated by a doctor or physical therapist.

What Causes Fine Motor Delays?

Sometimes fine motor skills in toddlers take longer to develop. Why? Delays stem from a variety of reasons. These can include genetics, muscle tone and strength issues, sensory processing disorders, vision or hearing issues, developmental delays, or even emotional and behavioral problems.

If the delay is related to a medical condition, common reasons include autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and muscular dystrophy.

How Are Fine Motor Delays Diagnosed?

A child development professional will always be the best-equipped to diagnose a delay in fine motor skills in toddlers. However, generally speaking, here are a few things parents can keep an eye on, as they may indicate signs of a fine motor delay:

  • Your toddler has difficulty grasping or holding objects.
  • Your toddler doesn’t use both hands at the same time.
  • Your toddler appears to be clumsier than others their age.
  • Your toddler has poor hand-eye coordination.
  • Your toddler has difficulty manipulating small objects.

How Do You Treat Fine Motor Delays?

The best course of action is to seek professional help as soon as possible so your child can get the treatment they need. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause, but some of the most common treatments include physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and specialized schooling.

As a parent, you can also play an important role in helping your child overcome their delay. This may include providing extra support and encouragement, as well as activities that can help them improve their fine motor skills, like playing with puzzles and blocks, practicing writing or drawing activities, or even helping them complete tasks around the house. For more ideas, check out our blog: How to Nurture Your Child’s Growth and Development at Every Stage.

What Are Gross Motor Delays?

Gross motor skills refer to the large muscles in the arms, legs, feet, and torso used for jumping, running, hopping, and climbing. They are usually developed before fine motor skills and can greatly impact a child’s ability to engage in physical activities.

If you notice your child isn’t rolling over (around 3 months) or crawling (around 9 months) by a certain age, they may be experiencing a gross motor delay. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have an underlying condition, as every child is different, but if the delay worsens over time, you should consult your pediatrician for guidance.

What Causes Gross Motor Delays?

Just like with fine motor delays, gross motor delays can be caused by genetic factors, environmental conditions, physical disabilities, or even developmental delays. In some cases, premature birth or low birth weight can also be a factor. There isn’t one single cause of gross motor delays, so it’s important to seek advice from a specialist to determine the underlying cause.

How Are Gross Motor Delays Diagnosed?

Typically, a pediatrician will diagnose a delay in gross motor skills in toddlers by looking at the child’s age, physical abilities, and overall development. If a motor delay is suspected, the doctor may order additional tests such as blood work or an MRI to get more information. As a parent, you must know there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate a gross motor delay, such as:

  • Your toddler isn’t able to sit up by themselves.
  • Your toddler has difficulty crawling, standing, or walking.
  • Your toddler is extremely clumsy when running or jumping.

How Do You Treat Gross Motor Delays?

Depending on the underlying cause, treatment for gross motor delays can vary. Treatment plans often include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and adaptive equipment. In some cases, surgery may also be an option.

As a parent, you can also help your child overcome gross motor delays by providing support, encouragement, and activities that focus on strengthening their core muscles. These activities may include swimming, playing on the swings or trampoline, and practicing basic physical movements such as hopping, jumping, running, and dancing.

What Are the Challenges Associated With Delayed Motor Skills in Todders?

Delayed motor skills in toddlers may pose various challenges, which can be both physical and emotional. Common challenges include difficulty with basic activities such as walking, dressing, and using the bathroom. They may also experience difficulty with fine or gross motor tasks, poor coordination and balance, social isolation, and low self-esteem. For these reasons, early intervention is key.

It’s important to remember that every child is different, and the challenges each individual faces will depend on the severity of their delay. Most children can overcome their motor delays and lead a full and active life with the right support and treatment.

What Is the Prognosis for Children With Motor Delays?

The prognosis for children with motor delays is often positive as long as they receive the necessary treatment and support. With proper care and intervention, most children can make significant progress in their development and become happy, independent, productive members of society!

Explore, Learn, and Grow at Kiddi Kollege!

At Kiddi Kollege, we understand that every child is unique and has different needs. We provide tailored programs to help children with motor delays reach their full potential. Children can achieve their goals through a combination of activities and therapies. Schedule a tour today to learn how we can help your child succeed!