The Importance of Motor Skills for Development

Karen E. Adolph, Justine E. Hoch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Motor skills are important for development. Everything infants do involves motor skills - postural, locomotor, and manual actions; exploratory actions; social interactions; and actions with artifacts. Put another way, all behavior is motor behavior, and thus motor skill acquisition is synonymous with behavioral development. Age norms for basic motor skills provide useful diagnostics for "typical"development, but cultural differences in child-rearing practices influence skill onset ages. Whenever they emerge, motor skills lay the foundation for development by opening up new opportunities for learning. Postural control brings new parts of the environment into view and into reach; locomotion makes the larger world accessible; manual skills promote new forms of interactions with objects; and motor skills involving every part of the body enhance opportunities for social interaction. Thus, motor skills can instigate a cascade of developments in domains far afield from motor behavior - perception and cognition, language and communication, emotional expression and regulation, physical growth and health, and so on. Finally, motor skill acquisition makes behavior increasingly functional and flexible. Infants learn to tailor behavior to variations in their body and environment and to discover or construct new means to achieve their goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages9
JournalNestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Child Development
  • Cognition
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Locomotion
  • Motor Skills
  • Postural Balance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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