Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Fundamental Motor Skills

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr.Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Fundamental Motor Skills (FMS), also referred to as basic motor skills are common motor activities with specific observable movement patterns that involve different body parts such as the legs, arms, trunk and head, and include such skills as running, hopping, catching, throwing, striking and balancing. They are the foundation movements or precursor patterns to the more specialized, complex skills used in play, games, sports, dance, gymnastics, outdoor education and physical recreation activities (Learning, Teaching & Assessment 2013). Fundamental movement behaviours are classified into three motor skill groups; locomotor, nonlocomotor, and manipulative skills (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013). The period during which these skills typically emerge, between the ages of 2 to 6 or 7, is a landmarked period for motor development. This is due to the notion that these basic motor skills form a substantial part of motor skill foundation for more advanced and specific movement activities to build upon. In addition, having these skills is an essential part of enjoyable participation and a lifelong interest in an active lifestyle (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966).


Categories of Fundamental Motor Skills

(1) Locomotor skills: are a group of movements that involve the body moving in any direction from one point to another. Roughly in order of how children develop them, locomotor skills are;

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Hopping
  • Jumping
  • Galloping
  • Sliding (a sideways gallop)
  • Skipping
  • Leaping
                                                                  (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013) 

(2) Nonlocomotor (stability) skills: are motor skills that involve axial movements and movements of balance and weight transfer. Stability skills include;

  • Static balance skills, stationary postures such as standing in place or balancing on one foot
  • Dynamic balance skills, such as tumbling, stopping, dodging, landing (after a jump)
  • Axial stability, such as bending, twisting, turning, swinging, swaying or stretching
                                                                   (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013) 

(3) Manipulative skills: include motor skills that involve handling and controlling objects with the hand, the foot or an implement (stick, bat or racquet). Manipulative skills are;

  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Lifting
  • Striking
  • Throwing
  • Kicking
  • Rolling (a ball)
  • Volleying
  • Bouncing
  • Catching
  • Dribbling
                                                                     (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013) 

Ages of Onset & Mastery

There is a large amount of variability in the time of onset of fundamental motor skills. Listed in Table1 are some examples of FMS and the approximate ages of the appearance and mastery of each skill. This table should only be used as a rough guide to the sequence of development that might be expected. If optimum development of higher-level skills is to occur, ideally, a child should attain mature motor patterns of each FMS between the ages of 6-8 years.

Suggested levels for the introduction and mastery of essential fundamental motor skills

Importance of Introduction & Mastery of Fundamental Motor Skills

Table 1 suggests levels for the introduction and mastery of essential fundamental motor skills. Mastery and introduction of the skills listed above is critical if optimum development of higher-level skills is to occur. Children who do not master these skills are less able and often less willing to persist with the difficult task of learning more complex motor skills and therefore, they will avoid activities, which expose them to “public failure”. In this case, such children encounter a sport skill proficiency barrier and reject participation in physical activity as a part of their lifestyle (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966).

Age & Sequence of Acquisition

Age and Sequence of Acquisition of Fundamental Motor Skills Component

Table 2 indicates the sequence in which components of the fundamental motor skill appear to be mastered by children. The table also indicates approximate ages at which fundamental motor skills should be learned (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966).

Mastering Fundamental Motor Skills

According to the Fundamental Motor Skills Manual for Classroom Teachers 1996, FMS takes a long time to master. Research indicates that it takes between 240 and 600 minutes of instruction to teach children to correctly perform FMS. How long it takes to learn different FMS depends on the conditions of instruction (i.e. teacher expertise, equipment, class size, age of learner, teaching methodology, complexity of the skill being taught). People often underestimate the time it takes to teach FMS and try to teach it too quickly. When this occurs, teachers end up teaching for awareness and participation versus teaching for mastery (FMS Manual 1996).

Consequence of Missing Fundamental Motor Skills

Table 3 outlines the consequences of missing a fundamental skill. A child without fundamental movement skills is unlikely to willingly take part in an activity that requires proficiency in that skill. Being unable to perform even a single FMS can restrict opportunities in the future. The consequences start to show later in life. This will ultimately restrict both their choice of lifelong health-promoting activities and opportunities for sporting excellence (Canadian Sport for Life 2015).

Consequence of missing a fundamental movement skill

Acquiring Fundamental Motor Skills Later In Life

FMS can be developed later in life but early childhood is the optimal time to develop FMS for many reasons including:

  1. It is more difficult to ‘unlearn’ bad habits than to learn correct movements in the first place.
  2. Self-consciousness and embarrassment may prevent learning when older.
  3. Play, games and sport experiences are likely to be more difficult for children with poor FMS, therefore interest in physical activity is reduced.
  4. Fear of being injured or ridiculed can prevent older children from learning FMS.
                                  (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013)

Fundamental Motor Skill Development

Overview of Motor Development

Motor Development is the study of change in human motor behaviour over the lifespan, the processes that underlie these changes, and the factors that affect them (Haywood & Getchell 2014). Traditionally, this area of study was focused primarily on childhood stages of development. More recently, the scope of motor development has expanded to adopt a life-span perspective that recognizes the developmental process of motor behaviours to be a continual and cumulative process. In essence, aspects of movement behaviours follow successive periods of development that extend from conception through older adulthood. A conceptual model of the developmental continuum provides a visual representative of this life-span approach to motor development and behavior (Haywood & Getchell 2014). The phase of time in which fundamental motor skills are acquired is the most extensively researched area of motor development. Although adopting a life-span approach, the core of motor development is still considered to be based around the study of fundamental motor behaviours. The study of motor behaviour is characterized by detailed observation of progressive changes in the patterns, or forms, of different kinds of motor skills. Generally, assumptions made about motor development are obtained through the observation of motor behaviours of infants and children (Haywood & Getchell 2014).

Why Study It?

Understanding human development across the lifespan is important when considering movement experiences for children. Knowledge about what constitutes the normal range of motor development can help towards understanding and diagnosing problems in children who may not be developing normally. In addition, having a more comprehensive knowledge of ourselves contributes greatly towards knowing how to effectively perfect or improve movement performance.

The Developmental Continuum

A developmental continuum model can be used to conceptualize the life-span perspective of motor development (Gallahue & Ozmun 2012). This continuum depicts the relationship of movement behaviour to specific age-related stages and phases of motor development across the lifespan. A 'phase' describes a motor characteristic of human development. A 'stage' then relates these characteristics with chronological age categories. Reflected in this model is the notion that children develop motor skills in a sequential manner. Fundamental motor skills then exist as one very critical level in the continuum of motor skill acquisition. The first forms of voluntary movement skills are experienced in Infancy stage (ages 0-2) and correspond to the Rudimentary phase. With increased motor control, a child enters into the Fundamental Movement Phase of Early Childhood (ages 2-6 or 7). FMS appear within this phase and establish the foundation for more complex movements to build upon in later phases. As the model displays, as a child progresses along the developmental continuum, the FMS become more refined and adapted to sport and recreational activities in later phases (Gallahue & Ozmun 2012).

Factors Influencing The Development of Fundamental Motor Skills

The Child:

  • Age
  • Physique
  • Health
  • Physical Activity
  • Interest
  • Motivation

The Environment:

  • Family values, expectations and support
  • Community values, expectations, supports
  • Cultural Values
  • Opportunities for practice
                               (Learning, Teaching, Assessment 2013) 

Movement Patterns

Movement patterns, also referred to as motor patterns, are the basic functional structures of Fundamental Motor Skills (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966). In other words, movement patterns describe the series of recognizable movements that make up that motor skill. For example, consider the fundamental locomotor skill of running. Some examples of movement patterns in running describe the swing-action in the arms or the series of movements done by the trunk and legs to produce stride pattern. The term can also be used in reference to shared elements observed across multiple motor skills. For example, several striking and throwing skills share common movement pattern elements in terms of arm, trunk, and leg action. In order to study the inquiry of change in a motor behaviour or specific skill, it is essential to consider and apply the concept of movement patterns. These patterns can be used as a basis for distinguishing a skill's components. When broken down into components it becomes easier to identify developmental changes or progressions in the original skill. Each FMS has been described using phases spanning from initial stages to proficient or mature stages of skill development. Each phase identifies characteristics of developmental movement patterns with Initial descriptors depicting the minimal standard and mature patterns representing a composite of elements that skilled performers use. Consider the developmental components or sequence for the manipulative skill of overarm throwing. Components of this skill include trunk action, preparatory arm backswing, upper arm action, forearm action, and action of the feet components. (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual for Classroom Teachers 1996)

Distinction Between Fundamental Movement & Motor Skills

According to the Fundamental Motor Skills Manual For Classroom Teachers 1996, movement skills consist of goal directed movements such as throwing a ball, which can be described according to the final outcome (i.e., 5 of 10 successful throws) or movement patterns used (i.e., over or under-hand). Fundamental movement skills are the loco motor and object control skills that emerge following the ability to walk, between the ages of 1 and 7 years. These skills are considered fundamental in that they span ages and cultures and are assumed to be the basis of more advanced or sport-specific skills. On the other hand, motor abilities refer to underlying capacities that contribute to performance of movement skills. Motor abilities are not directly observable and must be inferred from the performance of movement skills (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966).

Fundamental Motor Skills: Children With Learning Difficulties

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are characterized by persistent symptoms of inattention or hyperactivity-impulsivity that are not consistent with their development level and are maladaptive (Pan, Tsai & Chu 2009). Motor deficits in children with ADHD are well recognized throughout the ADHD literature. Research suggests the movement skills of children with the disorder are significantly different from their peer without ADHD. Children with ADHD demonstrate fewer performance criteria on the loco motor skills (run, gallop, hop, leap, horizontal jump, skip and slide) and object control skills (two-hand strike, stationary bounce, catch, kick, and overhand throw) (Pan, Tsai & Chu 2009). In conclusion, children with ADHD are below average in in fundamental gross motor performance and fitness. Findings suggest that children with ADHD had significantly poorer movement ability than children without disability and may be at risk for developmental delays in movement skill performance (Pan, Tsai & Chu 2009).

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by, social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive, stereotyped patters of behavior (Faras, Ateeqi, Tidmarsh 2010). Children with ASD have delays or disorders in overall motor development including loco motor and object control, manual dexterity, ball skills, balance, reach to grasp tasks that involve movement execution and planning, and graphomotor skills. Studies suggest school-aged children with ASD frequently present with subtle to significant motor delays and more specifically 50-73% of children with ASD have significant motor delays (Staples & Reid 2009). The Canucks Autism Network is a program that provides year-round, innovative, high-quality sports, recreational, social and arts programs for individuals and families living with autism, and they enhance the life for families and children living with autism. This program plays a key role in providing children with opportunities to gain fundamental motor skills and physical literacy (C.A.N. 2015). For more information go to

Disadvantaged Children

Motor skill development is based on the interaction between constraints from the task, the organism, and the environment. Preschool children who are identified as disadvantaged may be one such group as they present both environmental and biological (organismic) risk factors in the identification of their disadvantaged status. Given the possible influence of the biological (organismic) and environmental risk factors to which dis advantaged young children are exposed, it may be suggested that these young children will demonstrate developmental delays in FMS development. For students to learn motor skills, quality programs using effective instruction must be provided. These include using best practices and understanding the varied individual capacities (Goodway & Brata 2003).

Why is this important? It is critical for children who have learning differences to learn fundamental motor skills. Being proficient in fundamental movement skills enables children to participate confidently in play, dance, games, sport, outdoor education and recreational activities at home, at school and in the community (Learning, Teaching & Assessment 2013). FMS will give children who have differing abilities an opportunity to stay active and promotes long-term physical literacy.

Why are Fundamental Motor Skills Important

Fundamental motor skills are seen as an important vehicle to physical activity. This is due to the notion that FMS are critical to developing the foundation for participation in sport specific and recreational physical activity programs. Without this foundation, a child is expected to experience difficulties and barriers performing more complex skills or sport. For example, if a child cannot run, this will influence their ability to take part in such sports as basketball, soccer, football, rugby, and many others (Canadian Sport For Life Guide). The study of fundamental motor skills is receiving more attention recently with increasing rates of childhood obesity and inactivity. Much of the research in this area is concerned with how fundamental movement experiences in children predict future levels of physical activity. For example, many studies relate the proficiency of fundamental motor skills to physical activity in later phases of adolescence and adulthood (Barnett 2008). Research indicates that children who are more proficient are more likely to become active and more physically fit adolescents. Another study by Barnett (2008) suggests that if children are more proficient with fundamental motor skills, less time is spent being sedentary. These findings are similarly found with young adults.

Physical Literacy

Physical Literacy is the mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions. This allows them to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations. It supports long-term participation and performance to the best of one’s ability (PHE Canada 2015). The concept of physical literacy encourages physical educators to place all learners at the heart of the process of acquiring the levels and sophistication of physical competence and capability, required for effective and efficient engagement in everyday, individual and organized activities (Whitehead 2010). Quality physical education provides the most accessible opportunity for a child to develop physical literacy since physical education has the means to reach every child in Canada, regardless of age, ability, socio-economic status, gender, or culture. The development of fundamental movement skills and motor skills is critical to establishing the foundation for participation in many sports and physical activities. A child who has not had the opportunity to develop these basic motor skills experiences difficulties or barriers when participating in sport experiences or later school-based programs that involve more difficult skills (PHE Canada 2015).

The Development of Physical Literacy In Canada

Mastering FMS is an important step toward developing physical literacy. Recall, with respect to the life-span approach of development, mastery of such skills does not happen all at once. Rather, a child needs to go through a progressive series of developmental stages. The Canadian Sport for Life movement implements the Long Term Athlete Development Plan (LTAD) to address and improve physical literacy in Canada. The LTAD framework involves a seven-stage pathway to guide individuals through the developmental progressions of all the phases from infancy through to adulthood (Canadian Sport For Life Guide). In its beginning stages, the LTAD promotes establishing positive physical activity experience during the first 6 years of life (i.e., Active Start Stage). This should be achieved through active play and games that are fun, safe, and provide an optimal degree of challenge. Children are encouraged to engage in a wide variety of activities that focus on learning proper fitness and movement skills. In addition, they should try both water and swimming, and ice and snow activities. Learning how to wheel on a tricycle or bicycle and including some kind of organized physical activity is also recommended. Physical activity at this stage should be an integral part of a child's daily routine. The LTAD advises that a child should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping (Canadian Sport For Life Guide).

Assessment & Feedback

Suggested Ideas For Assessment of Fundamental Motor Skills

  1. Use a friendly and enthusiastic approach for students to become motivated.
  2. Examine the components of the skill and the layout of the score sheet so that you understand what is being assessed.
  3. Avoid long waiting periods between activities for each student. Limit the assessment group to 6-8 students.
  4. Where possible, separate girls and boys into different groups. The performance of girls has been shown to be negatively influenced by peer pressure from boys.
  5. Minimize all distractions When giving instruction, face students away from the sun or any other distractions which may make it difficult for them to focus.
  6. Combine a demonstration with a brief explanation.
  7. Keep instructions and demonstrations brief, clear and appropriate to the capacities of the students.
  8. Ask if anyone has questions after the instruction and demonstration step
  9. Be sure everyone can see the demonstration
  10. Avoid giving feedback to students until you have finished your observation and performance.
                            (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1996)

Tips for Teaching Fundamental Motor Skills

According to the department of Education, Victoria (1996), children can learn FMS in many ways. Research supports the LTAD recommendation for developing FMS through fun and active play and games. However, if games are used to teach FMS, appropriate instruction on how to properly perform each skill and sufficient practice time must be provided to the children. Depending on the type of FMS, sometimes an effective way to do so is to break down the FMS into components that can then be taught in a progressive manner. Continue to incorporate components into the sequence until the entire skill is performed. Other strategies include:

  • Using verbal cues or phrases
  • Use demonstrations to help communicate
  • Provide positive feedback
  • Understand the movement pattern characteristics of each FMS and their progressions for better error detection and correction abilities

(Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966) The teaching of FMS is an essential part of a child's learning. It is important to remember the following points:

  • Students do not pick up FMS naturally as part of their normal growth and development
  • It takes between 240-600 minutes of instruction time to become proficient in one FMS- Providing 1 hr a week will ensure sufficient learning experience
  • The recommended number of skills that should be focused on in any one year is 4
  • Feedback is most effective when it is specific and provided soon after a learning activity

(Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1966)

Tips for Parents

The most important priority of parents or caregivers is ensuring that their child is provided with opportunities to develop FMS to achieve physical literacy. Here are some ways to foster this development:

  1. Ensure access to a quality physical education program
  2. Enroll your child in community recreation and sport programs to put the skills a child is learning through school physical education into practice
  3. Integrate physical activity and sport activities into the family lifestyle
  4. Understand the sequence of FMS development (when FMS emerge and are mastered) to get an indication of your child's readiness for learning a skill, the optimal time to learn, and the age by which failure to learn the skill might require addition help
                                                      (Canadian Sport for Life 2011)

Another crucial role of a parent/ caregiver is assessing the quality of the physical education that is being provided. FMS need to be developed in a variety of environments. Often most of these environments include day care, school, sport programs, and other facilities outside the home. It is a good idea for parents to question what is being provided to their children in these circumstances. Canada Sport For Life (2011) has created a Parent Checklist to ensure the quality of their child's physical education environment.

Parent Checklist: Here are some questions that need to be asked: 

  • Do ALL children have the opportunity to be vigorously physically active for at least 30 minutes per day for toddlers and 60 minutes per day for pre-schoolers, every day, in their home, day-care setting or school?
  • Is there a wide range of material that children can play with – balls (various types and sizes), beanbags, hoops, and other similar equipment, and are there places to climb, room to run and jump, places to safely throw and kick objects?
  • Do teachers and care-givers encourage ALL children, including those with a disability, to engage in active play?
  • Can care-givers and teachers provide basic instruction to children who have difficulty with a specific fundamental movement skill?
                                                         (Canadian Sport for Life 2011)

When Should Parents Be Concerned?

If children are much later in developing fundamental motor skills than most of their peers in several different actions, it would be wise to speak with a health care provider.

Parents can use a few strategies such as:

  1. Providing children with activities with active role models
  2. Continuous encouragement
  3. Opportunity to safely explore their environment will help all children develop physical abilities.
  4. The goal should be to give children the opportunity to learn movement skills and encourage them to physically explore their play spaces.
  5. Many short periods of vigorous play per day are best.
  6. Children should not go longer than one hour without being active (besides sleep)

(Canadian Sport for Life 2011)

Fundamental Motor Skills Teacher Feedback

Children learn best when are provided with specific feedback related to their learning efforts. To assist children with FMS, teachers must provide feedback for children to learn. Feedback is critical and most useful when it is specific and provided soon after a learning activity. Therefore, specific feedback is when a teacher provides the learning child with information that identifies how the child performed in relation to a specific motor function in comparison to what is expected. In relation to FMS, teachers should compare the performance of each child against their knowledge of the components of the FMS being taught. In conclusion, the teacher should inform the child which part of the FMS was mastered and which components need improvement. (Fundamental Motor Skills Manual 1996)


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