Course:KIN366/ConceptLibrary/Non-Locomotor Skills

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
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Non-locomotor skills are defined as movements of the body where one or more parts maintain in contact with the ground (or apparatus), in which transportation of the body through space, or from place to place are not required (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). These movements are performed with the focus of maintaining a relatively stable base of support, and can be performed while standing, kneeling, sitting, lying, as well as combined with locomotor skills (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998).



Non-locomotor skills are classified among locomotor and manipulative skills in the broad category of Fundamental Motor Skills and Movement Patterns (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). Such skills form the basis of competent movement and are needed for functioning effectively in life. In order to accomplish a mature stage of a fundamental motor skill, such as non-locomotor skills, a gradual progression through the initial and elementary stages must occur (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). These skills do not occur automatically or with maturation, instead instruction is needed to reach maturation.

Relatable terms

  • Axial movements
  • Stability movements

Axial movements and stability movements are synonyms to non-locomotor skills and can therefore be used in the same context.


Non-locomotor skills are classified as fundamental because they create the foundation for developing safety skills, and every-day utilitarian skills (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). These skills form the basis of recreational physical activity, specialized sports, or games, and influence activity preference, self-concept and future physical competence. Being the building blocks for specialized skills such as those involved in dance, games, and gymnastic activities, non-locomotor skills are amongst the most important basic skills that can be learned in infancy (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). Non-locomotor skills learned in infancy will continue to undergo further refinement and development during childhood, which will allow them to be combined into patterns of greater complexity, and specificity (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). If these initial non-locomotor skills are not developed during the crucial period of preschool and elementary, failure in the motor domain during childhood and adolescence will often result (Gallahue, 1996), as they will be unable to combine the initial skills with other movement patterns.

With the acquisition of non-locomotor skills children are able to provide a foundation for future skills, which will allow the production of new combinations and sequences, as well as the opportunity for the skills to be used in a variety of new contexts (Physical Education K to 7, 2006). It is important to have a mature level of non-locomotor skills, due to the applicable nature of these skills to specific activities such as gymnastics, dance, martial arts, skating, skiing, horseback riding, track & field activities, amongst others. The acquisition of basic non-locomotor skills is likely to contribute to the performance of related activities.

Non-locomotor skills assists with body awareness and spatial awareness – such skills allow children to explore the way in which the body can be moved, controlled, or balanced on by the shapes that the body can make (Kirchner & Fishburne, 1998). For example, swinging movements while changing directions will allow children to understand where their body is in space.

Non-locomotor skill acquisition may set the foundation for future physical activity habits where research indicates that being more proficient with a skill leads to more active and more physically fit adolescents (Barnett, Beurden, Morgan, Brooks, & Beard, 2009). In essence, it is hoped that children will become relatively skilful in their non-locomotor skills, and use those skills, combined with others, in an active lifestyle (Gabbard, 2011).

Non-locomotor skills also contribute to the development of flexibility, both physically and mentally, along with the focus of attention that results from practicing specific non-locomotor skills. For example, bending a single knee rather than ones whole body is displaying a focus of attention, where one must focus their attention on a specific limb for this variation of the skill.

With the correct acquisition of specific non-locomotor skills, safety benefits such as those that result from stretching can occur. Stretching prepares muscles for activity or repetitive movement, and helps the muscles wind down after such an activity. Stretching is important to avoid injuries, protect muscles, and increase blood circulation and flexibility, which can be beneficial not only in the developmental period, but throughout ones lifetime.

Types of Non- Locomotor Skills

There are a large number of non-locomotor movements and variations, resulting in a list that is not exhaustive. Movements and or variations can be combined, changed, have steps added/removed from them, and so forth, therefore the types of non-locomotor skills are ever changing.

Basic Types (with select descriptions):

  • Bending
  • Bouncing
  • Pushing
  • Rocking
  • Stretching
  • Twisting
  • Turning
  • Weight transfer
  • Creating shapes with body -- E.g. by curling, bending, pushing, pulling, twisting, and/or stretching (Physical Education K to 7, 2006).
  • Pulling -- Exerting force onto an object to make it move toward the source of the force (Physical Education a Kindergarten Curriculum Guide, n.d.).
  • Shaking - An alternating, wavering motion that incorporates wiggle, vibrate, wriggle, flick, and thrash, and can be done whole body or in one part (Kogan, 2004).
  • Swaying - A rocking produced by moving sideways, back and forth (Physical Education a Kindergarten Curriculum Guide, n.d.).
  • Swinging - An arc-shaped lyrical waltz like movement, usually with a release of tension at the midpoint of the arc (Kogan, 2004). Many variations including front swing, crossed swing, circle swing, side swing, and body wave (Kogan, 2004).

Factors Affecting Non-Locomotor Skill Development

Opportunities & Affordances

Many factors can contribute to the reasons in which children may not attain a mature level of non-locomotor skills, some of which relate to opportunities and affordances.

In order to achieve mastery of non-locomotor skills there must be the presence of specifically designed instructional and practice opportunities. Opportunities for practice, instruction, and encouragement from a physical educator are able to lead children to function at a level beyond what would be achievable simply on ones own (Gallahue & Ozmun, 1998). Children may be able to perform at the elementary stage of performance without assistance (Gallahue & Ozmun, 1998), but with instruction that includes developmentally appropriate programmes children are able to achieve mastery level performance of non-locomotor skills.

When non-locomotor skills are being performed in combination with apparatuses, the object must be appropriately body-scaled to the individual performing the task. This is important because a child’s individual dimensions in relation to the apparatus will determine whether an action is possible (Cordovil, Andrade, & Barreiros, 2013), and must be taken with reference to the individual, and not another person. This could present as a problem when a person of different height/weight/dimensions is instructing a child in the learning of a non-locomotor skill, where the characteristics of the environment are offing different affordances to each of the individuals (Cordovil, Andrade, & Barreiros, 2013).

Limiters & Constraints

Many factors can contribute to the reasons in which children may not attain a mature level of non-locomotor skills, some of which relate to rate limiters and constraints.

Rate limiters contribute to the way in which one will master a non-locomotor skill by way of determining the individual’s rate of development (Haywood & Getchell, 2009). It may be that the individual’s cognitive system, physical strength or balance are the slowest progressing systems, and therefore hold back, or slow the emergence of a non-locomotor skill. For example, one child’s balance may be exceptional, resulting in an ability to shake and swing, while another child without the same degree of balance may have difficulty with the skills of shaking and swinging. It is natural for children progress at different rates, but it is essential for the slowest of the required systems to reach a critical level for the child to be able to perform an optimal level of a specific non-locomotor skill (Haywood & Getchell, 2009).

Constraints in the form of environmental and/or individual may also contribute to the reasons why non-locomotor skills may not be optimally acquired (Gabbard, 2012). Environmental constraints, such as lack of instruction and opportunity to try or practice movements are major factors that may limit a child’s potential for acquisition. Individual constraints, such as balance, coordination, postural stability, and motivation to try are important considerations that may also reflect a child’s reason for restricted development. In essence it is important to consider these constraints when assessing individuals performance of non-locomotor skills, and be wary that changing individual and environmental constraints can result in the emergence of new motor behaviours (Gabbard, 2012).

Practical Applications

Tips for Educators

Many current educational curricula include lessons on non-locomotor skills, as there is a recognized importance for helping children acquire skills that are essential to their development. Initially, it is important to increase a child’s awareness of the terms and concepts of non-locomotor skills, where the explanation of the focal points of each non-locomotor skill will assist in this awareness. Following the awareness of the terms, providing a demonstration to the children and opportunities to practice are essential next steps. Lesson plans can focus on different skills or on the movement of a specific body part, and activities that are perceived as fun for children should be used to increase enjoyment and future continuation of the activities. Evaluating performance at the beginning, middle, and end of a unit of instruction will allow the educator to make sure non-locomotor skills are mastered. This is essential since the early skills will provide the foundation for the later skills (Physical Education K to 7, 2006). It is important to recognize that the development of children’s skills may progress at different rates, either at faster or slower rates than others in their age group so it is important to assess students individually. The end goal is that children will have a well enough understanding to create their own new non-locomotor movement sequences based on the modeled patterns, as well as recognize the importance of the skills.

Since non-locomotor skills are generally not as liked by children when compared to locomotor skills, educators will need to be creative in the initial stages when teaching the basic movements and variations (Kogan, 2004). The skills will become more exciting for children when mature levels are attained and can be combined with other fundamental movement patterns, such as locomotor skills or manipulative skills.

One can increase involvement and interests in learning non-locomotor skills by way of music, dance sequences, and partner work. Music, when rhythmically synchronised with motor performance has been shown to enrich performance accuracy and endurance, as well as make practice more effective (Derri, Tsapakidou, Zachopoulou, & Kioumourtzoglou, 2001). In addition, when music is rhythmically synchronised with motor performance, fundamental motor skills’ learning is enhanced, as is the development of subsequent motor skills (Beisman, 1967; Liemohn & Wagner, 1975).

If errors arise it is important for educators to hold the necessary skills to be able to detect errors in a child’s acquisition of non-locomotor skills, as well as have a sufficient knowledge base for correcting the specific errors.

Tips for Policy Makers

Children can fail to progress to optimum levels of development without sufficient level of instruction. It is important that physical education programs within elementary schools have sufficient knowledge of all fundamental movement skills, since the window of opportunity for attainment of these skills is open at this critical time.


Non-locomotor skills are skills are basic movements that are performed while in contact with the ground. They require well planned instructional and practice opportunities to be mastered by children, and are associated with many benefits to the developing child. A general recommendation to educators, parents, and policy makers is to increase children’s awareness about non-locomotor skills, and to convey the importance that they play across the lifespan.


Barnett, L. M., van Beurden, E., Morgan, P. J., Brooks, L.O., & Beard, J.R. (2009). Childhood motor skill proficiency as a predictor of adolescent physical activity. Journal of Adolescent Health, 44, 252-259

Beisman, G. (1967). Effect of rhythmic accompaniment upon learning of fundamental motor skills. Research Quarterly, 38: 172-176.

Cordovil, R., Andrade, C., & Barreiros, J. (2013). Perceiving children’s affordances: Recalibrating estimation following single-trail observation of three different tasks. Human Movement Science (32), 270-278.

Department of Education, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. (n.d.). Physical education curriculum guide: Primary and elementary. Retrieved from

Department of Education, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. (n.d.). Physical education: A Kindergarten Curriculum Guide. Retrieved from

Derri V., Tsapakidou A., Zachopoulou E., & Kioumourtzoglou E. (2001). Effect of a music and movement programme on development of locomotor skills by children 4 to 6 years of age. European Journal of Physical Education, 6(1), 16-25.

Gabbard, C.P. (2011). Lifelong Motor Development (6th Ed). San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Gallahue, D. G. (1996). Developmental Physical Education For Todays Children. Dubuque, IA: Brown and Benchmark.

Haywood, K.M., & Getchell, N. (2009). Life Span Motor Development (5th Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Kirchner, G., & Fishburne, G. (1998). Physical Education For Elementary School Children (10th Ed.). Boston, Mass. WCB/McGraw Hill.

Kogan, S. (2004). Step by step: a complete movement education curriculum (2nd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Liemohn, W. & Wagner, P. (1975). Motor and perceptual determinants of performance on the Bender-Gestalt and the Beery developmental scale by retarted males. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 40: 524-526.

Ministry of Education, Province of British Columbia. (2006). Physical education k to 7: Integrated Resource Package 2006. Retrieved from