How your child should move

Controlled versus uncontrolled movement
Muscles can’t think, but they can rest or move. When muscles move they either:
  • React reflexively without thinking – uncontrolled movement (hyperactivity) or 
  • Respond, by thinking before acting – controlled, planned and skilled movement.
Uncontrolled movement can be seen when a child is clumsy; battles to sit still; can’t wait to answer a question and shouts the answer out; finds it difficult to work with others and finds sharing a desk close to impossible. When a child still has limited control over his muscles, concentration is very difficult and it often gives rise to ADHD, bullying and poor social skills, to name a few. It is not as if the child plans to be disruptive or awkward, it just happens all on its own. Such a child moves without thinking.

Controlled and skilled movement on the other hand can be seen when a child moves and acts in a coordinated and controlled manner. He can line up without standing to close or bumping into others; he can kick and catch a ball without moving his jaw or biting his tongue. Such a child has learned through many repetitions to control his instinctive need to move freely. He has practiced his movements many times over the years to become so refined, that he can now act in a skillful and planned manner by coordinating thought with planning the order and timing of movement.

Different types of controlled movement
  • Gross motor movements use big muscles groups. These are activities such as running, jumping and skipping.
  • Fine motor movement are more skilled movements usually involving the mouth, fingers, toes and eyes. Fine motor movement can only develop fully, once the gross or big motor muscles have developed. That is why children under the age of six need to spend so much time outside running, climbing, jumping, pushing, hanging, kicking, throwing and catching to develop the big muscles in their shoulders, hips, trunk, arms and legs way before they are able to sit upright and still on a chair. It is only once these gross motor skills have developed enough that they can keep their bodies still without thinking about sitting still. It is only now that they can develop and coordinate the fine motor muscles of the hands, eyes and mouth to cut on a straight line or colour in between the lines or a bit later to read and write with ease. That means that rhythm, speech, writing and reading are skilled physical movements, based on the development of -firstly the gross motor muscles, and secondly the fine motor muscles. 
  • Balance means that a child has developed his gross motor muscles so well, he is now able to remain steady in an upright position while moving or not moving. Once a child has a sense of balance, he is really ready to progress to chair and table, paper, crayons and scissors, but not before. 

Read more about how uncontrolled movement leads to hyperactivity.