As children enter preschool, they're expanding their motor skills. Compared to toddlers, four-year-olds can engage in longer periods of outdoor play and exercise. As they improve their ability to throw, catch and kick, your classroom can take part in kick-ball, soccer or other team games. Moreover, four-year-olds have better hand-eye coordination than younger children, and therefore are able to complete more complex puzzles, play with toys with small parts (of course you should still supervise them) and engage in fine motor skill tasks more independently, such as tying their shoes or zipping their jackets.
Four-year-olds should be developing abilities in certain areas. Accordingly, early childhood educators should track the following motor skill milestones, but keep in mind that all children develop at different rates:
Demonstrates proficiency, control and balance in walking, running, climbing, jumping, hopping and skipping. The child should understand the differences between various methods of movement. While walking, he or she should move heel-to-toe. Walking down the steps, the child should be using alternating feet. In addition, it is important that he or she is able to judge movement well in placing feet on climbing structures.
Understands the relationship between movement and traveling throughout a space. The child should have a good sense of his or her location in terms of others, so that they can travel through a space without bumping into classmates.
Able to balance on one foot for five seconds or more. The child may still lose balance when jumping or trying to balance for longer stretches of time.
Increasingly demonstrates the ability to coordinate movements in order to climb a jungle gym or jump on a trampoline. This ability is particularly important as it relates to children's safety as well.
Demonstrates increasing abilities to coordinate movements in throwing, catching, kicking and bouncing balls. Since the student is still developing his or her skills, they often don't expect successful results. When the child performs a movement correctly they may even be surprised. You should encourage them, but also expect that it will take some time before they have mastered these areas.
Shows growing proficiency in these ball-related skills:
- Bounces a large ball and catches it. Can throw a ball underhand to a target 10 feet away.
- Is able to kick a ball along the ground.
- Can strike a large ball off a batting tee.
Demonstrates better hand-eye coordination, as he or she is able to build complex block structures, do puzzles and pour sand or liquid into small containers, among other tasks. In addition to marking important physical milestones, these skills are also linked to children's cognitive development.
Makes progress being able to write and draw more precisely using art tools, such as pencils, markers, chalk and paint brushes. He or she can also draw combinations of simple shapes, and create pictures of common objects, which are recognizable to teachers and parents.
Preschool is a critical time for children's physical health, and active play should be a key component of your curriculum. Incorporate daily exercise into your day, and try to avoid having children sit in your classroom for extended periods of time of more than 60 minutes. Provide children with at least 30-to-60 minutes of physical activity each day. Refer to ProSolutions Training's course, "Physical Development in Preschoolers" for more curriculum planning ideas.
ProSolutions Training offers CDA training for early childhood education professionals. We offer a CDA Course and a CDA Renewal Course, both developed to meet the needs of early care and education professionals seeking the CDA Credential (the Child Development Associate (CDA) National Credentialing Program™). This unique teacher credential is administered and awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition. In 2013, ProSolutions Training became the first online training company to become a formal partner of the Council.