What are motor skills and why are they important?

written by FCPG on December 31, 2018 in FCPG Tips with no comments

When we talk about motor skills, we often break it down into two types: gross motor skills, or physical movements that use the whole body, and fine motor skills, which are movements that use the small muscles of the hands. Motor skills affect our ability to manoeuvre through everyday tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth, making meals, walking, running, writing, and playing!

Motor Impairments in ASD

Although motor impairments are not a criterion in the diagnosis of ASD, research investigating motor skills have found that children with ASD often have delays in both gross and fine motor skills (Lloyd, MacDonald, & Lord, 2013). For children with autism, challenges also occur in the domain of motor imitation (Ingersoll, 2007).

Proficiency with motor activities affect how individuals interact with both their peers and their environment, as motor impairments can influence multiple domains of development including social communication skills, cognitive functioning, and daily living skills (Liu, Hamilton, Davis, & El Garhy). Strong motor skills are key in allowing children to be independent with self-help tasks, complete academic work, and play with peers, among many other things!

What Parents Can do to Foster These Skills

To help your child develop both gross and fine motor skills, you can engage in these fun (and beneficial) activities!

Gross motor activities:

  1. Jump on a trampoline
  2. Throw and catch a ball 
  3. Walk on tape lines or balance beams
  4. Ride a tricycle or bicycle
  5. Freeze dance
  6. Animal walks
  7. Toss bean bags into baskets
  8. Hopscotch
  9. Simon says or follow the leader
  10. Obstacle course
  11. Scavenger hunt
  12. Traffic light game (run, walk, freeze, and jump)
  13. Play on the playground

Fine motor activities:

  1. Beading with pipe cleaners
  2. Using clothespins
  3. Hole punching
  4. Stickers
  5. Painting with syringes or eye droppers
  6. Sort buttons, pompoms, or candies
  7. Pick up toys with kitchen tongs
  8. Create structures with marshmallows and tooth picks
  9. Playdoh
  10. Connecting straws together
  11. Cutting lines, shapes, and crafts
  12. Tracing shapes and letters
  13. Buttoning up shirts
  14. Lacing
  15. Spooning marbles or beads

Work with your Board Certified Behaviour Analyst at FCPG to come up with more ideas on how to strengthen your child’s gross motor, fine motor, and motor imitation skills, and to learn more about how these important skills play a role in your child’s socialization.

You may also be interested in: What are evidence-based practices?

Family Centred Practices Group designs and monitors intervention programs for families with young children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or related disability. Family Centred Practices Group is delighted to announce we are Canada’s first and only Behavioural Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE).

The BHCOE is a reputable, international accrediting body in the field of behaviour analysis. Their assessments are developed by experts in the field to distinguish exceptional behavioural health providers. This accreditation certifies a continued demonstration of exceptional international clinical and administrative standards deemed by an independent third-party evaluator.

The quality of work performed by our staff, the effectiveness of our clinical applications, and the attentiveness to each child’s individual needs is at the highest standard. To maximize a child’s opportunity to reach his or her full potential, we emphasize a proactive approach to teaching and learning. We accomplish this by capitalizing on naturally occurring motivational conditions and the principles of positive reinforcement. Through the use of these and other behaviour analytic practices, a child’s ability to experience success across environments is enhanced.

We gratefully serve families all across the Lower Mainland.This includes families living in the regional districts of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.

Tina Linton, M.Ed., BCBA – Clinical Director

Tina Linton received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario and her Masters degree in Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA™) with over 20 years of experience working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in home, school, and community based programs. Tina began her career in Ontario working as a Behavioural Interventionist. She moved to Victoria, BC where she continued supporting families of children with ASD and assisted with the start up of the Autism Early Intervention Program at the Queen Alexandra Center for Children’s Health in her role as an Autism Interventionist. When she moved to Vancouver, Tina began working with the Family Centred Practices Group and, after completing her Masters, was promoted to the role of Senior Behavioural Consultant. Tina also worked with Douglas College in their Behavioural Interventionist Citation Program and is a founding partner of the “Behavioural Interventionist Training Partnership”. Tina assumed the role of Clinical Director in November of 2008 and began managing the business.


  1. https://skillsforaction.com/autism-spectrum-disorders
  2. https://autism.lovetoknow.com/Ten_Gross_Motor_Activities_for_Autistic_Children
  3. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320190388_Teaching_gross_motor_imitation_skills_to_children_diagnosed_with_autism
  4. https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/gross-motor-performance-by-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorder-and-typically-2375-4494.1000123.php?aid=22538 (Lloyd, MacDonald, & Lord, 2013).
  5. http://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2014-51867-002.html (Ingersoll, 2007)
  6. https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/fine-motor-skills/fine-motor-skills/
  7. https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/gross-motor-skills/gross-motor-skills/