Psychomotricity in childhood: Observation and intervention

In the development of their symbolic functions of thought and conduct

The concept of psychomotricity in society, in many cases, is diffuse. Many people think that this ability of the child consists only in knowing how to move properly. However, the importance of psychomotricity in child development goes far beyond this.

Good psychomotricity is usually the prelude to the correct acquisition of language and its proper use in communication in interactions with others. Therefore, the term psychomotricity integrates the cognitive, emotional, symbolic and sensory-motor interactions that operate in children throughout their cognitive, motor and emotional development. Interventions aimed at improving psychomotricity work, as we will see below, on aspects of all these elements:

Motor: Balance, laterality, coordination.
Cognitive: Perception, representation and creativity.
Affective-relational: Acquisition of limits, regulation of impatience, emotions, security.

How to stimulate psychomotricity

In early childhood education, psychomotor activity – the experience of the body in relation to adults and peers, objects and space – is essential for the proper development of the child. Activities to develop psychomotricity should therefore be attractive, varied, motivating, enjoyable and playful. In this section we will look at some key ideas for achieving good psychomotor stimulation:

Space, materials and the role of the adult

The materials must be varied and appropriate for the child’s age. In addition, both the educator and the space used in lessons must accompany the children in their play and movement. The most suitable points for creating a psychomotricity space are the following:

The space: It must be a safe environment. At the same time, it should be stimulating enough for children to develop the skills we are interested in.
The materials: The more variety of materials there are in the classroom, the greater the psychomotor development of the children.
The role of the adult: The teacher must have the ability to observe and listen, and to communicate verbally and non-verbally. In addition, it is essential to have a good attitude and be involved in play.

Structure of the sessions

In order for children to get the most out of psychomotricity sessions, it is very important that these follow a structure thought out in advance. Therefore teachers should plan exactly what kind of activities they want to carry out during the lessons. On the other hand, it is also good to let the little ones improvise what they want to do in some situations. This space of freedom should not deviate from the basic rule: the teacher should maintain leadership at all times.

In the development of their symbolic functions of thought and conduct, the child can benefit from the establishment of correct psychomotor skills.

The importance of play

Play, contrary to what it may seem, is one of the most useful activities children can do. It is useful for hundreds of things: to explore the surrounding space, to learn rules, to create, to experiment, to relate to others of the same age… There are different types of play. Each one of them will have a different role within the psychomotricity sessions, but they can all be useful for achieving some objective. That is why they should become one of the main tools for anyone who wants to stimulate these skills in children.

The development of psychomotricity from 0 to 3 years old

During the first years of life, children develop their psychomotricity skills in a way that, among other things, improves their personal autonomy and their ability to relate to others. In this section we will look at how these skills evolve during the first three years of life. In this way, it will be easier to determine if a child’s evolution has been adequate.

From 0 to 9 months

  • Keeps his head up when he lies on his stomach.
  • Stares and follows with his eyes the movements of an object or a person.
  • Smiles in response to a stimulus.
  • Visually recognises mother or carer.
  • Responds positively to social interactions by making some sound.
  • Raises and moves head when on stomach.
  • Turns from the stomach up to the side and vice versa.
  • Smiles and moves his/her legs in front of familiar people.
  • Recognises his/her caregivers.
  • Remains seated without support.
  • Can stand up with support.
  • Smiles in front of her own image in a mirror and tries to interact with it.
  • Gets upset and cries when her main caregiver leaves.
  • Reacts with discomfort in front of strangers.

9 to 12 months old

  • Sits up and gets up with support.
  • Crawls.
  • Finds objects that have been hidden in front of him.
  • Puts objects in and takes them out of a container.
  • Takes his/her first steps with help.
  • Interacts in a loving way with other people.
  • Responds when his name is called.

Warning signs at 12 months

  • Cannot yet sit upright without support.
  • The child cannot hold objects with both hands.
  • Does not smile at familiar people.
  • The child is still not interested in the things around him/her.
  • Does not make any sounds to attract attention.
  • Does not yet cry or complain in the absence of people who are close to him/her.

From 12 to 24 months

  • Stands up and takes steps with support.
  • Pushes a ball in imitation of an adult.
  • Starts to use a spoon holding it tightly.
  • Starts to eat solids without problems.
  • Freely manipulates construction games.
  • Recognises parts of the body.
  • Can recognise unfamiliar people that belong to his/her everyday life.
  • Recognises objects of habitual use (spoon, towel, toys, etc.).
  • Imitates the adult’s movements when playing.
  • Accepts his parents’ absence, although he may complain at first.
  • Repeats actions that he finds amusing or that attract his attention.
  • Explores and shows curiosity about familiar objects.
  • Drinks from a glass holding it with both hands.
  • Crouches down to pick up objects.
  • Recognises the basic areas of his/her habitual environment (home, park, school…).
  • Plays with other children for brief moments.
  • Shares objects with other children when asked to do so.
  • Recognises certain elements that are specific to the season: clothes, shoes, etc.

Warning signs at two years of age

  • Does not walk alone.
  • Still does not point out the main parts of the body.
  • Never approaches or shows interest in playing with other children.
  • Does not recognise different, very familiar spaces (kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, etc.).
  • Fails to imitate adults’ actions.
  • Does not respond to hearing his or her name.

From 24 to 30 months

  • Jumps with both feet.
  • Throws a ball with both hands and feet.
  • Takes off his shoes and unbuttons his trousers.
  • Uses spoon and fork and drinks from glass without throwing food.
  • Recognises the potty and toilet and uses them on the adult’s instructions.
  • Moves easily around familiar areas (home, school, etc.).
  • Identifies certain changes in nature corresponding to the seasons of the year.
  • Recognises the nearest people in photographs.
  • Plays together with children of the same age.
  • Can distinguish in pictures themes related to people, animals and plants.
  • Greets children and known adults when asked to do so.

From 24 to 36 months

  • Performs activities that require manual movements such as curling up, fitting in, tucking in.
  • Can run and jump with some control.
  • Asks to go to the toilet when he needs to.
  • Starts to show preferences for some of his classmates.
  • Shows affection for younger children and pets.
  • Learns about the rules and social behaviour habits of the groups he belongs to.

Warning signs when a child is 3 years old

  • Does not defecate in the toilet.
  • Is unable to respond to simple commands.
  • Does not identify images.
  • Remains isolated. Does not show curiosity about things.
  • Uses isolated words without connectors.
  • Does not imitate simple strokes (vertical, horizontal…).
  • All these warning signs are only indications that should draw our attention and, if necessary, we should consult a specialist who can help the child to strengthen certain abilities.

However, there is no need to worry too much if your children have not reached the normative milestones for their age. With timely intervention, most delays in cognitive development in a healthy child are easily fixable.

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