Developmental Play: A Glossary

  • Balance

    Balance is the ability to maintain control of a particular body position whilst performing a given task with minimal postural sway. Good control reduces the energy required and minimises fatigue. Balance is important to achieving success in almost every sport or physical activity.

    Static balance is the ability to maintain control of a position whilst remaining stationary – for example, balancing on one leg or holding a headstand.

    Dynamic balance is the ability to maintain balance and control of the body whilst moving, such as hopping, jumping or riding a bike.

  • Bilateral Integration

    Bilateral Integration refers to the ability to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time in a controlled and organized manner e.g. stabilizing paper with one hand and writing or cutting with the other. Strong bilateral integration indicates that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information.

    Children with poor bilateral coordination might struggle to perform daily living tasks like dressing, tying shoes, fine motor activities like stringing beads and buttoning, visual motor tasks like drawing, writing, cutting and gross motor activities like crawling, walking and climbing stairs.

    Crossing the midline is an integral skill related to bilateral coordination. Crossing the midline refers to the ability to spontaneously cross over the midline of the body. Toddlers may use both hands equally and pick up or interact with an object with whichever hand is closer. By 3-4 children should be skilled in crossing the midline. Establishing hand dominance – a ‘worker hand’ vs. a ‘helper hand’ – is an indicator that the brain is maturing.

    Another important foundation in the development of bilateral coordination is body awareness. Body awareness refers to the ability to know where your body is in space without necessarily using vision e.g. how high to lift your leg when climbing stairs.

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  • Core Strength

    Core strength is the development of the torso muscles that stabilize, align, and move the trunk of the body. Poor core strength can cause poor posture that can also affect gross motor and fine motor skills. Building strong core strength is like building a strong foundation for your child.

    Core strength development starts as an infant. During tummy time babies learn to lift their head helping to strengthen neck and upper back muscles. This helps babies support the weight of their head and to look around in response to sounds. It also prepares them for developmental milestones like crawling, rolling over and sitting up on their own.

  • Fine Motor

    Fine motor skills involve the movement and coordination of small intrinsic muscles accurately and effectively in areas such as the hands and fingers, mostly used in coordination with the eyes. Fine motor development is required for essential functional activities like eating, writing, using a computer, turning pages in a book, grasping small objects and performing personal care tasks such as dressing and washing.

    Fine motor skills are crucial in most school activities as well as in life and childhood is the critical time to ensure their proper development.

  • Gross Motor

    Gross motor skills involve the movement of the large muscles in the arms, legs and torso for necessary physical activity like walking, kicking, running, skipping, jumping, throwing, climbing and lifting. Muscle tone and strength are required for postural control, important for maintaining balance and coordination.

    Daily active play is essential to ensure the necessary exercise required for gross motor development. Gross motor ability shares connections with other physical functions.

    Although writing is considered a fine motor skill, it is directly affected by the ability to maintain upper body support. Students with poor gross motor development may have difficulty with writing, sitting up in an alert position, concentrating in a classroom and other related activities.

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  • Motor planning

    Motor planning is the ability to conceive, plan, and carry out a skilled, non-habitual motor act in the correct sequence from beginning to end. Incoming sensory stimuli must be correctly integrated in order to form the basis for appropriate, coordinated motor responses. The ability to motor plan is a learned ability which is generalized to all unfamiliar tasks so a child does not need to consciously figure out each new task he or she faces. The child with motor planning difficulties may be slow in carrying out verbal instructions and often appears clumsy in new tasks.

  • Proprioception

    Proprioception is a sense of knowing where a body part is in space. If a person is blindfolded they should know through proprioception where to put their hands to cover their ears. Through proprioception they have the ability to sense stimuli arising within the body regarding position, motion, and equilibrium.

  • Spatial Awareness

    Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organised knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position. It can therefore be said that the awareness of spatial relationships is the ability to see and

    understand two or more objects in relation to each other and to oneself. This is a complex cognitive skill that children need to develop at an early age

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  • Sensory Processing

    Sensory processing sometimes called sensory integration refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into appropriate motor and behavioral responses.

    Sensory development begins during gestation and continues throughout childhood. The seven sensory processes include the basic 5 senses – taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight as well as proprioception (body position) and vestibular input (movement) sensations. Sensory stimulation is the way we respond to sensory input and a lack of sufficient sensory stimulation in children can lead to inhibited social and emotional development.

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  • Social

    Active play and games involving other participants teach children important social rules: compromise, teamwork, being assertive and dealing with different personalities. These skills promote self-confidence and self-esteem.

  • Vestibular System

    The vestibular system is important for normal function in several ways. It is a critical system for detecting the position and motion of the head, particularly angular motions such as rotation. It is through this system that the eyes are stabilized when the head is moving and also for adjusting neck and body muscle tone during movements.

  • Visual Perceptual

    Visual perceptual skills impact many areas of development and function, including fine motor skills, gross motor skills, self-care skills etc.

    These include:
    Visual discrimination: The ability to determine differences or similarities in objects or forms e.g. visual discrimination is critical for seeing the difference between a 6 and a 9.

    Form constancy: The ability to know that a form or shape is the same, even if it has been rotated, made smaller or viewed from closer or further away.

    Visual memory: The ability to recall visual traits of a form or object. E.g. transferring information from the board at school to a notebook requires visual memory.

    Visual sequential memory: The ability to recall a sequence of objects or forms in the correct order very important for spelling.

    Visual closure: The ability to recognize a form or object even when the whole picture of it isn’t available.

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