Children who were less involved in performing tasks during mother-child interaction performed less well individually at the follow-up.

Early childhood education is, among other things, a process of gradual transition from cultural and family patterns to the expectations of a new social context. It is critical that the child’s background and experience be understood and respected, that the school be responsive to the child, and that the child be introduced to school culture and practices step by step.


Children vary substantially in many aspects of their physical development. Here we focus on those aspects that are most directly related to early childhood pedagogy: fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and disabling conditions.

Fine motor skills influence success in many of the activities in a preschool program. Lack of fine motor skills can make it difficult to hold a pencil, limiting early efforts at printing letters and drawing. Fine motor skills also influence eye movement and can predict reading, mathematics, and general school achievement (Tramontana et al., 1988).

The NCES survey of children as they enter kindergarten measured fine motor skills (with ECLS-K direct measures) involved in constructing forms with wooden blocks, copying simple figures, and drawing a person. It also assessed gross motor skills, exemplified by balancing and hopping on each foot, skipping, and walking backward on a line. The scores for gross and fine motor skills were divided into approximate thirds, referred to as lower, middle, and higher. The middle group includes those children performing at age-expected level, and the lower group at one or more standard deviations below the average.

The results suggest that girls score somewhat higher than boys on both fine and gross motor skills, but age at entry makes a far bigger difference. These findings are consistent with those obtained from the standardization of the Early Screening Inventory—Revised, from which the NCES direct motor measures were derived (Meisels et al., 1993, 1997). Mother’s education is highly correlated with fine motor skills: 42 percent of children in fami-

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