1B: Types of physical, motor and sensory skill

There are a range of different types of physical, motor and sensory skills individuals typically master during our development.

Below, we will look at these skills and find out more about them (click the arrow to expand each one or click here to expand all of the examples):

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills are larger movements which require whole body movement we make with our arms, legs, feet, or our entire body.

The development of motor skills is from the centre of the body outwards. Motor skills rely on patterns of stability and mobility in the trunk, then the shoulders, elbows and wrists, and then the fingers. Without central trunk control, we would not be able to control the movements of our limbs.

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills include the smaller muscle of the hands. Fine motor skills are complex; a number of independent fine motor skills need to work together for a child to appropriately manipulate different objects. For example, hand skills include:

  • Reach – ability to move the arm to grasp/place objects
  • Grasp – whole hand holding of an object
  • Carry – moving an object from one place to another using the hands
  • Voluntary release – letting go of an object
  • In hand manipulation – moving objects within the hand
  • Bilateral hand use – using two hands together
  • Hand skills are dependent on postural mechanisms, visual perception, tactile and proprioceptive feedback


  • Posture is the ability to stabilise from the centre so children can move their head, eyes and limbs
  • We need an adequate base of support whatever we are doing
  • If we have an inadequate base of support, we would not be able to adopt comfortable positioning to enable us to engage in tasks


Coordination involves the organization of the different elements of your body so they can work together effectively to complete an activity. It includes the ability to control our bodies to carry out sequences of movement for given tasks.

Pupils need good eye-hand coordination to write and catch balls, not just good fine or gross motor skills. To hop, a child needs the initial postural control but also the ability to balance and sequence (or coordinate) movements to move from one place to the next.

Sensory processing skills

Sensory Processing or Sensory Integration includes being able to effectively register and interpret the sensory input a person gets from what’s around them and from their own body. It is about how the brain receives, organises and responds to sensory input in order to behave in a meaningful and consistent manner.

Key Points

  • For someone to be an effective learner they will need to develop a broad range of sensory and motor skills
  • Many activities require mastery of numerous skills e.g. for effective writing learners will need gross motor, fine motor, posture AND coordination

Thinking Points

  • Observe the learners you work with. How do you think their coordination or posture might be affecting various aspects of their life and learning

Supportive Resources