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How Are Perceptual Motor Skills Related to Language Skills?

By Nadia Haris ; Updated September 26, 2017
As your infant learns to move his body, he also learns to form words.

During the first year and a half of life, your baby will acquire a whole set of motor and language skills as his brain and nervous system rapidly develops. A child's perceptual motor skills and language skills help him to move and interact with his environment. Movement helps your child acquire and enhance his speech. The two skills sets are intertwined but also differ in how they are formed and how long they take to reach full development.

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As their name implies, perceptual motor skills are movement-related skills that your baby develops as part of his essential growth and development. The California Department of Education website lists examples of perceptual motor skills, such as hand-eye coordination, body-eye coordination, posture adjustment and visual-auditory skills. Your child develops these skills alongside his cognitive -- intellectual -- sensory-motor development, which is needed for thinking, problem-solving, communication, interaction and language. Language skills are your child's ability to form sounds and words, speak, understand and engage in speech.


Your child practices and develops his perceptual motor skills through active play, handling and feeling toys and other objects, and other physical activity. Language and other cognitive skills are needed for communication and academics. The Annual Review of Psychology notes that perceptual motor skills are primitive and narrow in how they are expressed. They are also more difficult to verbalize, while language skills are not as limited.


A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Child Language found that your child's motor development helps to enhance his language development. This occurs because specific motor behaviors give children the opportunity to practice their speech and language skills. These include rhythmic arm movements and recognition hand gestures. A child may point to an object or person before he uses a word or name to describe it or ask for it. The author of the study notes that most babies begin making rhythmic arm movements such as swinging, shaking and banging at around 28 weeks of age -- the same time that they begin to produce well-formed syllables and imitate babble or sounds. This shows that there is a nerve link between the development of motor and language skills.


The Annual Review of Psychology also notes that there are differences in the development of perceptual motor skills and languages skills in children. The review notes that one variation is that perceptual motor skills have a more specific development than intellectual skills such as language. This means that while most healthy children develop motor skills at a similar rate and pattern, language skills show more differences in development. Your child will continue to develop his language and intellectual skills into adulthood, but his motor skills will generally plateau in his teen years.

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About the Author

Nadia Haris is a registered radiation therapist who has been writing about nutrition for more than six years. She is completing her Master of Science in nutrition with a focus on the dietary needs of oncology patients.

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