Gross motor skills development activities for children

Gross and fine motor skills are terms that are often heard in parenting circles, but what are these skills? How important are they? And how do you help your child to develop them? Below we discuss the importance of gross motor skills development.

What are gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills are abilities that let us do tasks that involve large muscles in our torso, legs, and arms. We use gross motor skills for all sorts of physical activities, from running to brushing our hair. Most people use these skills easily and automatically but gross motor skills are more complex than they might seem.

They involve the coordination of the muscles and the neurological system. They impact balance and coordination. They also form the basis for fine motor skills that help us make small movements like using a pencil.

Gross vs fine motor skills

A motor skill is simply an action that involves your child using their muscles. Gross motor skills refer to skills that use large muscle movements. Examples include walking, running, or climbing. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, use smaller muscles and include movements such as grasping a pencil, object manipulation, and drawing.

Gross motor abilities have an influence on many everyday functions. For example, a child’s ability to maintain appropriate tabletop posture (upper body support) will affect their ability to participate in fine motor skills and sit upright so they can pay attention in class, which then impacts their academic learning.

Gross motor skills examples 

Gross motor skills require whole-body movement and involve the large muscles of the body to perform everyday functions, such as standing and walking, running and jumping, and sitting upright at a table. They also include hand-eye coordination skills such as ball skills as well as riding a bike and swimming.

Other examples of gross motor skills include crawling, running, jumping, and climbing stairs. Even the first time a baby lifts his head is an example of a gross motor skill.

Gross motor skills activities

You can encourage your child's development in this area by offering plenty of opportunities to practice their gross motor skills. You can do this through outdoor physical activities, such as sandbox play, scavenger hunts, or yard work. You can also encourage indoor activities such as yoga. Below are a few ideas to help get your child moving.

Trampolines

Using a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance. 

Hopscotch

Hopping and jumping require strong gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. 

Martial arts classes

Mаrtіаl аrtѕ trаіnіng is a good way to help kids develop strength in their arms and legs. Actions like kicking, punching, and grappling work to develop those core muscle groups. It can help kids with balance and knowing where their body is in space.

Playground play

Playing on the playground can have many benefits for your child. Swinging on a swing set can help develop balance as well as help children learn how to coordinate shifting their weight and moving their legs back and forth. Encourage your child to use “unstable” playground equipment like rope ladders and wobble bridges, as they help work trunk muscles. 

Balloon and bubble play

Balloons and bubbles are a unique way to build gross motor skills because you can’t predict where they’re going to go. Children can chase bubbles and try to pop as many as possible. While chasing them, they have to run, jump, zigzag, and move in ways that require sudden shifts in balance and weight. The same goes for throwing and trying to catch or kick balloons.

Bicycles, tricycles, and scooters

Some kids who struggle with gross motor skills may learn to ride a tricycle or bicycle later than their peers. But there are alternatives they can use to get places and practice balance. Some tricycles come with handles so you can push while your child practices pedalling. Or you could invest in a sturdy scooter.

Dancing

Whether it’s a dance class or an indoor dance party, dancing is great gross motor practice. It helps kids develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. It also helps build your child’s awareness of rhythm. 

Obstacle courses

Obstacle courses get kids moving and give them a goal to accomplish. For an indoor course, use furniture, pillows, and blankets to create areas to crawl on, under, and through. Outdoors, you can use things like hula-hoops to jump in and out of, jumping jacks, belly crawling, bear walking, and other creative movements that challenge your child to balance, crawl, jump, and run.

Importance of gross motor skills development

Gross motor skills impact your child’s endurance to cope with a full day of school, including sitting upright at a desk. They also impact your child’s ability to navigate their environment.  Without fair gross motor skills, a child will struggle with many day-to-day tasks such as eating, packing away their toys, and getting on and off the toilet.

Gross motor skills development is important for your child’s overall health, confidence and self-esteem. These skills aid in brain development and encourage your child to problem solve and think critically, as well as foster their imagination through storytelling and active play. 

Giving your child ample opportunity to develop these skills will ignite in them a sense of awe and wonder about the world around them, as well as help them to release some of that energy children always seem to have in excess.