Gross motor skills are the abilities usually acquired during infancy and early childhood as part of a child’s motor development. By the time they reach two years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood, and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual’s years of development into adulthood. These gross movements come from large muscle groups and whole body movement. These skills develop in a head-to-toe order. The children will typically learn head control, trunk stability, and then standing up and walking.

How do gross motor skills develop?

Gross motor skills develop through practice and repetition, which is why a baby takes weeks to perfect the art of rolling, sitting or crawling, and a child can take a whole season to learn how to catch a ball while running. However, in order for gross motor skills to develop properly, the brain, spine, nerves and muscles need to be intact and undamaged.

Why are gross motor skills so important?

Here are a few of the important benefits of developing these skills:

  1. Long-lasting good health that comes from regular physical activity
  2. Increased confidence and improved self-esteem that comes from being able to successfully take part in games with other children
  3. Release of stress and frustration through physical activity
  4. Improved school skills

As teachers and parents it is important to provide experiences to develop the following:

  • Balancing
  • Hanging
  • Pulling
  • Swaying
  • Bouncing
  • Hopping
  • Punching
  • Stretching
  • Bending
  • Hitting
  • Running
  • Swinging
  • Crawling
  • Jumping
  • Rolling
  • Twisting
  • Climbing
  • Kicking
  • Sliding
  • Turning
  • Curling
  • Leaping
  • Shaking
  • Tumbling
  • Catching
  • Lifting
  • Skipping
  • Throwing
  • Galloping
  • Pushing
  • Stepping
  • Walking

Did you know that lots of movement is essential in developing a child’s motor skills? It’s why playtime is such an important part of a child’s overall development. Fortunately for parents, it’s fairly easy to find simple, fun and creative activities for children to do each day. The following ideas may be a good starting point:
Visit your local playground: Playgrounds are all different and require different skills, so be sure to visit several in your area. While you are there, you can practice different skills such as climbing, going up and down stairs, and moving to and from a seated position. Play games such as Simon Says and Follow the Leader, or teach your child how to swing.
Use the sidewalk: This should be done with caution, but you can use the sidewalk as your own personal play area by jumping over the cracks, running or creating artwork with sidewalk chalk.
Play ball: Using both small and large balls, you and your child can focus on developing and improving throwing, catching and kicking skills. Just be sure to use equipment that is soft and won’t hurt the hands or feet.
Focus on the core and shoulders: Many kids have decreased core stability or weak shoulder muscles. Activities that help to strengthen both areas include wheelbarrow walks, crab walks, bear walks and push-ups.
Create your own obstacle course: Whether indoors or out, you can set up different stations that focus on jumping, climbing and crawling”; just to name a few.
Ride a tricycle: Riding a tricycle develops movement, coordination and sitting balance.
Imagine your brain is like the night sky. If you incorporate one of these suggestions into motor play, then you can see a few stars. But if you combine many of these ideas, the sky has hundreds of twinkling stars as far as you can see. We learn and remember best when many parts of our brain work together to complete a fun task.