LETS TALK GROSS MOTOR SKILLS

By Dr. Natalie Benjamin-Damons (Physiotherapist)

SO WHAT ARE GROSS MOTOR SKILLS?

Gross motor skills involve the use of a child’s large muscles for large body movements. Gross motor skills are used when a child walks, runs, jumps, rides a bike or uses a slide, swing or climbing equipment. When playing sport such as soccer, baseball, tennis or gymnastics a child is using their gross motor skills. Leisure activities such as dancing, swimming, hiking or roller skating also rely on a child’s gross motor abilities.

WHAT DO KIDS NEED WHEN PARTAKING IN GROSS MOTOR ACTIVITIES?

  • They need adequate alance – to keep from falling

(Balance refers to your child’s ability to remain upright and steady)

  • They require strength – to hold heavy objects or move/push against gravity

Strength refers to the amount of force your child’s muscles can make. This helps them to hold their body in challenging positions and lift heavy objects.

  • They will need endurance – so s/he does not tire quickly
  • They may need eye-hand co-ordination – if using balls, bats, sticks, rackets, etc.

WHY ARE GROSS MOTOR SKILLS IMPORTANT FOR CHILDREN?

It is important to have well developed gross motors skills for success at school. This will help your child during physical education classes, on the playground, walking in the passages at school and climbing stairs. Ongoing participation in  gross motor activities will help improve your child’s posture and concentration for a full day of learning! 

DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE BRAIN-MOVEMENT CONNECTION? 

Lets think of our brain as an electric circuit. When movement occurs, our brain cells are activated and signals are fired. If the movement is a new or unfamiliar the brain is forced to connect with different areas and a new ‘circuit’ is formed! The wiring for these new circuits is essentially new neural pathways of development. The more complicated the movement, i.e. the more limbs involved, balance required or coordination needed, more neural pathways are made. 

DO TODAY’S KIDS GET ENOUGH STIMULATION OF THEIR GROSS MOTOR ABILITY?

Children today spend more time indoors engaged in activities such as watching tv, playing video games or on social media. Without regular exercise that promote balance, strength and co-ordination, a child is at risk for weight gain and poor endurance. This means they will tire easily.

Like other areas of development, the ability to successfully perform gross motor activities is influenced by active experiences. In other words, in some cases parents may reduce or eliminate future difficulties with gross motor skills by involving their child in activities that are fun.

WHAT AGE-APPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES CAN KIDS DO TO STIMULATE THEIR GROSS MOTOR SKILLS? 

AGEMOTOR ACTIVITY
0 – 3 MonthsLay your baby on his tummy when he is awake and put toys near him. Place a cushion or roller under the shoulders While lying on tummy put noisy toys at baby’s feet to encourage kicking  Let baby lay on your chest in prone. Reduce support gradually  
3 – 6 MonthsContinue with play on tummy. Start supporting baby in sitting, using cushions and place toys around her
• Parent lies on back with lower legs up like a table, place baby facing you on his/her tummy on parent’s shins while holding baby’s arms out. Move baby like plane 
6 – 9 MonthsPut your baby on his tummy, sitting (supported) or on back and put toys just out of reach. Encourage him to reach the toys. Play an obstacle game on the floor 
9 – 12 MonthsProvide lots of room for your baby to move and explore in a safe area.Put your baby close to things that she can pull up on safely.Place toys on the coffee table and floor, have baby transfer toys from floor to table and vice versaHave child sit on roller or ball and play with toys on floor. Sit behind child to prevent fallingStart ball games using a balloon for catching and throwingEngage in ‘rough and tough’ play
12 – 18 MonthsProvide lots of safe places for your toddler to explore Give your child push toys like a wagon or “kiddie push car.” Do an assisted somersault Encourage rolling from one side of the room to the other. Make a game of it Have child stand between your legs while you are standing, hold his stretched arms and rock him side to side and front to back Throw bean bags 
18 – 24 MonthsProvide toys that she can push or pull safely.Provide balls for her to kick, roll, and throw.Blow bubbles and let your child pop themPlay ‘Simon Says’Encourage your child to walk on different surfaces i.e. grassy, sandy, inclines. Without shoes is betterBall play with larger ball
24 – 30 MonthsOnce your child walks well, ask her to carry small things for you. Kick a ball back and forth with your child. When your child is good at that, encourage him to run and kick. Take your child to the park to run and climb on equipment or walk on nature trails. Give your child his own ‘little stool’ to climb on to reach for items. Supervise this activity Encourage child to walk on low walls, benches and steps. Encourage child to jump off with 2 feet Have your child carry large objects 
3 YearsPlay outside with your child. Go to the park or hiking trail. Allow your child to play freely and without structured activities. Have child do activities like raking leaves, sweeping etc. 
4 YearsTeach your child to play outdoor games like tag and follow the leader Play your child’s favourite music and dance with your child. Take turns copying each other’s moves 
5 YearsTeach your child how to pump her legs back and forth on a swing and use monkey bars Go on walks with your child, do a scavenger hunt in your neighbourhood or park, help him ride a bike with training wheels (wearing a helmet). 
6 YearsMotor games outside e.g. hopscotch, obstacle courses, ball games Sports activities and physical games/exercise

Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to improve both physical and mental health in school-age children (ages 6 to 12). Yoga improves balance, strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity in children. Yoga and mindfulness offer psychological benefits for children as well. A growing body of research has already shown that yoga can improve focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behavior, and can even reduce anxiety and stress in children.[1]

Yoga for kids –cosmic kids YouTube channel has a great variety and includes stories: https://www.youtube.com/user/cosmickidsyoga

With movement comes activity, with activity comes stimulation, with stimulation comes creativity, with creativity comes growth.


[1] Wei, M. 2016/01/29. More than just a game: Yoga for school-age children. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/more-than-just-a-game-yoga-for-school-age-children-201601299055

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