Gross motor skills are movements using the large muscles of the torso, legs and arms. As children grow older, their muscles become larger and stronger, allowing them to perform more complex physical movements such as climbing playground equipment, riding a bike, swimming at the beach and playing catch with friends. There are lots of different components that make up gross motor skills, including:
- Muscle strength
- Muscle endurance
- Motor planning
- Body awareness
- Weight shifting.
Fret not if your little one is facing delays in this area, there are lots of different ways you can work with your little ones to help improve their gross motor skills.
Using a trampoline is a great activity to improve balance. It can also be part of a sensory diet. Indoor trampoline parks are a fun place to socialize with other kids. But if you’re not confident your child will follow directions or if your child isn’t old enough for a trampoline park, you can also get a mini-trampoline for supervised use at home. Keep in mind that it’s vital to follow safety rules, like having a jump bar.
Hopping and jumping require strong gross motor skills, balance, and coordination. Hopscotch is a simple way to practice those skills. (As a bonus, it can help practice number skills, too!) If you don’t have a sidewalk to draw on or a playground nearby, you can set up hallway hopscotch using painter’s tape.
Mаrtіаl аrtѕ trаіnіng is a great way to help kids develop strength in their arms and legs. Actions such as 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, motor skills that can be a problem for kids with sensory issues. Martial arts can have additional benefits for kids with ADHD, too.
Playing on the playground can have many benefits for kids. Swinging on a swing set can help kids develop balance. It also helps them learn how to coordinate shifting their weight and moving their legs back and forth. You may also want to encourage your child to use “unstable” playground equipment like rope ladders and wobble bridges. While they can be scary before kids get used to them, they help work trunk muscles.
Balloon & 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. Kids 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. For more structured play, you can set up a game of balloon volleyball.
Tricycles, Scooters & Pedal Cars
Some little ones who struggle with gross motor skills may learn to ride a trike or bike 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 or a pedal car. They’re all stepping stones to riding a bike. Once your child gets the hang of it, you can even set up an obstacle course or draw a track with chalk.
Whether it’s a dance class or an indoor dance party, dancing is a great way for your little one to develop gross motor skills. It helps little ones develop balance, coordination, and motor sequencing skills. It also helps build your child’s awareness of rhythm. For little kids, try using songs with lyrics that add movement, like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “The Hokey Pokey.”
Obstacle courses get children 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.
Using a ball and a cardboard box, you can create the scene of a successful soccer game. Turn the box on its side to make a goal. Take turns kicking the ball into the goalpost. This is another game that can be set up indoors or out and can be enjoyed by the whole family. This activity will keep your little one moving, it will help with coordination, and it will teach them about taking turns. If you have more children, you can divide them up and use this as a team-building exercise.
Swimming uses the entire body, so it’s a great activity to help children with coordination. When your little one kicks, he or she is learning to coordinate the movements of both sides of the body. The same is true for moving the arms. As your little one kicks, pushes, pulls, stretches and reaches through the water, their muscles need to work harder against the extra resistance that water provides. Muscles, therefore, strengthen more quickly, lengthen and gain flexibility, which provides the basis for a strong and agile body. Because swimming is low impact, gentle on the body and non-contact, less strain is put on joints than other forms of exercise, making injuries fairly uncommon.
Sports are great for enhancing gross motor skills. Baseball, in particular, helps kids build core muscle strength, leg muscles and upper body strength. As kids get stronger, they gain greater balance and control which improves their overall skill and level of success. Enhancing gross motor skills help kids prepare for other sports as well. Baseball involves a great deal of motor planning. Kids have to know where to hold the bat, how to balance it, and then know exactly when to swing it. It doesn’t just involve strength. It requires concentration and careful motor planning. Getting your head to tell your body exactly what to do when you want it to do it can be very difficult for some kids. It takes practice and determination to master this skill.