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.
And that is just to name a few!
Occupational therapists know that gross motor skills are integral for performing everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs and carrying bags. You can never underestimate how important gross motor skills are in daily life. For example, if you look at the skill of putting on pants, your child needs adequate strength to pick up the pants and effectively coordinate the use of their hands and balance whilst they put on each leg. No wonder dressing can be a tricky skill to master! Gross motor skills are also important for fine motor skill development (eg. writing, using scissors) as your child needs adequate core strength to sit at a table.
By encouraging your child to participate in different gross motor activities, you are providing them with an opportunity to practise using their muscles. This is particularly important for children who don’t like physical activity and prefer sit-down activities such as arts and crafts. Often children with weaker gross motor abilities avoid physical activity, which provides them fewer opportunities to catch up on the skills of their peers.
The good news is gross motor skills can be developed in lots of different and fun ways! Just remember to provide lots of encouragement and ensure the activities are the right challenge level and not too tricky! Here are fun ways to improve your child’s gross motor skills as selected by our experienced occupational therapists in Melbourne:
- Play hopscotch to develop your child’s ability to jump, balance on one leg, hop in different directions and improve motor accuracy.
- Set up a fun obstacle course in the lounge room where your child has to run over uneven surfaces (eg. put down rugs, pillows), avoid obstacles and climb over and under furniture. Modify the course depending on what your child enjoys!
- Simon Says and Follow the Leader are verbal and visual copy games that improve body awareness and motor planning.
- Wheelbarrow walks where the child walks on their hands whilst an adult holds their legs straight. Great for developing arm and core strength!
- Pretend to be different animals through bear walks, crab walks and frog jumps and develop your child’s coordination, core and arm strength.
- Walk along a balance beam, line on the ground or sidewalk curb and pretend that the ground has crocodiles and sharks that the child needs to avoid.
- Play tug of war where you and your child hold opposite ends of a rope and try to pull each other over.
- Kneel on the ground and play balloon volleyball. Try to keep the balloon off the ground for as long as you can and ensure your child doesn’t rest their bottom on their feet when kneeling so they develop their core strength.
- Play ball games such as catch, kicking or throwing a ball at a target, throwing a ball through a hoop or bowling.
- Bouncing on a trampoline is a fun activity for improving coordination, rhythm and aerobic fitness. The surface of a trampoline is constantly moving which is great for improving balance.
It is important to remember that children develop at different rates and can reach gross motor milestones at varying ages. If you have any concerns about your child’s gross motor development or would like more information, please call Kids At Max on 9702 4447.
Written by Kids At Max Occupational Therapist