Our gross motor skills refer to how well we use our large muscles that coordinate the movement throughout our body. This includes big everyday moves like jumping, throwing, catching, walking, running, and maintaining our general balance.
These skills also help us relate to our body awareness; how reactive we are in specific situations like walking faster, so we’re not late, or increasing our walk to a run to catch the bus. Each of these movements play a significant role in our everyday lives.
For children it’s important to have regular opportunities to engage in active play to increase their learning through play, and most importantly through “doing” the tasks that ignite their gross motor skills into function.
Gross motor skills build the foundations to your child’s development
Gross motor skills are foundational to a range of fine motor skills and school-related skills.
These are the large skills your child will develop first, which will then build on to develop their fine motor skills. For example, your child needs to first develop a strong core (gross motor skills) to be able to sit up a desk. This then flows on to coordinate their shoulders, arms and hands to then manipulate a pencil (fine motor skills) to learn to colour in, draw and eventually write.
Important gross motor milestones
- 0-6 months: Rolling over (front to back and back to front). Sitting with support and then independently.
- 6 – 12 months: Crawling forward on their belly as well as creeping forward on hands and knees transitioning into different positions independently. Pulling themselves up to stand. Rolling a ball to imitate an adult.
- 18 months: Sits, crawls, walks. Wide gait but walking and running is smoother. Pushes against a ball but does not kick it yet.
- 2 years: Walks smoothly. Begins running. Is able to carry a ball while walking. Walks up and down steps with support. Picks up toys off the floor without falling over. Climbs onto/down from furniture.
- 3 years: Imitates standing on one foot. Pedals a tricycle. Climbs ladders and play equipment. Imitates simple bilateral movements of limbs. Able to walk on tip toes. Jumps with two feet together.
- 4 years: Runs around obstacles. Able to hop on one foot. Kicks ball forward. Catches a call that has been bounced. Jumps over an object and lands with both feet together. Jumps with two feet together.
- 5 years: Catches a ball using hands only. Hangs from a bar for at least 5 seconds. Imitates skipping. Able to walk upstairs while holding an object. Steps forward with leg on same side as throwing arm.
- 6 years: Can hop for 2 metres. Able to walk on a balance beam. Able to skip using a skipping rope. Matured jumping skills. Matured throwing and catching.
“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”
10 fun summertime ways you can improve your child’s gross motor skills
- Bubble play is such a great way to get your children smiling and moving about outside, not only can they chase the bubbles, they can also learn to blow them out to create them.
- Having fun outdoors in a playground. This gives your children different equipment to play on and master how each of them work. There are some great playgrounds in and around the city that are becoming more and more equip with things to challenge children’s gross motor skills. To find out more about some great playgrounds, visit: https://occupationaltherapychildren.com.au/playgrounds-in-adelaide/
- Create the game of hopscotch outside in your backyard. You can draw the grid with some chalk that will wash right off. This is a great way to have your children jumping around and thinking about their next move as well as both the right and left sides of their bodies.
- Balloon play can be done inside or outside and is designed for you to blow them up and your children to chase around and either try and pop them or play a game of keeping them off the floor.
- Dancing to your favourite music together. By following a simple routine this can make for so much fun along the way while developing and reinforcing their gross moto skills. Songs like The Wheels on the Bus, Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and Itsy Bitsy Spider…just to name a few.
- Spend time riding a bike, scooter or tricycle. Another great outdoor activity while the weather is nice to assist with your child’s coordination, balancing, momentum and movement.
- Trampoline fun! If you have a trampoline in the backyard this is one fun way for your child to improve their balance and coordination. You can ask them to do different things like jump on one leg, bounce up and down, jump from one side to the other or try and do some safe flips if they’re feeling adventurous.
- Ball activities of all sorts are another great way to challenge and help improve your child’s gross motor skills. Things like catching, throwing, bouncing and kicking are all fun ways to engage these skills and enjoy the outdoors.
- Explore nature in a park with big trees. Climbing trees can be so much fun for children as well as teaching them ways they need to think about their next step or move to climb and explore.
- Enjoy an old-fashioned game of “tug of war”. This is a great way to engage a smile and laugh as well as build upper limb and core strength.
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OTFC is a South Australian clinic-based service that is centrally located and services children and adolescents from birth through to 21 years of age both locally and nationally. Dedicated to providing a client focused approach where children and families feel validated in their concerns, supported in difficult times, encouraged to be proactive and inspired to facilitate change.