Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills come into play in everyday activities and are essential for completing most activities of daily living, whether they be in relation to learning, play, or self-care. These are the core skills which are marked by milestones in a child’s development. Although these skills are something which we take for granted when well-developed, many children have trouble with developing gross motor skills and may require intervention from an Occupational Therapist to reach these milestones. In this blog, we will tell you a little bit more about gross motor skills, why they are important, how they are developed, and we will tell you about some of our favourite activities for developing fine motor skills.
What are gross motor skills?
The term ‘gross motor’ relates to large movements which require the use of our whole-body. Gross motor skills are skills which involve the use of the large muscles in the body such as the core, arms, and legs. Gross motor skills are essential for many everyday activities and skills, such as:
- Ball skills
Why are gross motor skills important?
Gross motor skills are the building blocks for many everyday skills involved in meeting our self-care, play, and learning needs. Without well-developed gross motor skills, children and adults have great difficulty completing the demands placed on them in their everyday lives. Gross motor development is crucial for completing self-care activities such as washing and dressing, and day to day tasks such as climbing in and out of bed, completing school work, and eating. Gross motor skills such as core stability also influence how well we can execute fine motor skills; if a child doesn’t have the core strength to maintain a good posture or enough shoulder stability to hold up a pen, they will have great difficulty remaining seated and holding themselves up to complete handwriting and table-top activities.
How can my child develop their gross motor skills?
Any activity which involves movement of any of the larger muscles in the body, such as the core, biceps, triceps, and quadriceps – that is, the arm and leg muscles – will support with development of gross motor skills. Gross motor development starts from birth, as the muscles strengthen and become more stable. As soon as your baby is able to sit up independently, they are starting to develop core stability.
We have broken down a list of our favourite gross motor activities into some of the skills they address, so you can have a go with your little ones at home. Most importantly, remember to keep it fun!
Bilateral integration is the ability to coordinate both sides of the body together to complete an activity, such as dressing, ball skills, or running.
- Hiding items in a range of containers to be opened
- Playing with instruments
- Mirror dancing (copy adult)
- Climbing on a climbing frame or ladder
- Clapping games
Crossing the midline
Crossing the midline refers to the action of reaching across the midline (the centre of gravity). For instance, reaching to your left side with your right arm. This skill requires both sides of the brain to work together.
- Connect 4 (encourage to cross the midline when reaching to slot tokens in)
- Pushing toy cars along a trail
- Touching toes with crossed arms
- Clapping games
- Play Simon says
- Arts and crafts
- Drawing in a figure of 8 pattern (try tracing in sand or rice)
Core strength and stability
Core strength and stability relate to strengthening the muscles in the torso which align the trunk. These muscles are essential for developing balance, good posture, and minimising fatigue when sitting or standing.
- Wheelbarrow walking
- Bouncing on a gym ball
- Plank with legs on gym ball/ peanut ball
- Bouncing on a trampoline
- Crawling through a tunnel in an obstacle course
- Riding a bike
- ‘flying like superman’ (lie on stomach on floor and lift head, arms, and legs)
- Animal walks (e.g. frog jumps, crab walks)
- Wall push ups
Ball activities work on skills like hand-eye coordination, bilateral integration, and balance. They can be overly complex skills to develop but there are plenty of ways to start out with easy activities.
- Throw scarves or light material into the air to catch
- Catch bubbles in the air to pop them
- Throw and catch a light beach ball
- Keep a balloon in the air
- Roll a ball into a goal
- Throw balls or toys into a large basket
- Throw and catch a ball or soft toy
- Kick large balls into a goal
- Play skittles/ bowling
- Throw a ball at a target (e.g. hoop held in the air)
- Practice bouncing a ball and catching
Balance is the ability to remain upright and to maintain stability without falling. This skill is essential for sitting, standing, walking, running, jumping, and skipping just to name a few.
- Play musical statues
- Stand on one leg
- Follow directions around a room while blindfolded
- Ride a bike
- Walking heel to toe on a line (backwards if you like!)
- Animal walking
- Obstacle courses
- Walking or running over a trail of cushions
- Sitting on a swing
- Stepping stones trail (jump between cushions)
Shoulder stability is essential in supporting effective fine motor movements and for maintaining a good stamina during table-top activities. Children who fatigue easily while writing may have poor shoulder stability.
- Roll a large ball up the wall with arms outstretched
- Hold a ball above head for as long as you can
- Wheelbarrow walks
- Water painting – brush water onto a fence to make pictures
- Drawing on a chalkboard/ white board
- Arts and crafts
- Wall push ups
- Animal walks
- Plank on gym ball/ peanut ball
We hope that you and your little ones have some fun with these activities, let us know in the comments which ones were your favourites! If you have any questions about this topic or are concerned about your child’s gross motor development, send us an email at email@example.com.
About the Author
Paediatric Occupational Therapist
Lilly is an enthusiastic and approachable individual with a passion for supporting children, teenagers and young adults in finding meaning and independence in their lives. Lilly specialises in the area of assessment and intervention for individuals with a range of challenges and diagnoses, including autism, dyspraxia, anxiety and mental health.
In 2019, Lilly completed a Master’s Degree in Language and Communication, in which she researched and advocated for communication rights and the importance of person-centred care. Lilly has a particular interest in supporting children and young people living with mental health difficulties and learning disabilities, often taking creative approaches in this. Lilly is a strong believer that everyone has a right to independence and thrives to support her clients in achieving this.
Lilly currently provides a range of assessments, consultation and therapeutic interventions for children, adolescents and young adults in the Seirrah Therapies clinic, in schools and in homes across the UK. Lilly has experience of conducting assessments and writing reports as part of the Special Educational Needs (SEN) Tribunal process in collaboration with our Highly Specialist Paediatric Occupational Therapist.