What are gross motor skills?
Gross motor skills are those which require whole-body movement and which involve the large (core stabilising) muscles of the body to perform everyday functions, such as standing and walking, running and jumping, and sitting upright at the table. They also include eye-hand coordination skills such as ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking) as well as riding a bike or a scooter and swimming.
Why are gross motor skills important?
Gross motor skills enable children to perform everyday functions, such as walking and running, playground skills (e.g. climbing) and sporting skills (e.g. catching, throwing and hitting a ball with a bat). However, these are crucial for everyday self-care skills like dressing and climbing into and out of a car or even getting into and out of bed.
Gross motor abilities also have an influence on other everyday functions. For example, a child’s ability to maintain appropriate tabletop posture (upper body support) will affect their ability to participate in fine motor skills (e.g. writing, drawing and cutting) and sitting upright to attend to class instruction, which then impacts their academic learning. Gross motor skills impact your endurance to cope with a full day of school (sitting upright at a desk, moving between classrooms, carrying your heavy school bag).
Game and activities that strengthen gross motor skills :
Bike riding is the ultimate test of balance and coordination. Children who struggle with balance issues are often reluctant to learn how to ride a bike. Taking the extra time to learn to ride will not only offer physical health benefits but will also help to improve self-esteem.
Good for physical, social, and cognitive development, the back and forth motion of the swing can also be relaxing and used in therapeutic situations. Through the act of swinging, gross motor skills, including balance and coordination are improved, as they run and jump into swings, push others, develop pumping motions, and jump out of the swings.
Dancing and musical movement can be a fun and unstructured way to move the body and enhance gross motor skill development. Dancing as a physical activity not only builds endurance but is also a great stress reducer. Integrating music into gross motor activities is also a great way to further stimulate the brain!
The most important thing you can do is to give children the time, space, and opportunity to move. If you suspect a child has a problem with certain skills, the first thing to do is ensure he or she gets more practice.
Hula Hoops and Jump Ropes
Activities and games with repetitive movement patterns are ideal for stimulating the brain and building gross motor skills. Hula hooping and jump roping are fun ways for kids to not only develop motor skills but also connect with other children socially.
Hiking Uneven Terrain
Climbing a hill or hiking a rocky path will help to improve balance and increase muscle tone. Hopping rocks and exploring nature increase physical strength and endurance and also offer a great sensory opportunity.