The development of gross motor skills is important in early childhood. Gross motor movements or skills involve the functioning of large and strong muscle groups in the body and if a child lacks in this department of development, they will not be able to sit, crawl or hold their heads up.
If the problem is not solved or addressed through early intervention, the child will experience high levels of difficulty in walking, running, jumping, or skipping, as they grow up.
According to the World Health Organization or WHO, children between the age of one and five years need at least three hours of physical activity a day. However, this does not mean a 180-minute session of back-breaking physical activity without any breaks. Instead, it means that your child should have a minimum of three hours of physical activity, which needs to be spread throughout the day.
These physical activities will ensure that your child has a proper development of general physical health along with the improvement of their gross motor skills.
In this comprehensive article, we will discuss what are gross motor skills, how gross motor skills get developed, why gross motor skills are important, the different developmental milestones of gross motor skills among toddlers, and we will also classify several gross motor skill activities for children from 1 to 4 years.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills are those important skill sets that are required by our entire body to move and carry different functions of movements properly.
These skills require the involvement of large and strong muscle groups in our body that either function independently or collectively in cohesion to help us walk, run, climb, or jump.
Also, gross motor skills are important in terms of helping us to sit straight and stand properly. If the gross motor skills of a child are not properly developed, they won’t be able to control the movements of their body properly or even make their muscles function at an optimum level.
How do Gross Motor Skills Develop?
When it comes to how to develop gross motor skills in the case of babies and infants, they learn to move their muscles starting from head to toe. What this means is that the development of their upper body muscles takes place before they start controlling the muscle groups in the lower part of their body.
The normal developmental growth of a baby starts from their neck muscles as this is the first muscle group they can control while growing up. The control of their neck muscles assists them in controlling their heads and they gradually start controlling their trunk muscles which helps them in improving their sitting balance.
When both their neck and trunk muscles get developed, babies start controlling their shoulders, elbows, and wrists, and then finally they start controlling their fingers. The same stage of development holds true for the proper functioning of the lower body as the control starts from the hips and then eventually it comes down along the legs, and feet.
When babies and infants take control of their bodies, they start building up the strength of their core muscle group. Infants especially need a lot of opportunities to practice their body movements as that is the only way for them to learn and grow.
Why are Gross Motor Skills Important?
A child needs to build gross motor skills as they help them to not just carry the simple movements of the body like walking, running, and climbing but also, it helps a child in carrying out the more complex physiological functions of the body such as playing a team sport or navigating their own way in a new park or environment.
The 3 typical gross motor movements that are highly important for every child to have are as follows –
Any movement of the body that a child does to move from one spot to another is known as locomotion. Examples of locomotion include rolling, crawling, crawling on hands, belly crawling, scooting, jumping, running, climbing, etc.
These skills are important to maintain a proper body balance and body posture when a child is stationary at one particular place or position. Examples of stationary skills include head control, standing on both feet or one leg, rising up, bending, stretching, falling, pulling, swinging, etc.
Skills of Manipulation
Manipulation skills include the movement or moving of an object in a wide variety of ways. These skills include throwing a ball, catching a ball, kicking a ball, stopping a ball, playing with a bat, etc.
It has to be remembered that promoting gross motor skills development along with the accurate functioning of fine motor skills will help your child grow into a healthy being. Therefore, fine motor skills are as important as gross motor skills.
And if as parents you think your child needs help and support, without any delay seek professional medical advice.
Gross Motor Developmental Milestones for Toddlers
Generally speaking, the developmental milestones of gross motor skills for toddlers and infants are as follows:
For Newborn to 2 Months:
- Head lag and pulling of the body to sit
- Lifting of head and turning it to both sides while on the belly
- Kicking of both legs and arms while laying on the back
- Turning of head to both sides while laying on the back
For 3 to 4 Months:
- Lifting of the head in line with the trunk when pulled up for sitting
- Pushing up on forearms and turning of the head from side to side while on the belly
- Rolling from belly to back
For 5 Months:
- Bringing of feet nearer to mouth while laying on the back
- Rolling from back to belly
- Pushing up on hands while the arms are extended when laying on the belly
- Pivotal movements on the belly as the motion of a circle
For 6 to 8 Months:
- Successful balancing of self when there is a lack of balance while sitting
- Crawling on belly
- Reaching for toys to play with while in the sitting position
- Being able to sit independently
For 9 to 11 Months:
- Crawling on the hands and knees
- Rapid movement around obstacles or furniture
- Successful and independent movements between lying down and sitting up
- Being able to pull their body to a standing position with one of the feet leading first
- Being able to walk when the two hands are held for support
For 11 to 12 Months:
- Being able to walk with one hand held
- Can stand independently for just a few seconds
For 13 to 14 Months:
- Crawling up the staircase
- Can stand up independently from the floor without the need for any support
- Can walk independently
- Squats from a sitting position and stands up on their feet without any help
For 15 to 18 Months:
- Can walk up the staircases with hands on the railing as support
- Can crawl down the staircase on their belly or using their feet
- Can kick a ball or a round object in the forward direction
Gross Motor Activities for 1-Year-Olds
Now that we have covered what are gross motor skills, why they are important, and what are the crucial gross motor skill developmental milestones for toddlers, let us explore the gross motor skill activities for different age groups starting from the 1-year-old.
Let’s get started –
Pushing a Wheeled Toy
The fun game of pushing a wheeled toy encourages a 1-year-old to move on their own. As they start pushing the toy, their entire body moves in the activity and as a result, it improves their gross motor skills as well.
Pulling a Wheeled Toy
Just like pushing, pulling a wheeled toy will also encourage a young kid to move their entire body. Also, pulling and pushing will help increase the strength of their forearms and hand muscles which will, in turn, lead to better development of gross motor skills.
Give Them “Ride On” Toys
“Ride On” toys are great to encourage a young kid to use their legs while playing with the toy. As your young child will scoot around the house riding that toy, their leg muscles along with a sense of direction will start developing naturally within your child.
Playing with a Ball
When you involve a ball in the gaming activity for a 1-year-old, you will never run out of ideas, or fun activities, nor will your child run out of the fun and excitement of playing with that round object. Whether it’s rolling the ball, kicking the ball, throwing the ball, or tossing the ball –your child will have endless amounts of fun with a ball.
Playing with a Balloon
When you give your child or toddler a balloon to play with, you will be amazed to see the amount of fun they can have with it. A 1-year-old enjoys the bounce of a balloon, especially when it is tossed up and the kid waits patiently to catch the balloon. This is a classic activity for the development of gross motor skills.
Gross Motor Activities for 2-Year-Olds
For this activity, you can use masking or painter’s tape, or even chalk, if you do not have any tape. You can make some interesting rules as to whether your child should jump on one foot or two, or you can even say red, green, or yellow and ask your child to follow the orders. This way, they will be able to learn when to stop and when to go, including the practice of jumping and leaping.
Just use some paper and stick them to the hula hoops to see the excitement of your child when they have to climb, crawl, do two jump ropes or take a tumble to get through that tricky space. This activity will encourage your child to use their entire body.
Simple Scavenger Hunt
Use a ball of yarn to weave a simple obstacle course between two pieces of furniture and ask your child to navigate through the course by using their problem-solving skills. You can use letters or small toys as interesting hanging objects and see your child stretch, crawl, or perhaps even jump to get a particular piece, making their way through the obstacle course.
An activity of obstacle course with interesting ideas is always classic!
A simple but classic activity to develop gross motor skills! All you need to do is play some music and ask your child to move and dance to the beats of it. This will allow them to use their entire body and if you want to make the activity more interesting, you can join them as well.
Laundry Basket Pushing
Lifting up and pushing an object is an important life skill that every child needs to learn. Encourage your child to use the small muscle groups in their body to fetch their toys from different corners of the house, put them in the laundry basket, and bring them back to you. This will encourage them to keep the house clean as well as involve their entire body in an intense yet fun workout.
Gross Motor Activities for 3-Year-Olds
Long Jump Challenge
This activity is an extension of the jumping the lines game. For 3-year-olds especially, this game could turn out to be a lot of fun when you increase the level of difficulty a bit and ask your child to go for the longest jump. Your child will want to play this game again and again to better their previous mark.
Make a designated area on the floor as a hopscotch board and ask your child to jump from one square to another. This activity is perfect for developing gross motor skills as well as making the counting game of your child strong.
Balancing a Balloon on Body Parts
When you ask your child to balance a balloon using their different body parts, you will help your child develop their body balance and body awareness. The movement of their entire body is required to prevent the balloon from touching the ground and therefore, it is a great exercise for working on gross motor skills.
Egg & Spoon Race
Instead of an egg, you can also use a bean bag or a small ball for this game. To increase the level of difficulty, you can draw a line on the floor and ask your child to balance along the straight line. A simple fun game that is excellent for improving balance and coordination skills.
Paper Plate Skating
You can give your child some paper plates and ask them to skate on it starting from one corner of the room. This game works fine when your child is barefoot and the plates are placed on a smooth surface.
Gross Motor Activities for 4-Year-Olds
Using a trampoline is a great playtime for 4-year-olds and younger kids, as it helps them to develop the core muscle strength of their body and improve their balance. Also, playing on a trampoline with others will present the situation of socializing with other kids to your children, which is an important interaction while growing up.
Playing on a playground with playground equipment or other kids holds a lot of benefits for your child, especially at the time of growing up. For example, swinging is an excellent playground activity for the development of gross motor skills as well as for improving the coordinated shifting of body weight using the back and forth movement of their legs. Activities that require crawling, climbing, pushing, can all help with developing their gross motor skills.
Riding a Tricycle or a Pedal Car
If you think your child needs to work on their body balance, there is no better way than helping him or her ride a tricycle or a pedal car. As your child will practice riding or pedaling on their own, it will boost their confidence, improve their balance, and will act as the stepping stone for riding a bike later at a mature age.
Dancing is a great activity to work on the development of gross motor skills. It can give your child an awareness of rhythm and music, by improving their overall body balance, awareness, muscle coordination, and skills of gross motor control and sequencing.
Martial Arts Classes
Getting trained in martial arts is a great way of improving strength in the muscles of the legs and arms. Kicking, grappling, and punching are all action groups of martial arts that help in the development of muscle strength as well as gross motor skills.
Gross motor activities are the ones that help in the development of large muscle groups by using the entire body. These activities start from a very young age and continue till the time a person is an adult. The gross motor skills of toddlers, 3-year-olds, and 4-year-olds are different as they require different levels of difficulty.
But all these activities hold great importance in the life of a growing child as they help in developing coordination, strength, balance, and agility.
These were some of the best gross motor activities, that can help your child in their physical development. Do try out these activities with your child and help them blossom in their childhood.
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