Fine motor skills are often heavily promoted during the preschool years because they are necessary to begin writing. But what about gross motor skills, why are they important? Gross motor skills involve the development of the large muscle groups responsible for normal daily functions: walking, running, sitting, lifting, etc. These skills are often a necessary precursor to fine motor skills. How can we expect a child to sit down and write if they lack the proper core muscle strength to sit in a chair? Building your child’s gross motor skills is essential to their overall development.
Promoting and Developing Gross Motor Skills
Keep in mind where your child is at developmentally. You should set-up activities that are a mix between being easy and advanced. The goal is to find a nice balance between building confidence with the easier activities and challenging them with the more difficult activities.
An obstacle course can be set-up indoors or outdoors depending on the time of year. Gather materials you have on hand such as a hula hoop, ball, slide, tricycle, and a baseball bat and tee. Then, set-up your course! The following course could be set-up with the given materials:
1. Hop in and out of the hula hoop three times.
2. Run over to a ball and overhand throw as far as they can.
3. Bunny hop over to the slide and go down it.
4. Ride the tricycle over to where the baseball bat and tee with a ball are located and hit the ball as far as you can.
5. Hop on one foot over to the tree.
This is just one example, but there are endless obstacle courses you could create depending on the props that you have. After you create a course, try letting your child set one up. You can time them on subsequent runs to see if they get faster. Your child can go through the course alone or with you at their side. There are so many variations!
Follow the Leader
This is a great activity to do if there are specific gross motor milestones your child needs to work on. Don’t forget to let your kiddo take a turn being the leader.
Draw a bull’s eye on the sidewalk and have your child practice throwing a ball, bean bag, or water balloon at it. They can throw the object overhand or underhand.
Hula Hoop Toss
Tie a rope to a hula hoop and hang it from a tree. Have your child throw an object through the hoop. A football, ball, bean bag, or water balloon would all work nicely. As a safety precaution you might want to consider taking the hoop down from the tree once you are done.
You can teach your child the original hop scotch rules or just have them practice hopping through it; either way will be great for their gross motor development.
On your driveway draw roads using chalk. You can make this as elaborate as you would like by adding a gas station, grocery store, and other buildings, or you can keep it simple with basic roads. Your child will have a blast riding a tricycle or ride-on toy throughout their city.
Gross Motor Milestones
Here is a compiled list of gross motor milestones according to age:
Two Years Old
• runs, although not smoothly
• can jump using both feet
• walks upstairs without adult assistance but might use railing as support
• can overhand throw a ball
Three Years Old
• throws a ball to a person or target
• easily runs without tripping and stumbling
• hops between alternating feet
• able to stand on one foot for a few seconds
• can walk backwards for a distance of 2-3 feet without falling
• rides a tricycle without assistance
Four Years Old
• alternates feet while walking upstairs
• runs smoothly and is able to alter speed
• can bounce a ball
• catches a ball using both hands and body
• can catch a bean bag in their hands
• able to somersault
Five Years Old
• able to hop on one foot
• can correctly do a jumping jack
• catches a ball easily with just their hands
• able to dribble a ball while standing still
• can jump rope
Keep in mind that the list above is just that—a list. Your child may be able to do something from the list on the year ahead of them, yet not able to do something from the list on the year behind them. All kids are unique and develop at a different rate. Do not stress yourself out if they cannot do everything on the appropriate list; however, if you have a concern please talk with your child’s pediatrician.