Gross Motor Skills

“For children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”- Fred Rogers

What are motor skills?

Motor skills are skills that enable the movements and tasks we do with our bodies on a daily basis. Gross motor skills use the large muscles in the body and include broader movements such as walking, jumping, skipping, and throwing a ball. Fine motor skills are those skills that require control and precision in the small muscles of the hand like using a pencil. Both of these skill types are important in the development of young children.

Kids Outside

Why are gross motor skills important for school?

Child playing in a puddle

When children play outdoors on the playground, swim at the pool, participate in sports, or ride a scooter around the cul-de-sac, they are building muscle and learning to use their bodies. A strong coordinated body brings confidence and also supports a strong mind. Physical activity improves concentration, memory, and classroom behavior. When children go to school, they will need to be able to spatially navigate their classroom, sit at a desk, carry their backpack, play on the playground, and get on and off the school bus. Well-developed gross motor skills will help your child manage kindergarten both physically and academically. Make sure your child has opportunities to move his or her body everyday!

What are some milestone gross motor skills that a child heading to kindergarten should have?

kids playing

At 4 years old-

  • Stands on one foot for up to 5 seconds

  • Kicks a ball forwards

  • Throws a ball to hit target

  • Catches a ball that has been bounced

  • Runs around obstacles

  • Walks on a line

  • Hops on one foot

  • Jumps over an object and lands with both feet together

At 5 years old-

  • Able to walk up stairs while holding an object

  • Walks backward toe-heel

  • Jumps forward 10 times

  • Skips forward

  • Hangs from a bar for at least 5 seconds

  • Walk a balance beam forwards and backwards

  • Catches a small ball using hands only

How can parents and caregivers help children develop gross motor skills?

Most children develop motor skills by simply getting a lot of play time! Yet, an increase in technology use has caused many kids to have underdeveloped gross motor skills. If your child’s gross motor skills need a little extra help, make sure to include outdoor activity, sports, or movement as a part of your child’s daily routine. An hour a day outdoors will boost mental and physical health!

Here are some outdoor activities that support gross motor development:

  • Trampolines

  • Hopscotch

  • Martial Arts Classes

  • Playground Play

  • Water Play and Swimming

  • Tricycles, Scooters and Pedal Cars

  • Ballet and Dancing

  • Obstacle Courses

  • Skipping Rope

kids excercising

If you cannot get outdoors, here are some activities that you can do indoors:

Indoor gross motor skills activities:

  • Play with a ball. Sit on the floor and roll the ball back and forth with your child.

  • Play games like “Simon Says”, “Mother, May I?”, “Red Light, Green Light” or “Tag”  with your child.

  • Ask him/her to stand in front of a chair, behind a chair, next to the chair, on top of the chair and crouch under the chair. Practice those positional words.

  • Tell your child that he/she must be your shadow and mimic all your actions as you walk about and perform simple actions.

  • Learn action songs like “Going on a Bear Hunt” and perform the actions as you sing them.

  • Ask your child to imitate the movement of different animals: creep like a snake, waddle like a duck, hop like a rabbit etc.

  • Encourage him/her to balance first on one leg, then on the other for as long as possible.

  • Make an indoor obstacle course!

See the videos below to get more fun ideas to support your child’s gross motor development.

Online Resources to Support Gross Motor Development

Parents can discover even more ways to promote gross motor skill development in their children through the links below! Try some of the suggestions offered with your child!