Building gross motor skills and why it matters

Use these simple activities to help build your child’s gross motor skills.

Young children need time to practice using their gross motor skills in everyday situations.
Young children need time to practice using their gross motor skills in everyday situations.

Gross motor, sometimes called large motor, skills can be thought of as the movements involved in the coordination of the arms, legs and other large body parts and movements. Gross motor skills are movements such as running, crawling, swimming or hopping. These types of movements are important for young children to practice as they develop because they help children learn how to coordinate and control their body movements. Gross motor skills also help lay the foundation to be able to complete fine motor skill movement such as pinching or grasping.

Young children need time to practice using their gross motor skills in everyday situations. The opportunity to run in large areas, practice hopping on one foot, crawling or leaping is helping children to develop their control and coordination of their bodies.

How can you help your child practice gross motor skills? Michigan State University Extension suggests these 10 simple activities to try at home. These activities will help develop hand-eye coordination and help children learn to control and coordinate the movement of their bodies.

  1. Ball play. Roll, throw, catch, toss, kick and bounce balls.
  2. Tag. Run and chase each other around. For an added twist, when someone is caught have them freeze until another person touches and unfreezes them.
  3. Tape line. Using tape to mark a line on the floor or ground, have children practice walking and balancing on the line. Have children hop over the line from side to side to practice hopping. You can also use other items such as a piece of wood or large branch to make a balance beam.
  4. Balloon play. Throw balloons in the air and try and catch them, keep them from hitting the ground or volley them back and forth together.
  5. Obstacle course. Set up items such as hula hoops (or yarn circles), chairs, small tables, balls and buckets and have children climb over, under, run around and transport items from one area to another.
  6. Bubble play. Blow bubbles, chase and pop them. Have children use the bubble wand and spin around or run fast to make bubbles instead of blowing to make them.
  7. Simon Says or Mother May I. Play Simon Says or Mother May I, focusing on doing large movements such as hopping on one foot, hopping up and down, touching your toes, swinging your arms, taking giant steps, spinning steps, crab walking, etc.
  8. Music. Play different types of music that include fast and slow and have a dance party. Do a movement and have children copy that movement, then have them do a movement and copy them.
  9. Box play. Using empty boxes of all sizes, let children crawl through them, over them or under them. Have children push and pull the boxes to move them around.
  10. Toss and throw. Using bean bags, socks filled with beans or soft toys, have children toss items into containers, taped off area on the floor or chalk drawn areas on the driveway.

Practicing gross motor skills will help children learn how to control and coordinate their body movements. For more ideas about activities and articles on child development, academic success, parenting and life skill development, please visit the MSU Extension website.

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