Gross Motor Skills are the movement and coordination of larger body parts like arms and legs. For most children, this comes naturally, but for others, it needs to be encouraged and helped along. Gross motor skills are needed for everyday activities – balancing, walking, running, throwing and catching. For babies, it includes sitting up, rolling over and crawling. Gross motor skills develop before fine motor skills. Here are some exercises you can do to help your child strengthen their gross motor skills.
- Lie your baby in a baby activity centre/baby gym. These are generally colourful rugs that have toys dangling down. Show your child the toys and encourage them to reach for them. Usually, these toys will have some extra special effects – some may be on elastic so it’s possible for your child to pull them and watch them bounce back or others may have crinkle sounding material or a squeak area for your child to press and listen to.
2. Lie your baby on the floor on a soft rug. Put their favourite toy near them but not within arm’s reach. Then encourage them to roll over to get it or crawl over to get it. Don’t make it too difficult for them and encourage them as they try and when your baby gets bored with this ‘game’ move onto something else.
3. When your child is about 10 months old, buy or borrow a ‘walker’. This will help them balance while they learn to walk.
4. Play ball games with your child. When your child is young, use a soft ball but as they get older and more competent, introduce heavier balls. Start with throwing and catching. Then try kicking and saving with their feet. Learning and strengthening gross motor skills should be fun. Use a light ball or balloon and play a game of trying to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible.
5. Spend time at your local playground. Even small children can learn skills like climbing steps (up to a slide) and balance (on swings)
6. As your child gets older, help improve their balance with jumping games. Buy a skipping rope or some street chalk and draw a hopscotch or an obstacle course on your driveway or path outside your house. Or invest in a trampoline.
7. On a wet, cold day, play some dance music and get your child dancing. Teach them new moves like rolling your hands, pointing your feet, and swaying to the music. All these will strengthen their gross motor skills without costing you a cent. Younger children may prefer learning action nursery rhymes.
8. If you have a garden or a large room in your house, then buy a play tent with a tunnel. This encourages crawling.
As you can see, strengthening your child’s gross motor skill doesn’t have to be expensive and can be fun. However, it will take time-investment as you participate in these activities with your child and encourage them every step of the way.