Development of gross motor skills through play

Gross motor development

Working on gross motor skills helps a child gain strength and confidence in his/her body. It also helps them get exercise and physical activity, which is important for a healthy lifestyle. Developing these skills helps a child’s ability to do more complex skills in the future.

Gross motor skills are completed by using the larger muscles in the body to roll, sit up, crawl, walk, run, jump, leap, hop, skip and more. Even a baby’s ability to sit up unsupported has a profound effect on their ability to learn about objects in their environment.

Ideas to support gross motor development; 

  • Climbing hills and walking on uneven surfaces
  • Colouring with chalk
  • Pull and push toys
  • Obstacle course
  • Riding a bike or a scooter
  • Water play
  • Outdoor painting projects

There are several factors that influence the development of gross motor skills. These factors include growth of the child, environment, genetics, muscle tone, and gender. By understanding these factors, you can help children enhance their skills and develop at an appropriate rate.

Motor skills are something most of us do without even thinking about them. Gross motor skills include standing, walking, going up and down stairs, running, swimming, and other activities that use the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso. We develop these mostly during childhood through play and physical activity.

Indoor gross motor activities 

Muscle-moving play doesn’t have to take up a ton of room. Given just a little floor space, your child can still enjoy skill-building activities inside. Try these:

  • Dancing, either freestyle or through songs with movements, such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “I’m a Little Teapot,” “The Wheels on the Bus,”
  • Playing pretend: Children boost motor skills when they use their bodies to become waddling ducks, stiff-legged robots, galloping horses, soaring planes, or whatever they can imagine.
  • Pulling or pushing large trucks, doll pushchair, or shopping trolley, can be a motor-developing part of play. 
  • Building and navigating obstacle courses with furniture, pillows, boxes, and blankets will develop large motor skills.
  • Large-scale arts and crafts activities stimulate both large motor skills and activity.
  • Jumping on a mini trampoline, or hopping from place to place on the floor (set up targets with masking tape or cardboard) can be a fun activity.

Outdoor gross motor activities 

Children have lots of room outside to really challenge their muscles and play. Children will benefit from:

  • Walking around the park. For variety, add in marching, jogging, skipping, hopping, or even musical instruments to form a parade. As you walk, tell stories, look for colours, count, or play games.
  • Obstacle courses with rocks, logs, or playground equipment.
  • Swimming and other water play.
  • Balancing: Have your child walk on a low beam or plank at the playground or a homemade balance beam.
  • Riding tricycles, scooters, and other ride-on toys.
  • Throwing, catching, kicking, and rolling large, lightweight, softballs.
  • Swings, slides and climbing at a playground/home

Useful links

If your child is struggling with their gross motor development please contact your GP or Health Visitor