Did you know that the Australian guidelines suggest that pre-schoolers should be active for at least three hours every day? The importance of gross motor (physical) skills development in pre-schoolers is continually underestimated. Participation in active play is vital for a child’s gross motor skills development, as well as for their overall health, well-being and development.
What are gross motor skills?
Gross motor (physical) skills are those which involve movements of the large muscles of the arms, legs and torso. They help kids with everyday functions, like sitting, running and jumping. They also include eye-hand coordination skills such as throwing a ball, swimming, or riding a bike.
Why are gross motor skills important?
Gross motor skills are important to enable children to do everyday activities like walking, sitting up straight, playing and self-care skills like eating and getting dressed. Gross motor skills also help a child’s participation in sports and playground skills, which have other social benefits such as social skills, communicating, problem solving and self-control.
The skills also impact on a child’s fine motor skills, such as writing drawing and cutting with scissors, which then affects their academic learning.
Gross motor skill development occurs when children have regular chances to participate in active play, and is vital for preparing pre-school children for learning.
Gross motor skills vs fine motor skills
Development of gross motor skills goes hand in hand with development of fine motor skills, which are also very important for your child's development.. Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in your child's hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Fine motor skills involve the movements of small muscles that require your child's brain to coordinate between the action and what they are seeing.
Learn how you can help your child to develop their fine motor skills here. Or try making one of these 7 fun things with your kids to improve their fine motor skills
Fun activities to help your child to improve their gross motor skills
Kids develop motor skills at different rates. There are lots of ways that parents can help kids improve their gross motor skills. Here are 10 fun activities to try together.
1. Create and do an obstacle course together
For example, you can use hula-hoops to jump in and out of, draw lines to walk along (you can use chalk for outdoors and tape for indoors), and have things they can crawl on or under. Have a look at some of these amazing kids obstacle courses on YouTube.
2. Balloon and bubble play
Blow up a few balloons, throw them up and try to keep them from touching the floor. Or blow some bubbles for kids to chase and pop as many as possible. It is great for hand eye coordination.
3. Put on some music and dance together
Create some dance movements, or a routine to follow. Try songs with actions like The Hokey Pokey, I’m a Little Teapot, I’m Going On A Bearhunt, and A Root Chy Cha.
4. Explore the park, a playground, or some trees
Activities like swinging and climbing can help kids work their muscles, learn how to coordinate moving their arms and legs, and develop balance.
5. Ball activities
Activities like throwing, catching, kicking and bouncing are great for hand-eye coordination. Try using balls of different sizes like tennis balls, basketballs, footballs. Or hitting a ball with a hand, bat or racquet.
6. Play ‘Simon Says’... with a twist
Simon Says do star jumps, pretend you’re riding a motor bike, gallop like a horse walk backwards, walk sideways…It’s great for body awareness and movement planning.
7. Bounce on a trampoline
If you have a trampoline in the back yard, get bouncing to improve balance.
8. Play ‘Tug of war’ activities
These can help build upper limb and core strength.
9. Riding a tricycle, bike or scooter
These activities are great for balancing, coordination and movement planning.
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10. Hop into hopscotch
Hopscotch helps children practice their jumping and balancing skills and build awareness of the right and left sides of your body. You could use chalk to draw your hopscotch outside or tape if inside.
Pretend play is vital for social skills and learning
Active play is essential for your child's physical development, but pretend play is vital for your child's social skills and learning.. Research shows that pretend play is crucial to language and narrative skills in young children. Narrative skills include being able to describe things, to tell events in order, and to retell stories. Narrative enables children to problem solve properly, make predictions about what is going to happen next and to understand how to make a story. Pretend play is also important for developing friendships, emotional regulation, self-organisation, reasoning skills and creativity.
Click here for a list of pretend play activities.
What to do if you’re concerned with your preschool child's development
Issues with coordination and balance may not be noticeable until kids reach school age. But if you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skills, we have Children’s Occupational Therapists who can help. Our specialists support preschool kids and their families to develop basic sensory awareness and motor skills to help them with self-care skills and get ready for school. Call 9028 0153 to make an appointment.
Inspiro is a local, non-profit community health service that provides dental, dietetics / nutrition, podiatry, physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, diabetes education, counselling, exercise physiology, social and family support services from our Lilydale, Belgrave and Healesville clinics and various community venues.
We have dentists to look at your teeth, health professionals to help get you moving and active, health services for children and older people, support if you are living with ongoing illness, podiatrists to look at your feet, someone to talk to about your mental health, and many other services to help you reach your own health goals.
INSPIRO LILYDALE: 17 Clarke St, Lilydale
INSPIRO BELGRAVE: 1616-1624 Burwood Highway, Belgrave
INSPIRO HEALESVILLE: 333 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
Call us on 03 9028 0153