8 Activities to Build Gross Motor Skills
Childhood is all about running and climbing and swinging all about. And gross motor skills are what make it all happen. While fine motor skills use the small muscles of the hands and fingers, gross motor skills involve the larger muscles children need for all kinds of movement: sitting, standing, walking, and running, for example. Generally, as babies grow, these motor skills will develop first in the head, then the trunk, and lastly the legs. But what can you do to help ensure that those gross motor skills are developing as they should?
Get to the Playground!
Want muscle? Then just get out to the playground on a regular basis. Basic playground activities like swinging on the swing, scrambling over the monkey bars, or climbing up the ladder of a slide will help with gross motor skills. Kids will have so much fun just goofing around that they won’t realize there’s a purpose to the play!
Basic Backyard Games
You can’t go to a park or playground every day – so take advantage of your backyard to play simple games that build up muscle. Hide and seek, the hokey-pokey, and Simon Says are all great ways to engage your children in gross motor activities. Animal walks are another surefire way to build up core, arm, back, and leg strength. These are great games to play with several children, or one-on-one.
Ball play of any kind – whether it involves throwing, catching, bouncing, or kicking – is great for honing gross motor skills and coordination. And you can keep things interesting by using a variety of balls (soft balls, basketballs, soccer balls) as well as accessories like bats or rackets. Bean bags, balloons, or shuttlecocks can be as well for variation.
For young children, don’t worry about a formal game: just the act of throwing a ball back and forth or kicking from one place to another does the trick.
Jumping and Bouncing Activities
Needless to say, any kind of jumping or bouncing activities are also beneficial, especially to develop large muscles in the legs and the core. Teach your children to play hopscotch. Skip around the yard. Teach them how to jump rope or buy a trampoline (preferably one with a safety net!). Check out indoor play spaces with bouncy castles or other structures in your neighborhood as well.
Balance Things Out!
Gross motor skills aren’t just a matter of strength, but of balance too. Anyone who has seen a toddler walking or running knows that balance isn’t something that comes easily when a child is developing!
To help improve balance, have your children practice walking on their tip-toes, or their heels, or standing on one leg. Have them walk across a balance beam without falling (you can simply use a 4 x 4 in your backyard for this). Get them involved in a gymnastics or dance class – most studios will offer classes for even very young children. Yoga is also a great way to improve poise and balance from an early age.
For most kids, running comes as naturally as breathing – and just letting them run is great for their muscle development. Get them involved in races and sprints, especially if you can get several children to participate. Put together relays, races with hurdles, DIY obstacle courses, and egg-and-spoon races. The kids will be having good old-fashioned fun while you happily enjoy the fact that they’re actually working out.
Get your children outside as much as possible. Outdoor play not only instills a love of nature, it helps with muscle development as well. Even very young children can benefit from a hike in the woods, or a simple walk in the park. Letting children explore ponds, prairies, or other wild places teaches them a lot about natural science, and also hones their gross motor skills as well. So get to know what national, state, or local parks and natural areas are near you – and take advantage of them!
Most kids don’t need much persuasion to go to a lake, the ocean, or the local pool. Swimming and playing in the water is good for muscle development because the water provides natural resistance and also cushions kids from injuries, allowing them to move their bodies freely. Most YMCAs or youth centers with pools provide swimming classes even for babies. It’s never too soon to start!
What are your kids’ favorite activities for developing gross motor skills?