Enhancing Gross Motor Skills through Play

Three young girls playing together outside, holding hands

Playtime isn’t just fun—it’s foundational for developing gross motor skills. 

These skills form the basis for a healthy, active child with the stamina to run, jump, and tackle the day’s activities with joy and ease. We’ll share how to develop gross motor skills through play and inspire you with games to try with your child at home.

What are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills for kids involve using larger muscles in the arms, legs, and torso to perform activities like walking, jumping, and throwing. These skills are essential for everyday tasks like running around a playground or kicking a football.

They’re different from fine motor skills, which involve smaller muscles in the hands and fingers for tasks like writing, buttoning a shirt, or picking up small objects.

Put simply, gross motor skills are for big movements, while fine motor skills are for smaller, more precise actions.

Enhancing Gross Motor Skills through Play

Playing is a key part of how your child develops the skills needed for bigger movements like running, jumping, and balancing. Here’s more on how kids build gross motor skills through play:

  • Early stages: From the time they’re infants, kids start working on these skills through natural movement and exploration.
  • Moving comes naturally: Initially, kids don’t need much encouragement to move. They have a built-in desire to explore, which helps build basic motor skills.
  • Structured play: As your child gets older, more structured games and activities like catch or tag help fine-tune their coordination and balance.
  • Parental support: Providing a safe space for your child to play with suitable toys or equipment makes a big difference in their skill development.
  • Consistent practice: The key to mastering these skills is repetition. The more they practise, the more proficient they become.
  • Pace varies: It’s important to remember that each child’s rate of development is different, and that’s okay.

Repetition and consistency are other keys to the healthy development of gross motor skills. 

It’s not enough for a child to try something once; skills get better through repeated practice. 

The key is to keep the opportunities for physical activities diverse and fun, allowing kids to develop these essential skills while enjoying themselves.

Types of Play That Enhance Gross Motor Skills

Active Play

This type includes activities that increase the heart rate and incorporate large movements. Active play is the foundation of gross motor skills learning, with games like tag, hopscotch, or catch as great examples.

Outdoor Play

The great outdoors provides endless opportunities for enhancing gross motor skills, from climbing trees to playing team sports like soccer or basketball.

Imaginative Play

Don’t underestimate the power of the imagination! Activities like pretending to be animals can include hopping like a bunny or slithering like a snake, all engaging the gross motor muscles.

Benefits of Gross Motor Skills for Kids

Enhancing gross motor skills is all about using big muscles to walk, jump, or throw. 

From the first time your baby tries to crawl to when your little one starts to run around, these skills help them get stronger and more confident.

And it’s not just about the body. Being good at things like running and jumping can also help kids make friends and feel happy. 

Plus, once they’re confident in these big movements, it’s easier for them to learn the smaller ones, like holding a pencil or cutting with scissors.

Why gross motor skills for kids matter:

  • Being active and learning these skills help your child get stronger and healthier.
  • From sitting in class to playing at recess, good gross motor skills help your child handle a full day of activities without getting too tired.
  • These skills make it easier for your child to balance and coordinate their movements, whether walking or playing sports.
  • Developing gross motor skills through play helps your child understand space and make safe choices, like knowing when it’s okay to climb or jump.
  • Being confident in moving around helps your child play and get along with others, building their self-esteem.
  • These skills set the stage for enjoying sports and other activities as they grow up.

You can see how the benefits of strong gross motor skills reach far and wide, touching many areas of your child’s life. So it’s really important to help your child develop these skills from a young age.

Happy young boy running outside

Activities to Develop Gross Motor Skills for Kids Based on Milestones

Some kids obtain these skills quickly, while others might take more time. Just keep working through enhancing gross motor skills and cheering them on. If you do feel concerned about delayed development, speak with a professional.

For Infants (6 – 12 months)

Milestones: Rolling over, sitting, standing.

Suggested activities: Spending more extended periods on their tummy, sit-to-stand practice, rolling over games.

Benefits of these activities: Extended tummy time helps develop neck and upper body strength, which is crucial for later skills like sitting up and crawling. 

Assisting your infant from sitting to standing improves balance and leg strength. Games that focus on rolling over can make your baby more comfortable with movement and prepare them for the next stage of mobility, such as crawling.

For Toddlers (18 months – 2 years)

Milestones: Walking unaided, kicking a ball, standing on tiptoes.

Suggested activities: Simple obstacle course, ball kicking games, tippy toe challenges.

Benefits of the activities: A simple obstacle course can facilitate gross motor skills learning, helping your toddler develop better walking and balancing abilities. It also provides a fun way for them to explore their environment. 

Kicking a ball helps refine leg coordination and introduces the concept of cause and effect. 

Standing on tiptoes strengthens the calf muscles and improves balance.

For Preschoolers (3 – 5 years)

Milestones: Running smoother, hopping on one foot, somersaults on the ground.

Suggested activities: Hopscotch, Tag and Chase, Beginner’s Gymnastics (Somersaults).

Benefits of the activities: Hopscotch improves precision hopping skills and engages their sense of balance and spatial awareness.

Tag and chase games enhance running skills and agility. Beginner-level gymnastics or simple at-home somersaults strengthen core and back muscles, aiding posture and physical coordination.

For School-Aged Kids (5 – 7 years)

Milestones: Skipping, balancing on one foot for extended periods, riding a bicycle.

Suggested activities: Jump Rope Challenges, One-Footed Balance Games, Learning to Ride a Bike.

Benefits of the activity: Jumping rope is a fun way for kids to improve coordination and get some cardio exercise.

Balancing games hone their ability to control their bodies and help with sports that require good balance. Learning to ride a bike is a major childhood milestone and improves balance, strength, and coordination.

Additional Activity Ideas for Gross Motor Skills Learning

Balloon Volleyball

Great for preschoolers and school-age children, this indoor activity can help improve hand-eye coordination and reflexes.

DIY Mini Olympics

Suitable for preschoolers and older children. Create a series of games and activities that focus on running, jumping, and throwing.

Freeze Dance

Works well for toddlers and a little older. Dancing is a fun way to work on balance, coordination, and rhythm; freezing in place develops those skills.

Obstacle Relay Race

Set up a mini obstacle course using household items like pillows, chairs, or cones. This activity is well-suited for kids aged 4 and up. It helps improve running skills, agility, and coordination, and it’s a dynamic way to build gross motor skills for kids.

Water Relay Races

This outdoor activity improves speed and agility, promotes teamwork, and is the perfect summertime activity!

Sack Race

Hopping along in a sack enhances leg strength and balance for preschoolers and school-age kids.

Crawling Courses

For little ones who are starting to crawl, setting up soft obstacles like pillows or mats can make for an exciting exploration space.

Children crawling through a play tunnel

How the Shichida Program Supports Gross Motor Skills for Kids

The Shichida program supports the development of both fine and gross motor skills, and we provide parents with age-appropriate suggestions  to practise gross motor skills at home. 

These exercises engage your child’s larger muscle groups, such as those in the arms, legs, and torso, in a fun way through play.

By practising these exercises at home, parents become a part of the developmental journey, reinforcing skills like balance, coordination, and strength that are crucial for everyday activities and future athletic endeavours.

Recognising Signs of Gross Motor Skill Challenges

If you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skill development, there are some common signs to look out for:

  • Lack of interest: Your child may avoid or show little enthusiasm for activities that involve physical tasks, like running, jumping, or even simple playground games.
  • Rushing through tasks: If your child speeds through physical activities, they may be trying to hide their difficulties or might be experiencing fatigue.
  • Silly behaviour: Some kids act goofy or overly playful when faced with physical tasks they find challenging. This could be a way to mask their difficulty or to divert attention away from it.
  • Bossy conduct: If your child seems more interested in directing others on how to perform physical tasks or play games, but avoids participating themselves, this could be a sign of discomfort or struggle with these kinds of activities.

Gross motor skills are essential for your child’s development, playing a pivotal role in everyday activities and self-confidence. Active, imaginative, and outdoor play offers many opportunities for enhancing these skills.

So embrace these fun-filled activities and watch your child grow stronger, more balanced, and coordinated. 

Ready to give your child the best start in life? Discover more about what we teach or book a trial class at one of Shichida’s early learning centre’s today.

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