OT Terminology

Why is Gross Motor Development Important for my child?

Gross motor skills incorporate whole-body skills we use every day to move around. Whether we are running to catch a train, walking the dog, reaching to put clothes on the clothesline or crouching to put air in the car tyres. We don’t think about what we are doing, but there are many children (and adults!) that struggle with completing similar body movements.

Gross motor development is vital for children to explore their environments and learn how to adapt to different situations.
As the saying goes… “You have to learn to walk before you can run!”  This is so very true as many gross motor skills need to be learned before moving on to more complex tasks. For example, learning to climb or swim can build upper body strength which is necessary for shoulder stability when learning to write.  Developing strength through the tummy will help children to sustain sitting in a cross-legged position for longer periods, this is particularly important when participating in classroom activities.

Regular exposure to outdoor play is essential to build body awareness, coordination, balance, attention, strength and endurance. These skills will cross over to other areas and increase independence in activities such as dressing, walking up/down stairs, packing and carrying bags, sitting at the table to eat or engage in drawing or craft, and social interaction with peers. Gross motor development can lead to improved confidence and self-esteem, good physical and mental health and increased ability to regulate emotions.

There are many factors that can affect gross motor development including certain medical and developmental conditions, sensory processing concerns, coordination disorders, increased time spent engaging in screen-based technology, a sedentary lifestyle and overprotective parenting.


How do I know if my child needs help with their gross motor skills?

If you have noticed your child tends to avoid playing games or physical activity, tends to slump or unable to sit upright at a table, appears clumsy and bumps into things, fatigues quickly when playing sports, walks on toes or perhaps they have been delayed in meeting their developmental milestones such as crawling or walking. These signs could indicate your child has some gross motor limitations and may need some assistance to further develop their gross motor skills.

We encourage families to engage in activities that develop gross motor ability by playing games that are fun and a little challenging. 

How to improve your child’s gross motor skills:

  • Playing Tug-O-War will help increase tummy muscles
  • Simon Says is a great way to promote body awareness
  • Playing ball games will increase eye/hand and eye/foot coordination
  • Jumping on a trampoline is a great way to increase balance skills
  • Playground play can cover a wide range of gross motor skills including coordination, balance and motor planning and incorporate the whole body
  • Obstacle courses or outdoor scavenger hunts can also be a whole-body experience and will challenge your child to build balance, coordination and motor planning skills
  • Dancing to music around the house or following dance moves to songs such as the Macarena can help children learn to follow direction and increase body awareness
  • Balloon or bubble play can increase eye/hand coordination as well as improve body awareness and awareness of their surroundings
  • Pretending to walk like different animals such as a bear, crab, penguin, horse or duck. This will increase tummy strength, coordination balance and body awareness
  • Playing hopscotch or jump rope can increase balance and coordination

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