A Definition and Examples of Gross Motor Skills in Children

Gross motor skills work the body's largest muscles

Baby boy learning to walk on grass
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Parents concerned about whether their children are hitting developmental milestones should take time to understand the definition of gross motor skills and examples of them in practice. 

Defining Gross Motor Skills

Essentially, gross motor skills are actions that utilize the body's gross, or large, muscles, such as those in the arms, legs and core. As a result, sometimes gross motor skills are referred to as large motor skills.

 Children who are about a year old can already perform a variety of gross motor skills, including crawling, pulling themselves up to stand, traversing furniture or walking and waving. While even small children can execute such tasks, coordination between the upper and lower body is not very developed at this point.

Examples of Gross Motor Skills

As a child approaches 2 years old, gross motor skills expand to include tasks such as bending over to pick up a toy, running, climbing steps and kicking or throwing a ball. A parent of a toddler may notice a dramatic shift in their child's gross motor skills in just one year. "At first he could barely walk, and now he's running all over the place," a parent might observe.

Once children near 3 or 4 years old, they begin to master complex gross motor skills such as jumping (both in place and forward) or balancing on one foot. Their ability to climb stairs and throw balls show marked improvements as well.

You can encourage your child's development in this area by offering plenty of opportunities to practice. Regularly plan outdoor physical activities, such as sandbox play, scavenger hunts or yard work, or indoor activities, such as yoga, hide-and-seek or obstacle courses. Purchase a set of small balls or a basketball hoop.

Then, show your child how to use them and allow him to play with them freely.

Avoid Delaying Gross Motor Skills Development

Parents must take care to avoid unwittingly behaving in ways that might hinder a child's gross motor skills development. For instance, some parents frequently carry their children or place them in strollers. To facilitate the development of gross motor skills, parents should instead work on letting their children practice their walking skills. They can take them out of the stroller for a while, allowing children to hold on the the side for balance. Then, when it's time to cross the street or children grow tired, parents can place them back inside of the stroller.

Wrapping Up

Observing gross motor skills is a great way for parents to see if their toddler or preschooler is hitting appropriate developmental milestones. That said, not all children develop at the same pace. Some will develop certain skills sooner than others. But if you suspect your child has a developmental delay, don't hesitate to consult your pediatrician.

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