What are gross motor skills?
They're also called large motor skills, or large muscle skills. They are large muscle movements, and whole body movements.
In the early months, these are skills like an infant learning to hold their heads up, rolling over or learning to sit.
As babies develop, they learn gross motor skills like standing, crawling, walking, running, jumping and climbing.
How can you help baby to develop gross motor skills?
Newborn to three months:
Give your baby tummy time to help her practice lifting her head, and strengthening her neck, shoulder and arm muscles.
Try placing baby on her back under a baby gym, so that she has something interesting to reach for. She'll use hands and feet to try and bat and kick it.
Take a bath with your baby! This will allow her to splash and kick and develop her muscles.
Three to six months:
Pop baby on her tummy and put a rattle or favourite toy in front of her, just out of reach. Help her to stretch out for it.
Help your baby to stand by putting her legs on a flat surface and letting her push herself up. Babies love to push themselves up on their legs, and they’ll start to develop and strengthen their leg muscles.
Allow your baby to bounce up and down while she’s standing up – she’ll have so much fun while developing her gross motor skills.
Six to Nine Months:
Babies are starting to sit up, and learning to crawl. You can encourage your baby with these ideas:
- Make an obstacle course for your baby to crawl around. Try putting some soft pillows and blankets on the floor to make it more interesting.
- Lots of babies like to make their own obstacle courses, through chair legs and under tables. Ensure that these areas are safe and clean for baby.
- Babies are starting to develop stronger leg muscles and may even begin to pull themselves up. Try putting toys on the sofa or a low table, so that baby can pull herself up and grasp for them.
Nine to Twelve Months:
Baby can sit up now, and pull themselves up on furniture.
- Sit baby on the floor and roll a ball to her, encouraging her to roll the ball back to you.
- Try getting her to crawl through a tunnel (a big cardboard box is perfect, or a sheet across a couple of chairs).
- Practice walking with her while holding both hands, or encourage her to use a steadying toy, like a block walker.
- Start baby at swimming lessons, if you haven’t already.
Twelve to Twenty Four Months:
At this age, some toddlers can already walk, and most are 'cruising' around the furniture.
- Push toys and baby walkers are great for this age. They can help give confidence to toddlers who are not quite ready to walk on their own.
- Pull toys are great once toddlers can walk - there's a fair bit of co-ordination required to walk and look behind at the same time.
- Rolling a ball back and forth, and kicking balls are great for developing toddlers’ gross motor skills.
- Dance to music with your toddler – stamp your feet, clap your hands, turn around and do the twist!
- Try different kinds of walking, hopping, skipping and marching.
- Discover playgrounds – climbing, swinging, sliding. All these things will help develop muscles, and you’ll get out in the fresh air and have fun.
- Play kiss chasey – run after your toddler, then catch and kiss her. Run slowly and let her catch you.
- Make a pretend balance beam – tape some masking tape to the floor and encourage your little one to put one foot in front of the other on the ‘beam’.
Two to Three Years:
There are lots of ideas for helping toddlers develop and keep active.
- Go to the playground as often as you can. Climb, swing, slide, run, tumble and use the monkey bars!
- Practise throwing a catching a large, soft ball. Great for gross motor and hand-eye co-ordination.
- Play soccer, and encourage your toddler to kick the ball into a goal (a cardboard box works well for this one).
- Be kangaroos and jump around together.
- Kick a balloon around the room on a rainy day.
- Save cardboard boxes and make tunnels to crawl through.
- Try giving your little one a skipping rope. She'll find it tricky at first, but it's a great way to encourage co-ordination as well as development of those large muscles.
- Play hopscotch! Chalk out a hopscotch grid on the footpath or driveway and get jumping. This is a great game for kids, as it helps develop gross motor skills, hand eye co-ordination, balance and even counting.
- Draw a line on the road or pavement and walk along it.
- Make stilts out of blocks of wood and ropes, or even old Milo tins.
- Get a hula hoop and see how many times you can make it go round.
- Blow some bubbles and allow your todder to burst as many as she can.
- Sing and dance along to music.
- Buy your toddler a trike, or a scooter, or a ride on wheely toy.
There are so many great physical activities that you can do with your toddler at this age – it’s only limited by your imagination! TV shows like Playschool and The Wiggles have lots of great ideas for activities for little ones if you’re looking for new ideas.
If you're looking for age appropriate toys that will help your baby develop large muscle skills, have a look at Hello Charlie's range of toys for gross motor skill development.