A boy standing in front of a chalkboard, thinking of an answer.

Understanding Gross Motor Skills

Understanding Gross Motor Skills

A boy standing in front of a chalkboard, thinking of an answer.What are gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills refer to everyday physical activities that require the use of the large muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. These activities include standing and walking, running and jumping,
sitting upright at a table or desk, participating in hand-eye coordination skills such as ball skills (throwing, catching, kicking), and other skills such as riding a bike and swimming.

Why gross motor skills are important?Gross motor skills are important because they allow children to perform everyday functions, such as walking and running, play skills (hopping, climbing) and sports skills (throwing, catching, and hitting or kicking a ball). However, these are also essential for everyday self-care skills like getting dressed (being able to stand on one leg without falling over when putting your pants on), getting into and out of the bed, and climbing into and out of a car.

Gross motor abilities also have an influence on the other everyday activities. For example, a child’s ability to maintain proper table top posture directly affects a child’s ability to participate in fine motor skills such as writing, drawing, and cutting, which then impacts learning. Sitting upright in a desk, moving between classrooms, and carrying a backpack all use gross motor skills that influence a child’s endurance to cope with a full day of school. Gross motor skills also affect a child’s ability to navigate through their environment.  For example, consider walking around desks in the classroom, climbing up a slide on the playground, or getting on and off an escalator. Without good gross motor skills, a child will struggle with many day to day tasks such as eating, putting away toys, and getting on and off the toilet.

Boys playing on a playground

What do difficulties with gross motor skills look like?

  • Trouble balancing on one foot or hopping after the age of 5 years
  • Having trouble pedaling a bike or climbing a jungle gym
  • Hanging back on the playground
  • Being a little clumsy in the classroom
  • Struggling to catch a ball
  • Avoiding or showing general disinterest in physical tasks
  • Rushing through physical tasks (to mask difficulty or fatigue)
  • Telling others how to do a physical task or play a game without actively engaging themselves

Improving Gross Motor Skills

There are a lot of fun activities you can do at home to boost your child’s gross motor skills. Check out this month’s activity, a gross motor spider web you can make at home for some spooky fun! If you are concerned about your child’s gross motor skills, please feel free to contact us. We can answer any questions or address any concerns you may have.  Our physical and occupational therapists are available to work with your child to help build the skills he or she may need.

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