Delays can cause serious problems
Gross motor skills are the skills we use to move our arms, legs, and torso in a functional manner. Gross motor skills involve the large muscles of the body that enable such functions as walking, kicking, sitting upright, lifting, and throwing a ball. A person’s gross motor skills depend on both muscle tone and strength. Low muscle tone, or hypotonia, is a characteristic of several disabling conditions such as Down syndrome, genetic or muscle disorders, or central nervous system disorders.
Gross motor skills also require motor planning (See Below)—that is, the ability to think through and act upon a plan for motion. A person with poor motor planning abilities may have the strength and muscle tone to climb a ladder, for example, but may not have the ability to place their hands and feet in the right spots in the right order so as to safely and successfully reach the top.
Gross motor skills are distinguished from fine motor skills—the ability to use hands and feet for complex, small muscle activities. So, for example, while gross motor skills involve running and jumping, fine motor skills are used for such activities as writing and drawing. While these sets of skills may appear similar, they are actually controlled by different parts of the brain.
Motor planning is defined as the ability to organize the body’s actions: knowing what steps to take, and in what order, to complete a particular task. For example, a motor plan for getting dressed would include steps for
putting on socks—including knowing this comes before stepping into shoes; putting shoes on the correct feet, and so on.
Motor control means the ability to use your muscles for a particular task, like swinging that bat or moving a toothbrush across your teeth.
Motor coordination is the ability to use multiple body parts for a particular action. For example, climbing on a climbing, crawling through tunnel, cutting a piece of paper means holding scissors in one hand and paper in the other It’s important to be able to use both sides of the body at the same time (this is called bilateral coordination).
If you have just one child, and that child has developed at least some gross motor skills, it can be tricky to determine whether he is meeting developmental guidelines. Perhaps surprisingly, very young children should be able to manage rather complex gross motor tasks. Specifically:
• By 2 years old, a child should be walking smoothly, starting to run, and climbing stairs without support.
• By age 3, a normally developing child can climb a jungle gym, pedal a tricycle, and tip toe
• By age 4, your child should be able to kick in a directed manner, throw over and underhand, and hop.
Of course, children do develop at different rates; some are talented in gross motor activities while others lag a bit. If your child seems to be far behind her peers, however, a conversation with your paediatrician is a good idea.
Gross Motor Ability is a Critical Life Skill
Gross motor skills are important for major body movement such as walking, maintaining balance, coordination, jumping, and reaching. Gross motor abilities share connections with other physical functions. A child’s ability to maintain upper body support, for example, will affect his ability to write. Writing is a fine motor skill. Children with poor gross motor development may have difficulty with activities such as writing, sitting up in an alert position, sitting erect to watch classroom activity, and writing on a blackboard.
A Timeline for Gross Motor Skills Development
Learn how gross motor skills development usually progresses
Children-sized equipment helps build skills such as walking first. Small motor skills, which require control and dexterity in the hands and fingers, come later. You can also picture this as a progression from the centre of the body (the core) outward toward the extremities (feet, hands, fingers).
Skills also develop from the top of the body down. Think of how a baby learns to first lift his head, then push up with his arms, then sit up by himself, then push up to hands and knees, then crawl, and finally walk: Head first, lower legs last.
Gross Motor Skills Development Timeline
Again, each child develops at his own pace, so these age guidelines are approximate. Generally, gross motor skills development happens at these ages and stages, and they build upon each other. A baby needs to be able to pull himself up to standing before he can test his balance and walk, for example.
• By about 3 months, baby can raise his head and chest when lying on his belly.
• At about 6 months, baby can roll over, both ways (from stomach to back and back to stomach).
• At about 8 or 9 months, baby can sit without support and may start to crawl.
• Between 12 and 18 months baby can walk on his own. He’s a toddler now!
• At about 2 years, he can run, jump, and throw a ball.
• At 3 years, he can walk on tiptoe, climb well, try to stand on one foot, gallop, jump, kick a ball, and try to skip.
• Between 3 and 4 years, he can pedal a tricycle.
• When he reaches about 5 years, he can leap, skip, and gallop sideways.
Types of Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills can be grouped into different types.
• Locomotor skills are those used to move the body from place to place, like walking and running.
• Manipulative skills involve moving an object, such as a bat, ball, or jump rope.
• Stability skills are related to balance and weight transfer—for example, standing on one foot or dodging an obstacle.
Gross motor skills aren’t just important for physical fitness and sports. Children need them for school success, too. That’s partly because of the order and sequencing of development—the way new skills build on previous ones, and the way small muscles develop after large ones.
It’s also because children need to be able to sit at a desk or stand at a blackboard in order to write. And they need to be able to use balance and twisting skills to cross the midline (an imaginary vertical line dividing the right and left sides of the body), which they must do in order to read and write fluidly.
Encourage Gross Motor Skills Development
The best way to help your child develop large motor skills is through plenty of active play. Give them lots of time, space, and opportunities to use his muscles. Movement classes, like tumbling, crawling, climbing, are excellent, but free purposeful play is also as effective. There are tons of fun, skill-building activities, and toys you can share with your child. Here at Monkey Puzzle west Norwood even some arts and crafts projects can encourage physical fitness and development.