Gross Motor Skills

As infants grow up and start to explore the surrounding environment, they begin to establish a new set of skills for their basic survival. This distinct set of skills is referred to as Motor Skills are actions that involve the movement of body muscles.

Motor skills are further categorized into two groups:

  1. Gross Motor Skills: Movements or actions that involve the movement of larger body muscles like legs, arms, feet, and actions of the entire body (jumping, running, crawling).

  2. Fine Motor skills: These motor skills encompass movements or actions that involve smaller muscles like grasping, holding, and tasting. 

Gross Motor Skills are essential for repertoire basic life activities and develop relatively in a shorter period of time in contrast to Fine Motor Skills. Gross Motor skills are an integral and significant aspect of one’s overall physical development. These vital skills can be enhanced and strengthened by practicing basic activities, here is everything one should know about Gross Motor Skills. 

What are Gross Motor Skills?  

By definition, Gross Motor Skills are abilities that are required for the movement of Large Body Muscles to perform basic activities like walking, climbing, crawling, jumping, and even sitting. Gross Motor skills involve the movement of larger body muscles- arms, legs, feet, and the core muscles present in the torso (belly and back). 

These Skills are governed by two key principles that also contribute to overall physical growth:

  • The first principle governs head-to-toe development where the upper parts of the body develop first beginning with the development of muscles present in the head before the lower body muscles. 
  • The Second Principle governs the development of arms, core (back, belly, shoulders) muscles to the extremities (legs and feet).

Why are Gross Motor Skills Important? 

Gross Motor Skills are vital and critical for almost all basic life functions. These skills govern major body movements like reaching, crawling, bending, walking, running, and other major activities that are vital for one’s survival. Gross Motor Skills are also related to other integral abilities:

  • Coordination 
  • Hand-eye Coordination
  • Balance
  • Physical Awareness
  • Strength
  • Reaction time

Having under-developed Motor skills can impact people in almost every area of life. It will not only affect the individual’s Movement but also become a hindrance in academics and take a toll on one’s self-esteem. 

What are different types of Gross Motor Skills? 

Gross Motor Skills involve the movement of larger body muscles.  These activities are integral for the basic survival and independence of an individual. From sitting up to running a marathon, Gross Motor skills contribute to a plethora of major activities. On the basis of their functions and the nature of the skills required, Examples of Gross Motor Skills can be divided into 2 sections: 

Basic Gross Motor Skills:

  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Lifting (any object)
  • Kicking

Gross Motor Skills that require extra skills:

  • Riding a bicycle
  • Riding a horse
  • Playing any physical sport
  • Skating
  • Rollerblading 
  • Swimming 

When a child utilizes their gross motor skills to perform any activity, they are also working with other integral abilities like coordination, balance, hand-eye coordination, and strengthening the neural pathways of the brain. 

Development of Gross Motor Skills at different ages:

As the child begins to reach new age milestones they simultaneously begin to establish a new set of skills vital for their survival. Here is a list of age-appropriate Gross Motor Skills one should identify as the child progresses:

  1. Birth to 6 months: 
  • Rolling over from front to back and vice versa
  • Holding the head up in a supporting position
  • Sitting up (with support for the first few months)
  • Bringing feet to mouth or holding feet with hands
  1. 6 to 12 Months:
  • Crawling on the belly
  • Rolling over 
  • Getting up on all four limbs
  • Sitting upright without any aid
  • Transitioning into different positions
  • Pulling oneself up to stand with external support
  • Standing without support for a short period of time
  • Taking a couple of steps
  1. 1 to 2 years:
  • Walking, sitting, or crawling without any aid or support
  • Transitioning into different positions
  • Getting up on all four limbs
  • Effortlessly standing without support
  • Walking while holding an object
  • Changing directions when walking
  • Rolling a ball 
  1. 2 to 3 years:
  • Walking effortlessly 
  • Taking corner turns while walking
  • Running with control and wide gait
  • Climbing up and down with assistance 
  • Changing Directions when walking
  • Picking up objects from the ground
  1. 3 to 4 years:
  • Effortlessly transitioning into different positions
  • Imitating bilateral body movements 
  • Standing on one foot
  • Climbing up and down without assistance 
  • Climbing on monkey bars 
  • Pedaling on a supported tricycle
  • Walking up and down the staircase
  • Walking on Tip-Toes
  • Throwing objects with over the arm motion while aiming
  • Catching objects by using the whole body
  1. 4 to 5 years:
  • Standing on one foot for 5 seconds or more
  • Imitating bilateral body movements 
  • Pedaling on a supported tricycle
  • Climbing up and down without assistance 
  • Climbing on monkey bars 
  • Kicking objects forward
  • Throwing objects with over the arm motion
  • Running around obstacles
  • Properly catching a ball
  • Walking in a straight line
  • Performing a summersault 
  • Hopping on one foot
  • Jumping over hurdles and landing on both feet
  • Jumping up to 10 times 
  1. 5 to 6 years:
  • Kicking objects forward
  • Standing on one foot for up to 10 seconds
  • Skipping forward
  • Walking on stairs while holding an object
  • Jumping forward up to 10 times without falling
  • Running around obstacles
  • Hanging on a bar for up to 5 seconds
  • Walking in a straight line
  • Hopping on one foot
  • Performing a summersault 
  • Catching a ball with one hand
  • Jumping over hurdles with both feet together 
  • Walking backward 
  • Riding a bicycle with training wheels
  1. 6 to 7 years: 
  • Running with proper posture 
  • Running around obstacles
  • Standing on one foot for up to 10 seconds
  • Skipping forward
  • Kicking a ball with accuracy 
  • Throwing a ball with proper posture 
  • Walking on a balance beam
  • Walking backward 
  • Hanging on a bar for up to 10 seconds or more
  • Moving across monkey bars without assistance 
  • Jump Roping
  • Performing a summersault 
  • Catching a ball with one hand
  • Riding a bicycle without training wheels 
  1. 7 to 8 years:
  • Kicking a ball with accuracy
  • Performing a summersault 
  • Catching a ball with one hand
  • Running with proper posture
  • Walking on a balance beam
  • Swimming
  • Jump roping
  • Riding a Bicycle
  • Throwing a ball with Proper posture
  • Kicking a ball with accuracy
  • Standing still on one foot
  • Hopping on one foot
  • Running around obstacles while maintaining proper balance
  • Jumping over hurdles with both the feet pressed together
  • Moving across monkey bars without any external support or assistance
  • Kicking a ball with consistency 
  • Stepping forward while throwing a ball and aiming 

Activities to Develop Gross Motor Skills in children:

Gross Motor begins to develop in children during infancy and these distinct skills keep on improving as the child grows older. There are several ways one can enhance, develop, and strengthen Gross Motor Skills in children.  Incorporating the following activities into the child’s daily schedule can help develop Gross Motor Skills:

  • Head Position Practices
  • Sand Play
  • Obstacle courses
  • Swimming
  • Musical instruments
  • Playing Hopscotch or Jump Roping for balance 
  • Catching, Kicking, Throwing, or Hitting a ball for hand-eye coordination, Foot-eye coordination, and bilateral movement
  • Kangaroo Hop activity: where children hold an object between their knees while jumping. Moving forward, backward, and sideways 
  • Wheelbarrow activity: an activity where the child walks on their hands while someone else holds on to their legs 
  • Walking on a narrow path,  curb, straight line, or walking beam while holding an object.  Moving forward, backward, and sideways 
  • Tossing and catching a ball for hand-eye coordination. 

When should one contact a Doctor?

One should immediately call a medical professional when the child is unable to reach age-appropriate Gross Motor Skills milestones. Early Intervention with a pediatric physical or occupational therapist can help prevent several health conditions. 

When a parent notices the child is unable to properly perform a physical activity they should consult a medical professional.  Problems like Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) also referred to as Dyspraxia also affects Gross Motor and Fine Motor Skills.