You’ve probably heard me talk about gross motor skills. But what are they? And why are they important? I learned so much about movement and gross motor skills at a class I took this summer. Movement is SO important to incorporate into every single day, especially with little ones.
I realized that we do a lot of fine motor activities at home, but I tend to do fewer activities focused on gross motor skills. Yes, my kids love to play at parks and jump around at home, but I am starting to plan a few structured gross motor play activities at home for them to work on these skills (like this Bug in a Jug activity).
Today I am sharing what gross motor skills are and why they are important. At the bottom of this post, you’ll also find a printable checklist.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills are the abilities required to control the large muscles of the body for walking, jumping, skipping, and more.
How do Motor Skills Develop?
We learn from head to toe, starting as babies. Our upper body muscle control precedes the lower body muscle control. As babies grow, they first develop control in their trunk and then they grow in their control of their elbow, wrist, and fingers. The same goes for the lower body. Control from the hips is first, then control in the legs, feet, and toes.
Next comes the manipulation of toys with fingers and hands. Have you ever noticed that a child contorts their feet or tongue in the early days of drawing with a crayon? It’s because they are learning that new skill and it emerges from a near-total body involvement.
Lastly, we have the trend of showing preference to one side. For example, kids may start throwing a ball with either hand, but eventually they develop a preference in which hand they use to throw. Children generally experiment with both sides of the body until a preference is made.
So what comes next? After they’ve gained control of their body, they start building up strength in their bodies. Preschoolers (ages 3-5) need lots of opportunities to practice movement! That’s how they learn and grow.
1. Locomotor activity — the movement from one spot to another. Examples: walking, running, climbing, leaping, jumping, hopping, galloping, sliding, and skipping.
2. Non-locomotor activity — movement in a stationary place. Examples: pushing, pulling, bending, stretching, twisting, turning, swinging, swaying, rising, and falling.
3. Manipulative skills — moving objects in a variety of ways. Examples: throwing, kicking, striking, and catching.
Why Are Gross Motor Skills Important?
Working on gross motor skills helps a child gain strength and confidence in his/her body. It also helps them get exercise and physical activity, which is important for a healthy lifestyle. Developing these skills helps a child’s ability to do more complex skills in future activities, such as playing soccer with a team.
If you are interested in a gross motor checklist for preschoolers, click on the words below!
Please don’t be too focused on the checklist. Instead, use it as a guideline as you implement gross motor activities into your day!