What are gross motor skills?
Large body movements such as walking, jumping, skipping and crawling to help the child engage in different activities. It involves coordinating the movements of the larger muscle groups to complete whole body movements. These skills are important for sitting and paying attention in class, taking part in gym class, donning and doffing clothing.
Why are gross motor skills important to develop?
- Assists with balance
- Strengthens large muscles of the body such as shoulder, core, and trunk
- Hand-eye and bilateral coordination
- Builds a strong and stable base to complete fine motor activities like handwriting, brushing teeth and combing hair
- Develops body awareness
What to look for
- Stiff movements i.e., lack of fluid movements; awkward, clumsy; can’t maintain an upright posture;
- Avoid physical activity or participates in short periods of time (low endurance)
- Not able to follow multi-step instructions to complete a physical task e.g., obstacle course
- Not able to plan and correctly sequence events or steps in a process (e.g., step forward and throw)
- Make the gross motor activity fun for the child, ask them what it is they would like to do or give them a choice!
Gross motor activities indoors: (make sure to have enough space for big movements)
- Bean bag toss
- Freeze dance
- Indoor obstacle course – pillows, tables, blanket sheets
- Jumping over stepping stones or make your own with paper plates (children can colour/draw on them) and jump over them – farther apart big steps, closer small steps
- Use recycled plastic water bottles to create a bowling game with a ball
- Move like an animal – bird (outstretched hands), snake (wiggle on floor), frog (hop/jump), elephant (heavy stomping), waddle like a penguin
Gross motor activities outdoors:
- Balance bean bag on top of head and ask child to walk on a line drawn on the ground/ length of rope; the child can also walk around obstacles or pick things off the floor to make it harder
- Object relays – children stand in a line and pass an object / ball to the person behind them
- Passing the ball to others; tossing the ball up in the air; bouncing the ball against the wall
- Hopscotch; skipping rope; hula hoop
KARP Rehabilitation. (n.d.). Fine and gross motor skills – pediatric OT services.
Kid Sense. (n.d.). Gross motor activities. Retrieved from, https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-concern/gross-motor-skills/gross-motor-activities/
The OT Toolbox. (2022, March 9). Gross motor coordination activities. Retrieved from, https://www.theottoolbox.com/gross-motor-coordination-activities/
Your Therapy Source. (n.d.). 50 Screen free gross motor skills and activities for home. Retrieved from, https://www.yourtherapysource.com/blog1/2020/03/23/gross-motor-skills-and-activities/
Written by: Stephanie Wong OT Reg. (Ont.)