What Are Gross Motor Skills?

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

As parents, we know that there are some skills that are foundational and so important to our child’s overall growth and development. Gross motor skills are definitely on those skill sets! 

Strong gross motor skills play an important role in helping kids learn how to move around effectively and safely. The gross motor work that kids do builds strength, increases balance and affects their overall physical abilities. 

what are gross motor skills

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills are any movements, or group of movements, that involve large muscle groups.

For example:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping and hopping
  • Swimming
  • Skipping
  • Climbing
  • Throwing
  • Kicking
  • Lifting
  • Crawling

These activities require a child to use their arms, legs, and core muscles to move their body in a coordinated way. Gross motor skills develop over time and their development can be impacted by the environment in which a child grows up – for example, if you’re active and get plenty of exercise or if you’re more sedentary and inactive. 

The term “gross” means big or large, so gross motor activities are those that involve large muscles like the legs or arms moving the body in space (as opposed to fine motor activities which involve smaller muscles like those in the fingers). 

This is an important skill for a child because it helps them interact with their environment and learn new ways of doing things!

Infants in general are rather inactive because their motor skills are not yet fully developed but there are some milestones we look for in those early months. 

Gross Motor Development Milestones for Infants

Typically gross motor milestones for infants look as follows: 

0-3 Months – lifting their head when on tummy, limb movements – kicking and reaching- with increased smoothness 

4-7 Months – roll both ways when on their back, sit up with help, then be able to sit independently, and bear weight on their legs when being held. 

Gross Motor Development Milestones for Older Infants/Toddlers

As your baby’s strength and gross motor ability increases so will their activity level! Older infants and young toddlers will likely show the following skills…

8-12 Months – learn to push to a seated position, get to a crawling position and possibly crawl independently. Closer to the 12 month mark, pull to stand and  begin to “cruise” furniture or take steps while holding an adult’s fingers.

1-2 Years – crawling quickly and with ease, standing on their own and beginning to take steps independently. By 18 months, most children will be fully walking, running and pulling objects to them.

Gross Motor Development Milestones for Preschoolers

  • Walk up stairs with ease
  • Run with a steady gate
  • Jump
  • Throw a ball in the air and catch it
  • Jump rope
  • Ride a bike or scooter
what are gross motor skills

Why Are Gross Motor Skill So Important?

Gross motor skills are important because they are the basis for just about everything your child does throughout their day!

From the time they wake up and begin their day, they are using large muscle movements that allow them to physically function with ease. Simply getting dressed for the day requires gross motor skills!

These large movement skills also allow our kids to feel confident in the world around them as well. They are able to participate in activities with friends, play sports they love and explore the world around them. 

So much of our child’s daily life is built upon these basic but very important skills. 

How Can Parents and Caregivers Support the Development of Gross Motor Skills?

In order to help your child develop their gross motor skills, you can:

  • Encourage your child to move as much as possible. Have them engage in physical activity every day.
  • Help them practice new motor skills by using different kinds of supports –
    • hand-over-hand assistance
    • verbal cues and reminders
    • visual cues, such as pointing or modeling the new skill.
  • Create opportunities for your child to practice new motor skills! Have play dates at the park, invite friends over for a game of tag or set up an obstacle course in the backyard. Play with a purpose whenever you can!
  • Provide a safe environment so that they can practice these big movement skills without getting hurt.

What are signs of a possible gross motor delay?

We know that all kids are different and may develop at different rates. However it is important to note if your child is not reaching the general gross motor milestones within their age range, such as sitting up, rolling over by 7 months or pulling up to stand by 12 months. 

Another sign of a possible delay would be a loss of skills they had previously been doing.

If you’re seeing some delays, start a conversation with your pediatrician. They may suggest an evaluation and working with a Physical Therapist to strengthen and build skills. 

Beyond Speech Therapy Services also offers private, in-home PT therapies and one of our amazing therapists would love to support you and your child! Reach out if you have questions, concerns or would like to connect! 

Your child’s physical development is important to their overall health and development and as a parent or caregiver, it is helpful to understand that the development of gross motor skills is a big part of that development. Your child will grow and develop at his or her own pace—and each child will have unique strengths and needs – but no matter what stage your child is at, remember that there is always support and resources available to you!