Gross Motor Activities For Kids

Gross motor skills are vital for your child to build up muscle strength, body awareness, balance and coordination. To enhance your child’s gross motor skills, an expert suggests a few activities.

By Mina Dilip  • 6 min read

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

Motor skills enable us to use the muscles in our body to do various tasks. Specifically, gross motor skills allow us to control the large muscles of our arms, legs and torso to accomplish tasks such as walking, running, climbing and lifting.

Gross motor skills develop at a young age and are essential for performing everyday tasks.

To facilitate healthy gross motor skill development in your toddler, here are a few games and activities. For easy recall, these are listed using the acronym ‘MOVEMENTS’.

Gross motor activities for kids 

Mimic my moves 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

This is a simple game which works very well with toddlers. All you need to do is strike poses involving big muscle movements of arms and legs, and invite your toddler to copy your moves and mimic your stance. You can then take turns, by asking your child to make a move which you try to copy.

How this helps

The ability to watch a movement, process it and repeat the same involves the firing of mirror neurons in the brain. Moreover, this activity involves using the muscles of the arms, legs and torso, thereby enabling full body engagement. This facilitates the development of gross motor skills and enhances flexibility.

Obstacle course 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

Use furniture, pillows, blankets and other household items to set up an obstacle course for your toddler and invite her to navigate through the course and reach the target. But, ask her to do it without bumping into anything or knocking anything down.

How this helps

Not only does this exercise help in building gross motor skills and coordination, but also teaches body awareness, goal orientation and focus.

Victory dance 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

Create a family theme dance and have your toddler perform it every time he accomplishes any simple task. The more vigorous the movements are, the better, because this facilitates the release of large amounts of energy.

How this helps

Along with developing gross motor coordination, this activity also helps release large amounts of pent-up energy, which can calm your energetic toddler and provide him emotional relief.

Exhilarating hop, jump, skip 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

This is an exciting, high-energy game in which you start by saying slowly, “Hop… skip… jump,” as your toddler follows these commands. Then you change the pace and the order of the commands to lead your toddler to giggles.

How this helps

This is a highly effective gross motor skill development activity, which improves coordination and motor reflexes. Hopping is a more advanced skill than jumping as it requires balance and strength. Hopping is a good indicator of dynamic balance, and by observing how your child hops, you can tell how well she is able to maintain balance while moving.

Make-believe sportsmanship 

In this game, you and your toddler take turns in pretending to play different sports. Pretend to kick an imaginary football or engage in no-contact boxing or play cricket with an imaginary bat and so on. A variation to this game would be imaginary painting (using the hand as a brush to make strokes on a wall or on an imaginary canvas, as if you are painting).

How this helps 

Pretend play enhances imagination, creativity and lateral thinking. The movements involved in pretending to do specific activities engage different parts of the body and, therefore, help with developing better gross motor skills.

Extra-large arts and crafts 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

Take arts and crafts outdoors with this interesting and creative game. Invite your toddler or preschooler to create a rangoli pattern on the floor using sand, rice flour or store-bought rangoli powder. Alternatively, you can use big paintbrushes and rollers to dip in plain water and invite your toddler to do some outdoor wall or floor painting.

How this helps 

Toddlers will love these activities because it not only lets them move freely, exercising all the gross motor muscles, but also stimulates their creative thinking and imagination.

Nature extravaganza 

The best place to work on gross motor skill development is outdoors, in nature. Games like hopscotch, tag, skipping, cycling and skating are excellent outdoor activities that double up as fitness promoters in young kids.

How this helps 

Physically exerting gross motor games and activities help in several ways. They help release energy, enhance gross motor skills and promote well-being through improved metabolism, better sleep and renewed enthusiasm levels in your young child.

Towel tug-of-war 

If the weather is not conducive for outdoor play, you can bring some high-energy gross motor skill development activities indoors. One such activity is the towel tug-of-war. All you need for this is an old towel. You hold on to one end of the towel and encourage your child to hold the other end and tug it with all his might.

How this helps 

This exercise builds upper body strength and is similar to resistance training in a gym. Be cautious not to suddenly let go of the towel so as to prevent your little one from losing his balance and falling down.

Simon says 

Gross Motor Activities For Kids

A popular childhood game, “Simon says…,” involves directions from you prefixed with the phrase, “Simon says.” For example, you may say, “Simon says jump!” or “Simon says crawl on all fours.” Your toddler will have to listen to you and carry out the actions.

How this helps

Using big movement commands from ‘Simon’ can ensure effective development of gross motor skills.

All the above activities are simple and easy to engage your little one in. Besides developing his gross motor skills, they can also help you bond better with your child. This is because you get to spend time playing with your little one, and research shows that children thrive when parents spend quality time with them, giving them undivided attention.

Moreover, most of these activities do not require any major props or materials and can be safely performed in the home setting at any time. I would recommend using these high-energy activities earlier in the day and slowly reducing the pace and vigor of the games leading up to bedtime to ensure a smooth transition and a good night’s rest.

About the expert:

Written by Mina Dilip on January 27, 2021.

Mina Dilip, Child Psychologist, Certified Play Therapist, (PTUK)

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