All About Gross Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills are skills that develop through using the large muscles of the body in a coordinated and controlled way.

Movements of the whole arms, the legs and the trunk are all gross motor movements.

* Haz click aquí para español: Todo Sobre La Motricidad Gruesa

Just a few examples are: catching a ball, balancing, climbing, jumping on a trampoline, playing tag and running races.

And those come after the momentous gross motor development that a baby undergoes in 16 short months of life: rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking!

Here are quick links to different sections on this page that tell you more about these important skills:

How Do Gross Motor Skills Develop?

Gross motor skills develop through practice and repetition, which is why a baby takes weeks to perfect the art of rolling, sitting or crawling, and a child can take a whole season to learn how to catch a ball while running.

Children need to be exposed to diverse opportunities to move freely and experiment with different resources to help their skills develop.

However, for normal gross motor development to take place, the brain, spine, nerves and muscles need to be intact and undamaged. If damage has occurred through birth trauma, accident or illness, then progress of motor skills, as that of other skills, may be affected.

If you suspect that your child has sustained some damage to the brain or the body, please consult your health professional right away.

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Factors That Affect Gross Motor Development

There are many factors that can affect the development of gross motor skills:

  • Access to media and technology has given our kids great exposure to all kinds of information that the previous generation did not have, but the cost is that kids may miss out on opportunities to develop their physical motor skills in outdoor and indoor play.
  • The presence of low muscle tone or high muscle tone can affect your child’s ability to control the muscles of the body.

  • Growing up in a protected environment can actually be hazardous to our health! We don’t let our kids play outside, walk to the park or cycle to friends anymore.
    We are trying to keep them safe, which is great, but their motor skills can be adversely affected by the lack of physical opportunity.

  • Babies tend to spend a lot of time in car seats, walking rings and in front of screens.
    These are all adaptations made necessary by the demands of modern life, but too much time in "baby gear" can have a detrimental impact on their motor development.

  •  A sedentary lifestyle, accompanied by too much rich food, means that adults are less likely to engage in physical games with their children.
    Kids then don’t have good role models, and prize other things more highly than physical activity and good health.

  • Underlying physical difficulties with coordination, balance, motor planning, and concentration can all affect a child’s ability to take part in, and benefit from, gross motor activities.
    These difficulties may stem from birth trauma, Sensory Processing Disorder, developmental delays, genetic abnormalities or many other causes.

If you are at all concerned about your child's gross motor development, please consult a health professional! This website is not a substitute for an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment!

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Why Are Gross Motor Skills So Important?

Here are a few of the important benefits of developing good gross motor skills:

  • your child's confidence and self-esteem may improve as he or she develops the ability to take part in games with other children

  • studies have shown that children with good gross motor abilities may cope better in the classroom (*).

  • stress and frustration can be relieved and released through physical activity

  • regular physical activity can help your child achieve long-lasting good health
prepare your child for school

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How Can I Improve My Child's Skills?

  • When your child's friends come to play, spend a few minutes in an organized gross motor activity with them. Show them how to jump rope, build an obstacle course, or play some relay races.
  • Make frequent park dates and encourage your child to climb, swing and run.
    Make the most of the equipment available!

  • My Gross Motor E-Books contain a huge variety of photographed activities you can do with your child at home or at a playground.
  • Take a look at some of the free gross motor activities on my site that can help your child develop coordination skills, core strength and much more!
    My pages are full of photographed activity ideas that are easy to do at home!
gross motor activities for kids
  • Get your child involved in some simple chores around the house!

    My article about the benefits of chores explains how you can help develop gross motor skills with everyday chores!
benefits of chores

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Babies & Gross Motor Development

Some fellow therapists have written some helpful posts on gross motor development in babies:
(all links open in a new tab/window)

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Free Printable Gross Motor Download!

This free printable download helps you to understand how gross motor skills can have an impact on your child in the classroom.

It is part of a set of 3 handouts that I compiled to help parents understand how gross motor, fine motor and visual perception skills can affect your child's learning.

You will get all 3 handouts absolutely free when you sign up for my newsletter!

Find out more about my newsletter!

Thanks for visiting my site! I hope you found this information helpful!

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Related Pages On My Site

Looking for tips and inspiration to help develop your child's gross motor skills? Visit these pages of my site for simple, photographed activities you can do at home!

(*) Reference:

Cameron, C.; Cottone, E. A.; Murrah, W. M. & Grissmer, D.W. (2016). How Are Motor Skills Linked to Children's School Performance and Academic Achievement? Child Development Perspectives. 10(2). 10.1111/cdep.12168.

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