Walking upstairs while carrying a toy?
Standing without support?
Avoiding obstacles while walking?
And putting on pants!
Most children find these tasks quite simple. They perform them easily and automatically. Little do they know that these are complex skills that require balance and a lot of coordination.
Child development experts call them gross motor skills. These gross motor skills create a strong foundation for fine motor skills which are essential for small movements such as holding a pen or writing. These skills are extremely important for a child’s health and development. Yet research has found that a surprising number of children have poor motor skills. Hence, understanding these skills and how to build them is of utmost importance for parents and teachers.
In this article, we will learn about:
In this article, Novella Ruffin, a child development professional, mentions universal principles and patterns that govern child development.
For example: A baby learns to control neck movements before it learns to walk.
For example: A baby learns to control the upper arm before the forearm.
For example: A baby learns to hold the bottle or a big toy with both hands first and later learns to pick up a smaller toy.
Motor development is a process through which children develop movement patterns and skills such as dancing or skipping. Gross motor skills and fine motor skills are the two types of motor development.
Gross motor skills require children to use large muscle groups such as arms, legs, and the torso that coordinate body movements. It allows children to perform a range of day-to-day activities. Gross motor development happens in the motor cortex of the brain (in the cerebral cortex) that controls voluntary muscle movements. They are acquired during infancy and childhood and continue to be refined throughout a child’s growth into adulthood.
Research has suggested that gross motor development happens in stages. After mastering a stage such as walking, the child moves on to the next stage that is running. The beginning of the stage is characterized by a lack of symmetry. Later, as the skill develops, the movements become symmetrical. The newly learnt skill integrates with an already existing skill set.
Gross motor skills
Research published in the Journal of Motor Learning and Development suggests that higher levels of gross motor skills are associated with higher levels of ‘moderate to vigorous’ physical activity. A paper published in the International Journal of Sport and Health Science also adds that opportunities for movement provided to children also impact motor development. Here are three ways of building gross motor skills at home through fun games and activities:
A simple game enjoyed around the world, Simon Says is a simple monkey-see-monkey-do format game. Every round, one person gets to be Simon. Everyone has to follow what Simon is saying, but only if the command starts with the phrase “Simon says.” If you don’t do it, you are out! The last one standing wins the game.
Here are a few sample instructions given by Simon:
In this game, the parent and the child can stand at the opposite ends of the room. The parent calls the signal and the move (Example: Red Light, stop; Green Light, jump forward). Parents can also use yellow light to ask their child to slow down. Three strikes and you are out! The last one standing wins the game.
Here are a few sample instructions for Green Light:
Set a milestone as to how many times the balloon needs to be caught (twice, four times, eight times etc.) before starting the game. Toss the balloon. Ask the child to touch the balloon using different body parts such as head, elbow, palm, knee, foot, etc before it touches the ground. Note the number of times the balloon was caught. Reward the child after crossing the milestone.
Tips to remember:
Gross motor skills are an important part of the child’s development and have been tied to different life skills and academic success. With the help of these activities, you can help improve your child’s gross motor skills while also keeping them engaged.