Gross motor skills are the abilities to move the large muscles in the body; such as the arms, legs, feet and torso. Every child develops at a different rate, and there are different milestones of gross motor development. Some of those developmental milestones for children are crawling, walking and soon they are off and running!
There are many different ways to contribute to the development of gross motor skills. When the weather is warm, outdoor play is a favorite way to help children develop and strengthen their gross motor skills. Playing with your child is a great way to bond, get active and have fun! Here are some suggestions to help your child develop gross motor skills while playing outdoors.
There are many different ways to play with a ball outdoors with your child. You can roll a larger playground ball to your child and have him use his feet and legs to kick it back to you. You can also model for your child how to use your arms and hands to bounce a ball. You can be interactive with your child and bounce it or throw it back and forth. This not only develops his gross motor skills, it helps with his hand-eye coordination by catching the ball. You never know, maybe he will play basketball or baseball when he gets a little older!
Use chalk to make a hopscotch board on your driveway or sidewalk. You can even let him help you draw it out. Count the numbers out loud as you write them on the hopscotch board. Model for your child how to hop or jump through the hopscotch board. Encourage him to try. He will be using his whole body to jump or hop through the board. To encourage him, you can count the numbers out loud as he lands on them.
Run on a “track”
Use chalk to make a track around your driveway or on the sidewalk. Have a “race” with your child and try to stay inside the lines. The track can also be used to ride a big wheel or tricycle around the track. It’s so fun; he probably won’t even realize he is strengthening his gross motor skills!
Go for a walk
Just get moving! Go for a walk around the block or even around the yard. Walking is a great way to get your whole body moving. While you are walking you can talk about the things you see; the birds in the air, the trees, squirrels, anything around you. Try walking on different surfaces, such as the grass, cement, sand or gravel. That will also help your child with his balance. On your walk you can even skip, hop on one foot, or walk backwards to make it interesting!
Go to the park
Visit a local park or playground. If it is close enough, walk there. At the park there are many things you can do to promote gross motor skills. Practice walking up the stairs, going down the slide, swinging, climbing on a variety of structures and running around. Just make sure you are always watching your child while he is on the play structure. If he is trying something for the first time, such as going up the stairs and/or down the slide, stay near him to make sure he is safe. The park is a great way to get moving!
Remember the game Simon Says? “Simon says stand up. Simon says sit down. Simon Says jump up and down 5 times. Run around in a circle. Oh, Simon didn’t say!” There are endless things you can do to promote gross motor skills with Simon Says. It is a fun interactive game that you can play with two people or many people. It is also fun to take turns and let your child be Simon, and you follow the directions!
“Tag, you’re it!” Tag is a fun way to move around and get active. Your child will use his whole body in tag to run in different directions and try to not get tagged! Make sure you don’t run too fast, so your child can tag you too. Tag is also a game that you can play with two or more people.
Red Light Green Light
Think about all of the games that you used to play outside when you were a kid. If they were fun to you, they will most likely be fun for your child. Red Light Green Light promotes awareness of the colors and the following of direction. Red Light Green Light promotes whole body gross motor, through running, stopping and running again!
Can you believe helping your child develop gross motor skills could be so much fun? It’s not just playing, it is developing skills, bonding, and creating memories that your child will remember. What is your favorite activity to do with your child that promotes gross motor development?
Michelle Jibben is an Education Assistant at a public school and is also a student at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater in pursuit of a dual licensure degree in regular and special education.