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8 gross motor skills activities for kids

Children playing soccer on a field

Ever found yourself in awe of your child’s ability to master the playground with seemingly endless energy? That’s the wonder of gross motor skills. These whole-body movements start to develop at a very early age and help your child navigate the world with confidence and ease. 

By the age of two, gross motor skills will have enabled your child to become more independent and master everyday tasks with more flexibility and agility. In this article, we’ll explore gross motor skills and take you through some of our go-to games and activities to support their development. 

What are gross motor skills? 

Gross motor skills are the skills we use when performing whole-body movements. For example, running, climbing, jumping, skipping as well as swimming and cycling all rely on gross motor skills. 

Babies begin developing gross motor skills through activities like tummy time. Fast forward a few months, and they’re sitting up, crawling, and cruising around the room holding onto furniture. 

Toddlers are always on the move. And that’s why their gross motor skills continue to develop so quickly. With every step or hop, they are strengthening their muscles and sharpening coordination. The whole-body movements they make throughout the day unlock a whole new level of speed and stability. 

8 gross motor skills activities to try 

All children develop their gross motor skills at a different pace, but there are also things we can do to encourage them. Many traditional playground games are designed to strengthen muscles through play. Dancing and pretend play are also brilliant when it comes to improving gross motor skills. 

Read on for eight inspiring ideas from the team at N Family Club’s nurseries

Martial arts 

Activities like martial arts use movements that engage the entire body. They can be adapted for younger athletes and help them strengthen muscles necessary for gross motor skills development. Through practice and repetition, these moves help children get stronger and more confident. 

The precision of the sport is great for balance and coordination, two things that toddlers are just beginning to learn about. Martial arts also boost agility and muscle memory, which will have a huge impact on the development of gross motor skills. 

Bubble and balloon motor games 

We’re yet to meet a child who can resist bubbles, or balloons for that matter! Playing a game designed to boost their gross motor skills using bubbles or balloons will be so much fun they won’t even realise they’re learning. 

Encourage children to pop as many bubbles as possible, or chase you as you run with a bubble machine. Our nursery children love to compete in bubble-popping competitions. And it’s equally entertaining outside in the summer or indoors if the weather isn’t on your side. 

Obstacle courses 

An obstacle course is very helpful when it comes to developing gross motor skills, and you’d be surprised how easy it is to set up a simple obstacle course at home.  

You don’t need lots of equipment to create an effective obstacle course for toddlers, it’s perfectly possible to create one using things you’ll already have around the house. 

Create a hoop for toddlers to jump into and set up an obstacle for them to climb over. Design several stations where they’ll need to perform different tasks, from balancing a beanbag on their head to jumping up and down a certain number of times. 

Music and movement 

Children love a song and dance, and who can blame them? Many of the most popular nursery rhymes and children’s songs already have their own actions or mini-dance routines, and children pick these up incredibly quickly. 

Bring children together for a music and movement activity using some of their favourite tunes. Encourage them to copy your actions, using whole-body movements as you do so. Children love mimicking adults and will soon be trying out a few moves of their own. 

Climbing 

Some children are born climbers (if yours is, you’ll definitely know about it!) And while it might be terrifying to come into the room and see your child scaling the furniture, there are some great benefits to them safely improving their climbing skills. 

Motivate children to build their core strength through climbing, by providing them with plenty of safe equipment and a soft landing. You’ll be amazed how quickly they develop their abilities, and how much their gross motor skills improve as a result. 

Hopscotch 

Did you know the first game of hopscotch was recorded back in 1677? Amazingly, the game remains a firm favourite amongst children today. Not only is it brilliant fun, it’s great for their gross motor skills as they need to balance and hop their way to victory. 

All you need to set up a game of hopscotch is a piece of chalk, and a stone or a little object to throw into the boxes. Draw your own hopscotch court out on a patio and kids won’t be able to resist trying it out. 

Playground games

Playground games like catch, tag or duck, duck goose are ideal for helping children improve their gross motor skills. They’re also good when it comes to encouraging children to play together and use their imaginations.

Set up a number of different playground games throughout the day, introducing children to the rules of some of the old classics. As they play they’ll be strengthening their muscles by running and jumping – and they’ll burn off some excess energy in the process. 

Cycling 

Balance bikes, scooters, bicycles and other ride-on toys are always popular with young children. They’re enormously beneficial too. 

Children can begin with ride-on toys and start to move on to toys that require more core strength, balance and coordination as their gross motor skills improve. 

Provide children with a selection of different options and allow them to explore as they test out their abilities. As they become more confident, children can start to try their hand at cycling unaided – a true test of their strength and coordination. 

Pre-writing games

Before children even pick up a pencil, they are slowly practising the movements needed for writing. And it’s exactly these gross motor skills that lay the groundwork for this intricate activity. 

Musical games with scarves and ribbons that involve twirling, tossing and catching engage the whole body. By using their shoulders, elbows, and wrists to create big, sweeping movements in the air children are developing pre-skills for writing.

Another fun way to encourage whole-arm movements is to try mark-making on a large scale. Use a big piece of paper for drawing patterns, ‘paint’ the fence with water and paintbrushes or make marks in the sandbox. 

All of these gross motor skills activities will help strengthen muscles and coordination that children will need for finer tasks like holding a pen and forming letters.

The development of gross motor skills can have a huge impact on children, allowing them to become more independent and confident as they play. 

Of course, these skills go hand in hand with the equally important fine motor skills, both of which work together to rapidly boost children’s capabilities and confidence. 

Take a look at some of our recommended fine motor skills activities and hand-eye coordination activities for more ideas on how to support your child’s development through play. 

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