What Are Gross Motor Skills and How Parents Can Help Promote These Skills?
The term gross motor skills refers to the abilities usually acquired through infancy to early childhood as part of the child's motor development. By the time they reach 2 years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood. These movements come from large muscle groups and whole body movement.
Gross motor skills - are simple, large-muscle group actions like a squats, pushups and push/pull-type movements.
Children learn gross motor skills earlier than they develop their fine motor skills. The development of fine and gross motor skills is important for children as it allows them to perform better in academic and physical ways. Gross motor skills are the abilities usually acquired during infancy and early childhood as part of a child's motor development. By the time they reach two years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood, and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual's years of development into adulthood.
Walking, running, jumping or throwing a ball are all gross motor skills, tasks that require people to use large groups of muscles. They require balance and coordination. Disabilities or injuries can hamper the development of gross motor functions.
Gross motor skills include:
- Body awareness - for improved posture and control
- Balance - the ability to maintain equilibrium
- Laterality - awareness of the left and right sides of the body
- Crossing of the mid-line
- Co-ordination of major muscle groups
- Spatial orientation - awareness of the body position in space and in relation to other objects or people
Importance of gross motor skills:
Here are a few of the important benefits of developing these skills:
- Long-lasting good health that comes from regular physical activity
- Increased confidence and improved self-esteem that comes from being able to successfully take part in games with other children
- Release of stress and frustration through physical activity
- Improved school skills
Gross Motor skills are important for major body movement such as walking, maintaining balance, coordination, jumping, and reaching. Gross motor abilities share connections with other physical functions. Children who do not have reasonably good gross motor skills, often struggle with the fine motor skills which are needed for formal school work in the classroom scenario.
A student's ability to maintain upper body support, for example, will affect his ability to write. Writing is a fine motor skill. Students with poor gross motor development, may have difficulty with activities such as writing, sitting up in an alert position, sitting erect to watch classroom activity, and writing on a blackboard.
Parents can aid that development by doing small and gross motor activities with their children. Encouraging gross motor skills requires a safe, open play space, peers to interact with, and some adult supervision. Promoting the development of gross motor abilities is considerably less complicated than developing fine motor skills. Helping a child succeed in gross motor tasks requires patience and opportunities for a child to practice desired skills. Parents and other persons must understand the child's level of development before helping him or her master gross motor skills. Children reach developmental milestones at different rates.
There are a number of activities parents can have children do to help develop gross motor skills. 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.
Activities to promote gross motor skills:
Examples of gross motor skills that children can develop are: catching a ball, balancing, jumping on a trampoline, playing tag, running races. More activities are:
- Playing hopscotch and jumping rope; activities that help children learn balance
- Hitting, catching, kicking, or throwing a ball, such as a baseball, football, or soccer ball; activities that help develop hand-eye or foot-eye coordination
- Kangaroo hop, in which children hold something, such as a small ball or orange, between their knees and then jump with their feet together frontward, backwards, and sideways
- Playing wheelbarrow, in which someone holds the children's legs while they walk on their hands along a specific route
- Walking on a narrow bar or curb, while holding a bulky object in one hand, then the other hand, and then repeating the activity walking backwards and sideways
- Toss and catch, in which children toss an object, such as a baseball, in the air and then catch it, while sitting or lying down and also while using alternate hands
According to Baby Center, fine motor skills are equally as important as gross motor skills. Fine motor skills involve more precise movements using specific body parts such as the hand, thumb, or wrist. The development of gross and fine motor skills are often connected, reports the Encyclopedia of Children's Health. Gross motor skills will enhance the development of fine motor skills and will vary by age.
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