Gross Motor Skills Activities To Get Your Little One Up and Moving

gross motor skills activitiesThere are plenty of milestones to keep track of as your baby develops into a toddler, a preschooler, and beyond, and some of the most exciting ones are gross motor skills development. There is nothing that compares to watching your baby roll over for the first time or seeing your toddler begin to well–toddle. First steps, adorable dance moves, even the ability to jump up and down all fall under the realm of gross motor development.

Things that fall under the gross motor umbrella include movements that require whole-body, trunk, or large muscle group movement. Think running, jumping, rolling, and twisting. While every child is different, there are a number of gross motor skills activities that you can do at home to get the ball rolling-sometimes literally-on this area of your child’s development. We’ll discuss the different milestones you can anticipate as your child grows, and give you some great motor skills activities that you can do with them to help develop these skills. 

Birth-6 Months

Milestones: 

Early gross motor milestones are among some of the most exciting you will see as your child grows. After the breathy excitement of bringing your child home for the first time, these first little progressions allow you a glimpse of your child as a vibrant little person. You’ll also likely see the first hints of your child’s whole personality, just in the first few months! It is definitely a very exciting time! Here are some milestones to be on the lookout for in the first 6 months:

  • Baby raises their head while lying on their stomach.
  • Baby waves hands and kicks legs.
  • Baby rolls over, usually to one side first, and then all the way over as the months progress.
  • Baby lifts themselves up on to their hands.
  • Baby reaches for toys.

Gross Motor Skills Activities: 

  • Tummy Time! One of the most important things that you can do for your developing baby is to give them some tummy time. By placing baby on her tummy, you’re facilitating the growth and strength development of their trunk, neck and limb muscles.
  • Bicycle Kicks. Very gently, when your baby is lying on their back, bend and flex babies legs, making a pedaling motion. Your baby will love being able to smile up at you as you help them develop their leg muscles, flexibility, and coordination.
  • Toy Reach. When you are engaging in tummy time with your baby, place a toy just out of reach. The baby will instinctively move toward that enticing little toy, which will help them develop their gross motor skills.

6-12 Months

Milestones:

This is a very exciting time in your child’s development; they’re becoming a little more “durable” and you will soon find that they have insatiable curiosity and can’t wait to get up and go, go, go! Some of the exciting gross motor milestones that you can look forward to in these next few months are:

  • Baby can sit up without assistance.
  • Baby is starting to crawl and may pull themselves up onto furniture to maneuver, which is also called “cruising”.
  • May stand on their own or with your assistance.
  • Baby might take their very first steps, walking a little bit like a robot with stiff legs.

Gross Motor Skills Activities: 

  • Stair Climber. At this age, children are getting ready to enter their “toddling” stage, and just love to explore their world with their newfound ability. Crawling up stairs is a natural progression for them, and can definitely help to develop a child’s coordination. Always make sure to supervise your child well as they are learning to climb up stairs, and teach them how to get down again! Make sure that any stairs in your home have secure gates that you can lock for safety when you are not supervising a child in this particular activity.
  • Baby Obstacle Course. On a soft surface, put out some obstacles for your child to crawl over, cruise on, and maneuver around, like big fluffy cushions, play balls, and mats. This will help develop gross motor strength, and has the added benefit of introducing all kinds of exciting sensory and tactile elements into your child’s ever expanding world.

12-24 Months

Milestones: 

Get ready! Once your child has discovered how to walk, you are very unlikely to be able to get them to stay still for very long. This is the stage in gross motor development where children are really able to take some control and explore their world in a way that they never really could before, and if you aren’t ready, they’re liable to wear you all the way out! It’s a good kind of exhaustion, though: there are very few moments in your child’s early life that will compare to them taking those first, confident steps all on their own.  Take a deep breath, and keep your eyes peeled for these fantastic milestones:

  • Your baby may crouch or squat down to explore items that are on the ground, or to pick up and release objects as they become interested or disinterested in them.
  • Your child will start to figure out how to throw, catch, toss, kick, and roll balls or other toys.
  • Baby will begin to explore how they can move items by pushing and pulling them.

Gross Motor Skills Activities: 

  • Treasure Hunt. Using laundry baskets, large boxes, or cans, “hide” some toys for your child to discover. This will help them further develop their crouching and squatting abilities as they reach down to grasp their “treasures”.
  • Ball Toss. Get ready to play this game. A lot. There’s something so fun about a toy as simple as a ball. Make sure that you have something big and squishy, and practice rolling and gently tossing it to your toddler. Encourage them to do the same, and model for them how you catch an object. This is also an ideal time to teach them how to toss the ball “gently”.
  • Push it! Pull it! There are a lot of great pushing and pulling toys out there, or you can use something as simple as a laundry basket. Teach your child how to pull or push the toy or basket around. You can add a little more fun to the game by collecting toys or stuffed animals to place in the basket as you scoot it around the house.

2-3 Years

Milestones: 

Your baby isn’t such a baby anymore! While that realization always comes with a tinge of bittersweet nostalgia, it is a very exciting time in both you and your child’s life. Chances are, you’re seeing a whole, sweet little person with their very own personality, likes, dislikes, and sense of humor. This is also an age where kids are practically unstoppable. Capitalizing on that boundless energy and keeping them active now will set a foundation for a healthy life for the rest of their lives. By now, your child is practically a gross motor expert, so try and keep up with these milestones:

  • By now, your bouncing baby should be a bouncing big kid, using the large muscle groups in their legs to jump; straight up and down, forward, backward, and side to side.
  • Your child will also likely be able to go up and down the slide without assistance. Probably over and over and over again!
  • Your child can also dance in time to music. Many children start recognizing and bopping along to percussive and musical sounds long before this stage, but at this age, your child will likely dance in a purposefully coordinated way to a song like the “Hokey Pokey” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes”.

Gross Motor Skills Activities: 

Remember, there’s more to healthy child development than just how they move their body. There’s a whole lot of good that you can do just by teaching them about the good things that they can put in their body-making sure that your child’s nutritional needs are being met will give their bodies the fuel they need to facilitate those important gross motor skills. While you are doing the gross motor skills activities on this list, you’re bound to encounter at least a couple wonderful photo opportunities, so knowing your way around a camera to take great photographs of your little one will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.