Understanding Gross Motor Skills: Top Facts and Benefits

Understanding Gross Motor Skills: Top Facts and Benefits

Gross motor skills are crucial for a child's overall development, impacting their ability to control whole-body movements using the arms, legs, and torso. These skills start developing right from birth as babies flex, reach, and wave their arms and legs in the air. "Play" is one of the best ways for children to develop and refine these critical skills, and it's something we're passionate about at Wood Wood Toys.

Another term for gross motor skills is 'locomotor skills.' These skills encompass hand-eye and foot-eye coordination necessary for activities like catching and kicking, which also involve fine motor skills. Developing these skills is essential for children to perform everyday functions.

Encouraging Development

Gross motor skills are crucial for a child's physical development and overall well-being. These skills involve the use of large muscle groups and are essential for various activities in different environments.

It is vital to encourage children to practice and enhance their fine and gross motor skills. However, it's important to remember that every child develops at their own pace. Some may reach milestones earlier, while others may take more time. The key is to provide opportunities for children to engage in activities that promote the development of these skills.

This article covers: 

  • The importance of gross motor skills
  • Examples of gross motor skills
  • How you can encourage gross motor development
  • Gross motor skill activities.

Play couches, like these ones from Go Coconut, provide a safe and flexible way to explore gross motor skills indoors.

How do gross motor skills benefit us?

Even when we are sitting, gross motor skills play a significant role in maintaining good posture. These skills are fundamental for basic movements like crawling, walking, and running. They are not just limited to sports but are also necessary for everyday tasks such as getting dressed.

How do gross motor skills support fine motor skills?

Gross motor skills provide the foundation for fine motor skills by enhancing core strength, balance, muscle endurance, and coordination. Developing these skills in children is essential as they lay the groundwork for more intricate movements and activities.

By nurturing gross motor skills in children, we are helping them build a strong foundation for physical activities, academic performance, and overall health. Encouraging children to engage in activities that promote gross motor skills can have long-lasting benefits for their development.

By nurturing these skills in our children, we:

  • Promote long-lasting health of the brain and body
  • Develop confidence and self-esteem
  • Encourage physical literacy
  • Assist school-readiness
  • Provide a safe outlet for energy release
  • Help them regulate frustration and stress
  • Boost their ability to judge risk

Let's delve into some examples of gross motor skills that parents can observe in their little ones.

Climbing frames, also known as the Pikler Triangle, are some of the most popular ways for babies to develop balance, coordination and gross motor strength.

Baby’s gross motor milestones

  • 1 Month: May hold their head up for brief intervals after one month.
  • 3 Months: Holds head and shoulders up when placed on the stomach.
  • 6 Months: Rolls over from their front to their back. May sit for a few seconds unsupported. Starts to grasp objects in both hands.
  • 9 Months: Pulls their body forward to start crawling.
  • 12 Months: Stands for many minutes without support.
  • 15 Months: Walks without any assistance.
  • 18 Months: Runs.
  • 20 Months: Climbs up and downstairs.

Toddler’s gross motor milestones

  • 2 Years: Kicks a ball.
  • 2.5 Years: stands on "tippytoes" and jumps with both feet.

Preschooler’s motor milestones

  • 3 Years: Rides a tricycle.
  • 4 Years: Hops on one foot. Throws a ball overarm.
  • 5 Years: Hops and skips and may ride a scooter.



Baby "play gyms" with spots to hang dangling elements give babies a chance to practice grasping and coordinated movements while laying on their backs. 

As a parent or caregiver, you can start promoting development through gross motor play from a very young age. Here's how to introduce early development exercises in a fun and safe way.

How can you help strengthen your baby's neck muscles?

While a baby’s head needs support in the first few months, they will slowly begin to strengthen their muscles. To build a baby’s confidence and strengthen their neck muscles, hold your child to your chest so they can peer over your shoulder.

What is the importance of tummy time?

Another way to encourage gross motor development is to give babies plenty of supervised tummy time when they’re awake. Put down a comfy baby mat or blanket on the floor and place your baby down on their tummy. Walk around the room and motivate your child to lift their head and strengthen their neck muscles to see you.

By incorporating these simple activities into your daily routine, you can help your baby develop the strength and coordination needed for important milestones like sitting up, crawling, and eventually walking. Remember to always provide a safe and supportive environment for your little one to explore and grow.

Between 6-12 months, your baby’s sensory abilities start to develop, laying the foundation for their future growth and learning. During this crucial period, engaging in playful activities can significantly boost their gross motor skill development. If your child shows motivation to reach for objects and is encouraged to strengthen their leg muscles, introducing a baby gym may be a useful addition at this age.

As you child grows, you can introduce more and more opportunities to develop gross motor skills through play. Here is a list of activities that can help improve gross motor skills:

  • Painting and Creating Broad Strokes: Painting and creating broad strokes with a paintbrush not only allows for creativity but also helps in promoting gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • General Play: Activities such as running, skipping, hopping, and jumping are great ways to engage in general play while improving gross motor skills.
  • Bouncing, Rolling, Throwing, Kicking, and Batting a Ball: Engaging in activities involving a ball, such as bouncing, rolling, throwing, kicking, and batting, can help in developing gross motor skills.
  • Balancing: Practicing balancing on tiptoes, a log, or a tightrope stretched out on the floor can improve balance and coordination.
  • Climbing: Climbing in safe environments, such as playgrounds with adult supervision, is a great way to strengthen gross motor skills.
  • Keeping a Balloon Up in the Air: Playing with a balloon and trying to keep it up in the air by hitting it with their head or hands can improve coordination and motor skills.
  • Splashing About in Water: Splashing about in water not only provides a fun sensory experience but also helps in strengthening leg muscles. Always supervise water play for safety.
  • Dancing, Walking, and Skipping to Music: Moving to music through dancing, walking, and skipping can improve coordination, balance, and gross motor skills.
  • Learning to Ride on Wheels: Learning to ride on wheels, such as a tricycle or scooter, can help in developing balance and coordination skills.
  • Using Body Weight to Swing: Using their body weight to swing and gain momentum on swings can help in improving gross motor skills.
  • Playing Hopscotch: Playing hopscotch is a fun and engaging way to improve balance, coordination, and gross motor skills.

Gross motor play meets pretend play with outdoor play kitchens like this one from Noble Wooden Toys.

Exploring Gross Motor Play at Wood Wood Toys

Wood Wood Toys is Canada's favourite store for wooden toys and so much more. Discover Canadian-made play couches that safely promote gross motor play and look great in your home, and a huge selection of climbing frames, rockers, balance toys and climbing walls from Europe. You can even explore the intersection of gross motor play and pretend play with our play kitchens and take the fun outdoors with beautiful cedar play furniture for your yard.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.