Gross-Motor Development

Cross jump

What is it?

Gross-motor skills are the bigger movements that use the large muscles in the arms, legs, torso, and feet. Gross-motor development is directly dependent on balance and coordination skills.

Examples

  • running
  • jumping
  • hopping
  • throwing
  • dancing
  • catching
  • climbing
  • tumbling
  • turning around
  • crawling
  • sitting
  • swinging
  • sliding
  • hanging
  • pulling
  • pushing

Why is it important?

Scientists believe that a mature brain needs stimulation in the form of movement and sensory experiences during the early years of development.

Gross-motor competency enables children to move more easily and avoid developmental delays.
The structured and unstructured play that promotes gross-motor development helps children to build strong muscles and bones to support their growing bodies.

Children that practice and develop their gross-motor skills acquire healthy and active behaviours that benefit the future. Children with poorly developed gross-motor skills may feel clumsy, which will discourage them from being active and this could continue throughout their lives.

When children successfully challenge old boundaries they became more self-confident. Competent gross-motor skills will encourage children to take part in a variety of active recreational activities, promoting positive psychological well-being.

Movement is at the very center of young children’s lives. It is an important facet of all aspects of their development, whether in the motor, cognitive, or affective domains of human behavior. To deny children the opportunity to reap the many benefits of regular, vigorous physical activity is to deny them the opportunity to experience the joy of efficient movement, the health effects of movement, and a lifetime as confident, competent movers. (p. 24)Gallahue (1993)

Assessment

Gross-motor difficulties include:

  • stick-like movements
  • inability or reluctance to climb or clamber
  • walking on toes all the time
  • excessive clumsiness
  • poor ball-sense (especially throwing)
  • appearance that something is wrong with the child’s legs and/or feet
  • complaints of persistent pain or fatigue
  • reluctance to swing alone on a swing
  • reluctance to control a push bike or scooter
  • regression in skills

Download the Gross-Motor Development Chart.

Please note that the chart is based on averages and is to be used as a guideline only.

If you have concerns about a child’s gross motor skills, have the child undergo a thorough examination by a GP or an occupational therapist.