In some of our previous blogs, we talked about how we, as parents, can help our children develop. We talked about cognitive and emotional development, and how important those are for a happy, well-rounded child. Another area parents can help refine for their children is their gross and fine motor skills. Some children struggle more than others when it comes to small movements or big gestures. From an early age, you can help your children to cultivate these skills. We’ve listed a few different ways parents can help develop a child’s gross motor skills. Learn more about it below!
What Are Gross Motor Skills?
Before we delve into the different ways you can help, it’s important to understand what gross motor skills are in the first place. Gross motor skills, otherwise known as physical skills, are those that require a person’s whole-body movement. Whereas fine motor skills are those that allow you to hold a pencil, gross motor involves the large, core-stabilizing muscles of the body to perform everyday functions. Your gross motor skills are those that help you walk, stand, run, jump, and sit upright. But they’re also the things that you need to play (which is vital for children)—hand-eye coordination, ball skills, and swimming are just a few examples.
The more you can help your children to develop these skills, the better. Whether it’s by playing games with them or providing them with a safe environment to develop, your support is crucial.
Play Specific Activities
There are tons of activities you can play with your kiddos to help them refine their gross motor skills. Even simply going on walks with them will help them get their base physical skills so they can expand into other realms. Play is essential for children’s development, and all sorts of play can enhance their gross motor skills. Head outside—outdoor time is vital for children, too—and play a few of these activities to help their bodies develop!
You and the kiddos will be laughing with this one. It’s a fun game to get them to try out different movements that test their bodies and expand their development. You can go from simple tasks like, “Simon says, touch your finger to your nose,” to more complicated tasks like, “Simon says, waddle like a duck.” Go for different instructions that will get your child moving and get the whole family laughing. We’ve listed out a few of our favorites below!
- Creep like a snake
- Balance on one leg
- Stand on top of a chair
- Skip in a circle
- Play the air guitar
- Raise your feet as high as you can
This activity works whether you’re inside or outside. Whether you want to play with a football, baseball, or bouncy ball, your options are open on how you want to go about this. You could even set up your pop-up play yard, sit across from your child, and roll a ball back and forth. Any way you do it, your kid will get to work on their hand-eye coordination and enhance other skills.
Your kids probably already do this with you, but it’s an enjoyable activity, nonetheless. Tell your child to think about it as if they were your shadow, mimicking your actions. You can simply walk around, or you can delve into some different actions. It’s almost like Simon Says, but it may help them feel more comfortable if they see you acting silly, too.
Head to the Playground
You might not be able to head to the public park and playground right now, but once you can, we definitely suggest taking advantage of it. For now, head to the backyard play space! In general, playgrounds require different skills, such as climbing, going up and down stairs, standing up from seated positions, and swinging. All of these are movements that enhance your child’s gross motor skills. Once you all can go back to the park, take advantage of the versatility of playgrounds by visiting a few different ones in the area.
Figure Out Their “Just Right” State
You know how sometimes you don’t like doing something when you don’t feel like it? And it’s even worse when people force you to try to complete that task? It’s the same—and probably even worse—for children. We can’t expect them to learn a new skill or focus on new activities if they’re not in the right state to do so. That’s where, as parents, we have to try to help them find their “just right” state. This is the space and atmosphere that allows them to feel calm and emotionally organized. Maybe it’s when they’ve just had their favorite snack or listened to their favorite song. The external environment plays a big role in internal safety.
Repeat and Practice
When you get them in that “just right” space, do your best to repeat and practice skills you’ve worked on in the past. That doesn’t mean playing Simon Says every single day, but rather working on different activities that still target core gross motor skills—balance, body awareness, crossing the mid-line (from one side of the body to the other), major muscle coordination, and spatial orientation. There are hundreds of activities and skills you can choose that will hit those core groups. The more your child repeats—without feeling forced—the more their skills will improve.
Target Various Senses
Helping your child to master gross motor skills isn’t going to happen in a day, but it will stick with them more if you combine the senses. Any sort of development needs more focus than just one specific area of the body or the mind, and that’s the same with gross motor skills. It involves the sensory system just as much as the motor system. Think of creative ways you can include rhythm, vision, or balance into a game. Have mellow music playing when you play catch. The more in-tune their senses are, the more likely it is that these skills will stick.
Hopefully, this quick guide shows how parents can help develop a child’s gross motor skills. If you need help in creating a safe and comfortable environment for your child, that’s where California Beach Co. comes into play! Our pop-up play yards act as a safe place for your child to play, and you can sit with them as you roll balls back and forth, have them hide in it for Simon Says, or simply use it as a place to unwind with your child. The options are endless, and we’re here to help!