Gross Motor Skills
Author: Erin Date Posted:3 August 2017
..so we all know that school preparation/readiness focuses on academic skills (sounds, counting, letter and numeral recognition, basic math facts, sentence writing etc) but did you know it also covers a broader range of skills such as self care, concentration, social, language, emotions, PLAY and physical development (gross motor skills)? Amazing right? Let's talk more about Gross Motor Skills. As a parent of a child in the process of school preparation, what does this mean? What can you do to help them develop the gross motor skills they need to give them a positive start to school?
What is gross motor and gross motor skills?
Gross Motor are physical skills that use the coordination of the muscles in the body that affect movement. They include movement of the large muscles such as the head, torso, legs and arms and the small muscles such as hands, fingers along with the eyes (hand/eye coordination). Gross motor skills also go hand in hand (pardon the pun) with the development of speech and fine motor.
Why gross motor skills are important?
Gross motor skills are important as they allow children to accomplish every day movements, such as walking, running, skipping, hopping, jumping as well as playground skills such as climbing, catching, throwing, hitting and kicking a ball. These movements are pivotal in assisting everyday personal development skills such as getting dressed for school by being able to stand and balance on one leg whilst putting on a pair of pants without falling over or balancing on one knee whilst tying up a shoelace. They also influence other aspects of school readiness as they can affect a child's ability to write, draw, cut out and/or follow instructions which in turn can affect their academic learning.
...so let's niche down and talk about what gross motor skills are needed for school?
•Physical endurance - being able to sit upright at a desk at school, carry a school bag, concentrate, stay awake.
•Hand/eye co-ordination - cutting out with scissors, pasting, drawing, reading, writing and colouring.
•Visual tracking - handwriting and copying from the board, learning to read and write.
•Balance - participating in sport, games and ability to maintain posture.
•Body Awareness - understanding how the body moves for when moving safely within in the classroom/school environment.
•Co-ordination - listening and following instructions, riding a bike, beating a drum, push/pull activities, listening games.
Play Ideas to promote Gross Motor Skills and Development
A great way to build Gross Motor Skills is by providing your child/children with ample opportunities to engage in regular play, sport and games. Here are ten play ideas that promote gross motor development and can help you prepare your child for school:
Yoga is an activity that focuses on movement, posture, breathing, technique and concentration. It is a fabulous way to build and develop gross motor skills that are needed at school. For those that aren't too sure where to get started I'm sharing a couple of our favourite resources. Have you heard of Cosmic Yoga for Kids? It's a Yoga series found on You Tube that integrates storytelling (popular stories and movies) with yoga movements. The other resource we enjoy using is these Yoga Cards. They include a set of instructions to facilitate the yoga technique.
2. BEAN BAG GAMES
Bean bags are a great tool to use with young learners because they are easy to manipulate, light weight and budget friendly. Here are some play ideas for bean bag games.
3. DRESS UPS
Dressing up is an activity that leads to imaginative play but it also creates the opportunity to practise a series of gross motor skills such as postural control, coordination, trunk movement and balance which are needed at school. Two of our favourite dress up games are the traditional role play dress ups where children dress up in a variety of outfits/costumes and engage in imaginary play in that particular role or character and the other is dress up races. They are set up like traditional relay races but include a series of clothes (eg. hat, gumboots, shirt, pants) that need to be worn by getting dressed before proceeding to run.
4. HOUSEHOLD CHORES
Have you heard of proprioception? It is a term used to describe how the joints and muscles communicate with the brain to help coordinate movement as well as how a child/children regulate the force of their movements. Each time a child moves against a force they are developing their proprioception skills and therefore their gross motor skills too. Household chores such as carrying out garbage, washing the floor, vacuuming, lifting grocery bags, weeding, making beds allow your child to practise their proprioception skills. Not sure where to get started, why not introduce a chore chart and routine cards? We love this chore chart and routine cards.
Focuses on balance and coordination by hopping and jumping in a sequence of steps. Hopscotch can be created using chalk on concrete/pavers or with foam number mats or simply written on paper and placed in the correct numerical sequence.
6. OBSTACLE COURSES
Obstacle courses are a fabulous way to foster gross motor development. By using resources such as quoits, balls, hula hoops, wheelbarrows, croquet, badmington, climbing equipment and relay races you can replicate the skills needed to get dressed, body awareness, postural control and physical endurance.
Are a fun way to practise gross motor skills. Playgrounds lend themselves to a multitude of gross motor skills such as climbing, pushing pulling, swinging, jumping, skipping, hopping, crawling, rolling and more. This is an activity that requires minimal preparation and can provide children with extended time to practise gross motor skills (balance, co-ordination, physical endurance, core strength, hand/eye coordination, body awareness, symmetrical movements, hand preference, reciprocal movement and visual tracking.
8. SIMON SAYS
Is a great game for integrating listening, following directions with gross motor skills (body awareness, hand/eye co-ordination, balance, crossing the midline). For example, Simon says, touch your left foot with your right arm or touch your nose with your right hand while balancing on one foot.
9. BALL GAMES
Simple ball games of catching, throwing and kicking use gross motor skills that assist with self care (getting dressed) and visual tracking (hand/eye coordination). Children are required to move their arms towards the midline (middle of body) when catching a ball which is similar to that needed to unzip, zip or button up a cardigan/jacket. When children throw a ball, they rotate their trunk and then bring their arm to the midline as they follow through with the ball (the same action needed to put shoes and socks on). Some fun and ball games for school preparation/readiness to try are poison ball, captain ball, tunnel ball, traditional catch and throw , backyard cricket and some different ball games.
10.FOLLOW THE LEADER
Is a game that requires the copying of actions with movement and hand/eye coordination. It's an opportunity for children to practise their motor planning skills and take on a leadership role.
Erin is a Mum of two, wife, Early Childhood and Primary School teacher as well as the Owner of Nappy Cakes by Erin and the Founder of //celebrate play//. She lives a busy, simple and enjoyable life in Sydney. Her greatest passions are family, organisation, gift-giving, helping others, celebrating events and lifelong learning.