What Are Gross Motor Skills

What Are Gross Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills are termed as the skills that help in large actions like the movement of arms, legs, etc. As these aptitudes are involved, both consciously and unconsciously, in important movements performed in everyday routine and also tend to be involved in sports and exercise.  

Developing gross motor skills is an essential part of childhood development. It's an important part of being able to run around and explore the world. These abilities can be especially challenged for children with developmental disorders, or for those who have suffered a stroke or other injury after their early years.


Motor skills

Motor skills are the patterns of physical activity we perform in order to accomplish a task. While discussing this term one must take into account that motor skills is an umbrella term under which lies several types of skills that are two of the most important milestones in early childhood development. They are subdivided into two categories: one can classify motor skills as either fine or gross motor skills:

Gross motor skills include movements of large muscle groups, such as arms and legs, while fine motor skills include smaller muscles or muscle groups such as those in the fingers and wrists.

But in order to understand the concept better, let us briefly discuss each of them.

Fine motor skills

Throughout our lives, we rely on our fine motor skills to do key tasks in school, at work, and in everyday life. Fine motor skills are complex because they come so naturally to most people. But we usually don't think about them. Brain and muscles work together to make them. They are built on gross motor skills that allow us to make bigger movements, like running and jumping. Here are a few examples of when we use fine motor skills:

  • Using a pen or pencil;
  • Making neat drawings and writing;
  • Typing on a keyboard;
  • Making use of scissors, rulers, and other tools;
  • It takes fine motor skills to do everyday tasks like brushing one's teeth and getting dressed. 

Gross motor skills

Our gross motor skills allow us to do tasks that require us to use large muscles in our arms, legs, and torso. These skills require whole-body movements. All kinds of physical activities require gross motor skills, from running, jumping, climbing, swimming, and other activities to raking leaves. These skills relate to the core strength of the body and should be developed in the first place. 

Gross motor skills are more complex than they appear at first glance, but most people use them easily and automatically. The muscles and the nervous system are involved in coordination, balance, and simple movements. Additionally, they are important for fine motor skills like using a pencil, which is the basis for making small moves.

Why is it important?

A child's gross motor skills are vital for everyday functions, such as walking and running, climbing in a playground, and hitting a ball with a bat or foot or hand. This is important for everyday self-care activities like dressing (where you must be able to stand on one leg to put your leg into a pant leg without falling over), climbing into and out of a car, or even getting into and out of a bed. 

Gross motor ability also impacts a child's capability to perform daily functions; for example, the upper body support for their upper body at the table affects their ability to do their school work. Muscular control affects their ability to remain sitting for an entire day at school (lifting themselves up in a chair, going from one room to another, carrying a heavy school bag). Gross motor skills also influence children’s ability to negotiate their environment (such as walking around objects including desks in the classroom, ascending a sloped playground hill, or accessing and descending a moving escalator). Without fairly decent motor skills, a child will have a hard time accomplishing basic tasks such as eating, tidying up toys, and using the toilet or potty. Poor gross motor skills can lead to facing challenges in all areas of their lives, including school, work, and home. Motor skills difficulties can also lead to low self-esteem.

How do gross motor skills difficulties typically look? Here is the list of gross motor difficulties which are commonly seen in children:

  • Disinterest or avoidance of physical activity;
  • Performance of physical tasks in a hurry (to mask difficulty or fatigue);
  • Performance of silly tasks which they still may find challenging;
  • Bossiness in telling others how to perform a physical task or play a game without actively engaging themselves.



Motor skills develop after birth and throughout life, with the majority of these skills being acquired in the early stages of life. In terms of their development, there is no distinction between fine and gross motor skills – both are used in tandem to help the child adapt and cope with the ever-changing environment they are in. However, deliberate efforts can also be made for the development of such skills. Generally, the development process is involuntary, which means it happens without conscious effort. Gymnasts train their bodies to perform actions that are not typically possible for ordinary humans. Similarly, any person may teach him- or herself to swim even after he or she has reached middle age. 

There is no defined scale determining how these skills are developed within an individual, but experts have laid out some milestones that a child should reach at a certain age. Usually, reaching this specific point implies that motor skills are developing normally in children. However, sometimes, due to some factors, motor skills may suffer a disorder, preventing the child from properly reaching the milestone at a given time. Here are a few achievements that your kid will reach as they begin to develop their motor skills;

  • sitting with their legs straightened
  • crawling;
  • standing (they actually may stand up with the help of different objects even earlier than they start crawling);
  • walking with one or two hands support;
  • walking on their own;
  • walking up and down stairs and much more! 

Motor skills play a significant role in every person's life, but their importance is much greater when they are actively developed in childhood. They help children perform their tasks successfully as well as lay the foundation for their future success. Better motor skills enhance the ability of children to excel in extracurricular activities, and they influence cognitive development and behavior, which directly impacts academic achievements. These skills contribute to children's well-being and give them a chance to better socialize in play. Their confidence and coordination in gross motor skills are essential for them to develop their fine motor skills as well.


Every day, children need access to environments that let them develop their gross motor skills, with you guiding and supporting them. In the outdoors, children should have the freedom to be as physically active as they want. Stamina can be built by consistently walking them to play in local green spaces.

Let’s consider children's gross motor skills which start with crawling, spinning, turning, and twisting, then transition into walking, running and maybe even hopping. This is followed during their 'tummy time' when babies develop their muscles for sitting and crawling. As they age, they learn to bear weight and develop upper arm strength, control, mobility and balance.

You should definitely pay attention to what youngsters are doing while playing and make sure the environment they are in can provide indoor and outdoor activities that are challenging enough for them. You need to keep track of each child’s achievement in physical development and it’s probably better to write them down somewhere.

You need to provide children with space where they can take safe risks and learn from them step to step. Nonetheless, most of the time children are able to take care of themselves and assess the situation before attempting movements with which they aren’t familiar enough yet.

Play is a great way for children to learn and develop. Playtime is also important because it can help to teach children how to play safely and effectively. However, there are some things that you need to consider when setting up your child's play area so that you can ensure that they are getting the most out of their playtime. It's definitely good to have a vast variety of objects which children can lift, organize and build while creating their own area. Always try to think ahead when considering the equipment you will have for your child's play space setup which will support the healthy development of their skills. All children have to be active physically for at least 4-5 hours each day.

Help your child improve their gross motor skills with these fun activities

It’s easy to see where kids get their gross motor skills—all they have to do is look at their parents! But that doesn’t mean that every kid develops them at the same rate, or even at all. Gross motor skills involve moving your body around in space, and if you have trouble with those skills, it can make activities like running, jumping, and throwing difficult. If your child’s gross motor skills need a little extra help, try these fun activities that will encourage them to get moving and improve their gross motor skills while they have fun!

Have a field day on the playground

It’s time to break out the toys! Get your child’s favorite toy and head to the nearest playground. Let them run around and explore. As they play, encourage them to use big movements. Help them jump, throw, and catch. Most importantly, have fun! This is a great way to support your youngster to improve their gross motor skills and get some exercise too.

Let them climb outside

Kids love to climb, and it’s a great way to help them develop their gross motor skills. If you have a backyard, let them explore and climb on trees, playground equipment, or even the family dog. If you don’t have a backyard, try taking them to the park. Just make sure they’re supervised so they don’t hurt themselves.

Try some outdoor activities

If your child struggles with gross motor skills, there are a few ways you can help them. A tricycle or bike can be a great stepping stone to riding a bike later on. The other option is to get them a scooter or pedal car, which will allow them to practice balance and steering while they pedal. These are all great ways to get your junior outside and exercising and away from those dreaded video games or cartoons!

Get up and dance

Dancing is a great way to get kids moving and improve their gross motor skills. It’s also a fun activity that the whole family can enjoy together. Plus, it’s a great way to get some exercise and boost your mood. So put on some music and start dancing around the living room!

Building a castle

Building a fort in the living room could be a great way to help your little one improve their gross motor skills. It will also give them a chance to use their imagination and have some fun. Plus, it's a great way to spend some quality time for you and your child to bond. 

If you're not sure how to get started on the project, there are several things that you should consider: 

  • Make sure that the space is well-ventilated and has plenty of space on all sides of the structure.
  • You should make sure that any materials used are suitable and beneficial for your child's safety and health. Depending on the age of your kid, things like screws, glue sticks, paint brushes, etc may be considered as either harmful or full of advantages for creativity, so pay attention whether your little explorer is ready to use them.
  • It's important that you use as much natural light as possible when working on this project so that it doesn't become too dark or hot while they're inside working on their structure.


Summing up

Based on how far you've read, we assume you care about your child's development and want to assist your toddler in mastering all these skills. For this, you should identify the activities and equipment that will help your kid improve his or her skills, which will make them healthier and stronger. For this, we at WoodandHearts have created furniture which will boost your child’s development of both gross and fine motor skills as well as impact their mental and emotional development. WoodandHearts furniture is CE and CPC certified, made with NON-toxic materials and made in accordance with Montessori, Pikler and Waldorf approaches to children’s development. It is also proved by neuropsychologists that climbing structures like the ones available for purchase on WoodandHearts website help to activate all parts of the brain, making an impact on the abilities to speak, hear, see, learn languages, control one’s emotions, reason, complete problem-solving tasks, balance, move, use sensory skills and develop personal characteristics which will definitely bring the future success.

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