If you are looking for strategies to help your child who has seemingly boundless energy, or if you are noticing that your child is struggling with running, jumping, sitting, and other such activities, then it is important to think about developing your child’s gross motor skills.
Gross motor skills involve movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements. Developing gross motor skills in turn builds core strength, which helps children to sit for longer periods of time, such as during circle time or writing and drawing. If your child struggles to sit for an extended period, then it is possible they need to grow their core strength through gross motor activity.
Look for opportunities to incorporate gross motor work at home. This work will help build strength, balance, agility, and an awareness of their bodies in space. Some activities include:
- Anything promoting heavy work: carrying, lifting, pushing and pulling heavy objects (like moving bricks or stones from one location to another; pushing a full wheelbarrow; pulling a full wagon; using a rope to pull an old tire);
- Hanging and swinging (look for playground equipment like monkey bars and tree limbs. Children can add swinging once they feel comfortable hanging);
- Climbing up the slide (yes, going in the “wrong direction” is actually a very good thing!);
- Digging a hole in a sand pit, gravel pit, or dirt pit (use a large shovel to get more of their core involved);
- Raking leaves and shoveling snow (work together with your child for an easy afternoon of accomplishing chores);
- Spending time outside running, jumping, climbing trees, navigating uneven surfaces, balancing on logs, hopping from stone to stone (you could create an obstacle course for your child that incorporates many of these elements).
Most of the activities above occur during outside play, but a simple but effective inside activity is to have the child push against a wall. Even such a simple activity provides neural feedback for the core.
As you incorporate these activities in your daily routine, you will notice that your child will have an easier time holding in place and giving attention. You will also notice further development in macro-athletic functions that contribute to their overall physical well-being. These activities are intuitive, accessible, and even fun for the grownups. Give them a try!