Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are coordination of larger, stronger muscles groups for such activities as running, riding a bike, and throwing a ball.  These muscles are also crucial for a child to get dressed and climb in and out of a car or bed.  Gross, core, abdominal muscles give the child the ability to sit up straight while writing or cutting, walk on sloped hills, and carry heavy items.  

Child with low muscle control oftentimes avoid or have disinterest in physical tasks and gross motor can negatively affect fine motor as well.  

The great news is that there are a plethora of fun activities to increase the child's gross motor strength.  Add fun activities to the child's play, entertain the child on rainy days, or follow the 1-5 Year Preschool Curricula for weekly activities specific for the child's age.  

While children need to run and play, it is important to follow safety rules.  


Go outside.  Kids naturally want to run!

Play "Tag"

Play “Red Light, Green Light


Climbing & Crawling

Go to the park climb all over the jungle gym.

Crawl through tunnels, under chairs and tables, or over cushions and pillows

Crawl around like an animal:  bear, snake, elephant, dog. 



Play hopscotch to help develop balance.  Create with sidewalk chalk or use painter's tape indoors.

Hop like an animal – rabbit, kangaroo, frog.

Play "Put the Fire Out."  This fun outside activity involving water is used with the 2-5 Year Curriculum.

Gross Motor Skills  Using painter's tape, tape 10 lines on the floor or lay 10 pool noodles approximately 2' apart to form ladder rungs.  Label the "top" line "10"; next line "9" on down to "1" on the "bottom" line.  Standing before the "1" line, jump with feet together over the ladder rungs saying the numbers as you progress up. Work very hard not to fall down.



Progression of Jumping by Development
     o 2 feet
           • Jump up as many times in a row as possible
           • Jump forward as many times as possible
            • Jump as far as possible
            • Run and jump
      o 1 foot
             • Forwards than backwards
      o Sideways

Demonstrate exaggerated jumping for the child to imitate.

Begin with the child on a springy surface (cushion).

Jump up to hit a beach ball

Both indoor and outdoor trampolines are a wonderful strengthening exercise.  Keep in mind that it is important to follow safety rules.  


Push and Pull

Children love to push and pull grocery carts, wagons, and other items on wheels.  This activity works gross motor muscles.  Another option is to tie a string or belt on a laundry basket for the child to pull around.


Throwing and Catching

Progression of Throwing and Catching by Development
     o Sitting to standing
     o Large ball to smaller ball
     o Light ball to heavier ball
     o Overhand throw to underhand throw
     o Two hand catch to one hand catch

Kick a soccer ball or kickball in between two objects or into an box laying on its side to create a goal .

Roll the ball while seated and stand to work different muscles.

Throwing: Throw a ball or beanbag into a box, laundry basket, or wide trashcan.

Catching: Start with a scarf or large stuffed animals.


Begin with a thick bat and slowly decrease in size.

Bat at a balloon with a tennis or racquetball racket.  Be very cautious with broken balloon pieces. 


Walking and Balance

Walk in a straight line.
       o Place a line of tape on the floor and walk along it.
       o Walk along a curb or fallen log

Walk backwards.

Give the child two paper plates to step on and skate around the room.  

Create a balance board with a long 2x4" or 2x6".  

While playing outside, I continually tell my children to "stay on their feet" instead of continually falling to their knees.  This requires them to keep balance in rough play.

Hike on simple trails and notice nature around you.


March and Dance

Play music and march around the room.  Add a homemade instruments to play while marching (e.g. wooden spoons to hit together, oatmeal container to drum)

Play music and dance.  Encourage the kiddos to bend, twist, jump, stretch, and wave their arms.  

Actions are included with all of the songs used in the ABCJesusLovesMe Curricula.  Click to see a list of action songs.  


Biking and Scooters

Whether a tricycle, pedal car, or other outside toys, Biking and scooter play builds gross and core muscles.  Don't forget the helmet!


Obstacle Course

One of the frequent gross motor activities included in the ABCJesusLovesMe Curriculum is the "Memory Obstacle Course."  This obstacle-course-with-a-twist that we learned in Occupational Therapy was frequently requested by our children when they were young.  They had so much fun doing it that they didn't realize they were getting exercise and learning.  An added plus is that this activity can be done with more than one children at a time. 


Working on a Horizontal Surface

Shaving Cream 6 Children develop fine and gross motor skills best when they work on a vertical surface.  While holding a writing utensil or brush against a vertical surface, muscles in the wrist and hand are strengthened.  Also, additional core muscles are used when standing to write or paint.  These same muscles are not used when writing or painting on a horizontal surface.  For this reason, place craft, writing, and drawing projects on a vertical surface as much as is feasible. 

Some ideas tweaked from Universal Preschool 

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