Learning to move is an important developmental milestone in your child’s early childhood. Movement helps your child to become independent and explore the world around them. To move, your baby needs to make specific muscle movements. The skill that allows your baby to move their muscles and perform a certain task is known as motor skills. Motor skills are broadly divided into two categories—gross motor skills and fine motor skills.
What are Gross and Fine Motor Skills?
Gross and fine motor skill development play a crucial role in a child’s development. These skills help a child learn to make fundamental and specific movements essential for mobility, physical independence, healthy living, and creative expression. Broadly, gross motor skills involve the movement of large muscles and fine motor skills involve the movement of small muscles.
The Difference between Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills
Gross motor skills mean physical movement of the entire body involving large muscle groups such as arms, legs, feet, and torso. Children develop gross motor skills over time through practice. Gross motor skills help your baby perform regular activities such as sitting, standing and walking. Some other examples of gross motor skills are pushing, pulling, crawling, jumping, rolling, and sitting straight.
Meanwhile, fine motor skills include physical skills involving small muscles. They also involve hand and eye coordination along with the movement of hand and wrist muscles. Fine motor skills are complex as they involve coordinated effort between the brain and the muscles. Some examples of fine motor skills are holding a pencil, drawing a picture, using a pair of scissors, and typing on a keyboard.
Importance of Gross Motor Skills
Gross motor skills are extremely important to enable your child to perform everyday activities such as walking, running, climbing, and various other playground skills like throwing, catching and hitting a ball with a bat.
Gross motor skills also enable your child to perform other daily self-care activities such as raising a leg and balancing it while wearing a pant without falling. It also helps them to get in and out of their bed daily. Gross motor skills are necessary to maintain upper body support.
Interestingly, gross motor skills are also necessary to develop fine motor skills such as drawing, cutting, and writing. Once your child starts attending school, gross motor skills help them sit upright on a bench during their classes. Gross motor skills increase endurance and your child’s ability to attend a full day of school and engage in activities like sitting at a desk, moving from one classroom to the other, carrying their heavy school bags, climbing stairs, eating their lunch, and playing with their friends. If your child does not develop good gross motor skills, they will struggle with daily activities like eating, playing, and putting their toys back.
Gross Motor Skills Development Milestones
The development of gross motor skills starts quite early. You would have seen a newborn wiggling and moving its limbs; that is how the process of motor skill development begins. In reality, gross motor skills start developing when the baby is in the womb itself. Remember, all the rolling and kicking sensations you experienced during pregnancy?
Here is an activity milestone chart for better understanding:
Between 0-2 Months
- Can turn head to the sides
- Can kick their legs
- Can move their hands
- Can lift the head
Between 2-4 Months
- Can lift their head while on their tummy
- Can raise their head in line with their tummy
- Can roll from tummy to back
Between 4-6 Months
- Pushes on their arms
- Rolls from belly to back and back to belly
- Can bring their feet to their mouth
- Can do a push up with the support of their wrists
- Can pivot in a circle while on their belly
Between 6-8 Months
- Capable of sitting alone
- Can reach for their toys
- Can balance itself while sitting
- Crawls on their belly
Between 8-12 Months
- Starts crawling on their hands and knees
- Can move between laying down and sitting upright on its own without any help
- Can pull itself up to a standing position
- Can stand for a couple of seconds
- Tries to take steps with arms stretched forward
- Moves around furniture
Between 12-18 Months
- Walks with their hands held forward
- Can stand up from the floor without any support
- Can walk alone
- Can squat and then stand up without any support
- Can stand up from the floor unsupported
- Can walk up the stairs holding support like an older person, a handle, or a railing
- Can crawl down the stairs in a sitting position
- Can run, even though they keep falling while running
- Can throw a ball
- Can kick a ball forward
- Can chase a ball
At 2 Years
- Walks and runs well
- Can jump well without losing balance
- Can easily walk up and down the stars
- Can kick a ball without losing balance and falling down
At 3 Years
- Can balance on one foot
- Can do frog jump
- Can ride a tricycle
- Can catch a ball
At 4 Years
- Can hop on one foot
- Starts playing hopscotch game
- Can play cricket fairly well
- Able to somersault
- Can cartwheel
At 5 Years
- Capable of riding a bicycle
- Can swim
- Can skate
- Can climb without any support
Gross Motor Development in Infants
Infants have a natural ability to work on developing their gross motor skills. Soon after birth, they start working on their gross motor skills by wiggling, squirming, and kicking. You can help your infant in developing their gross motor skills by investing just five minutes a day.
0-6 months of age is critical in your infant’s development. As the baby explores, the neurons in their brains start forming connections known as synapses. However, if the baby does not get enough opportunities, the synapses in their brains get cut off. This leaves the inherent talent in the baby getting not utilised and wasted.
As a parent, you should provide enough opportunities for your baby to maintain these synapses. Even simple activities such as allowing your baby to stay face down can improve their ability to crawl. Making your baby explore their body and encouraging them to perform simple physical activities can help them develop gross motor skills faster. The more bodily movements your baby can make, the more developed their gross motor skills become.
What is the Age of Gross Motor Skill Development?
There is no age for gross motor skill development. Babies start developing their gross motor skills at birth. Technically, gross motor skill development begins when the babies are inside their mother’s wombs. They make small hand and leg movements while floating in the amniotic fluid. After birth, they start moving their hands, feet, and head. Within a couple of months, their movement becomes more balanced.
A baby keeps developing gross motor skills actively till the age of five. After that, the pace of development slows down. However, the human body keeps developing muscle strength throughout their lives. Yoga, Pilates, sports, swimming, dance, and other physical activities can keep your muscles active and strong.
Gross Motor Activities for Toddlers
Toddlers learn several gross motor activities by the time they are two years old. Many parents refrain from letting their babies perform physical activities fearing injury.
However, do not let your fear hamper your child’s development. If your child wants to climb the stairs, let them. If you are worried that they will fall if they run, let your fear take a backseat.
An overprotective parenting style can delay your baby’s gross motor skill development. Be careful, and take safety precautions but let them explore. Remember, falling is also part of their development.
Also Read: 15 DIY Kid Friendly Activities for Toddlers
Here are some effective gross motor activities for toddlers:
- Dancing: Babies love music and dance. There is nothing more fun than dancing. Play music and encourage your baby to dance. You may be raising the next Michael Jackson, who knows?
- Jumping: Draw lines with chalk on the floor and ask your toddler to jump. Do jumping jacks with them. An activity that will benefit both you and your toddler.
- Push and pull games: Toddlers love to push. Make them push the shopping cart or your laundry basket.
- Play with a ball: Most toddlers love playing with balls. Give your toddler colourful balls in various textures to play with. The more they throw and catch the ball, the more their motor skills develop.
Delays in Development
All children develop at their own pace. Developmental milestones are guidelines to help you track your baby’s growth and development. If your child is a few days, weeks, or a couple of months behind the milestones, there is nothing much to worry about.
If your child was born preterm, chances are high that they will reach their gross motor skills milestones a little late. However, if the development is extremely delayed, it is a matter of concern and you should consult with the doctor.
Every child is born a genius. However, we often do not tap their potential fully. With a little encouragement, your baby can develop gross motor skills faster.
Regular playtime is extremely important for your child to develop their gross motor skills. Spending even five minutes a day with your baby can help them grow faster. Do not let your toddler sit with a smartphone or other gadget throughout the day. This will delay their development. Encourage them to go out and play.
The more they jump, run, crawl, and climb, the more they strengthen their gross motor skills. This enables them to become independent and explore the world around them on their own.
You can also join our specialised Raising Superstars’ Prodigy Framework programme to help your child make the best of their inborn talents and skills at a very young age. The first two to three years of your child's life are crucial in determining the skills and talents they will take forward to their adulthood. So, do not miss this chance and give your little one the foundation to develop their skills to grow, and thrive.