Many of your baby's motions won't be under their control during the first few weeks after birth. They may still move jerkily or jitterily as they gain new physical skills. As they grow, they develop muscles and the ability to control their movements. The actions and tasks they perform every day are made possible by motor skills. Learning these skills is an essential part of child development. Let's look at gross motor skill development in a baby and toys that can help your baby develop them faster.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills refer to controlling muscles required for large body movements. It involves the muscles of the arms, legs, torso, and feet. These motor skills are important for everyday activities such as standing, walking, and running. Gross motor skill development is also important for developing fine motor skills. For example, your baby will find it easier to write and draw when they can sit upright and support their upper body independently.
Gross motor skills can be further categorised into:
- Gross locomotor skills
- Object control skills
Gross locomotor skills refer to skills such as walking, crawling, jumping, running, etc. It involves independent movement without interaction with other objects. On the other hand, object control skills refer to the ability to control other objects through arm and leg movements. Object gross motor skills examples include throwing a ball, pulling a toy, climbing stairs, etc.
Most of these locomotor and object control skills develop in the initial two years of a child's life. They learn to sit independently, crawl, and gradually transition from standing and walking with support to doing so independently.
Gross motor skills also involve control over movements with hand-eye coordination at a later stage. For example, once a child can throw a ball, they will learn to control the direction in which the ball will be thrown.
Major Gross Motor Skill Milestones Among Babies
The development of gross motor skills starts from the head and slowly moves downwards. Studies over the years have helped doctors and researchers arrive at milestones for gross motor skills linked to a baby's age. These milestones describe the abilities most babies acquire at a certain age. Some children acquire abilities earlier or later than others since there is a wide range of what is expected.
AgeGross Motor Skills Milestones0-6 monthsHe/she can turn the head on both sides and eventually hold the head upright in a sitting position
He/she can roll over
He/ she raises himself/ herself on arms from the tummy position6-12 monthsHe/ she can sit independently
He/ she can crawl
He/ she can move from a sitting position to a supported standing position 12-18 monthsHe/ she can stand without support
He/ she can walk with one hand supported
He/ she can kick a ball18-24 monthsHe/ she can walk well
He/ she can squat and rise up
He/ she can bend down to pick up objects
What Are Gross Motor Toys?
Are you wondering, 'How do toys develop motor skills?' Certain gross motor toys can help your child develop his gross motor skills. Using such toys encourages babies and toddlers to move in ways to strengthen their muscles and make more coordinated movements. These toys focus on perfecting movements such as sitting, walking, balancing, jumping, running, throwing, and kicking.
9 Toys That Can Help Your Baby Achieve Motor Skills Milestones Faster
If you're looking for toys to help your child develop gross motor skills, you should consider a few outdoor and indoor gross motor toys.
Balls are one of the best toys for gross motor skills. Kids can play with balls indoors or outdoors. Your baby's toy basket should include large bouncy, beach, and/or soccer balls. Look for balls in bright, eye-catching colours to capture your baby's attention. Playing with a ball works on improving balance, hand-eye coordination, throwing action, and more.
2. Play Tunnels
The use of play tunnels promotes crawling in addition to mobility. Crawling is crucial for development as it helps connect various parts of newborns' and kids' brains. Even after newborns stop crawling, this movement is still crucial.
3. Pull Along Toys
When your child is learning to crawl and walk, pull-along toys are a great help. These gross motor toys encourage children to move about. Initially, you will probably be the one doing the pulling to encourage your little one to move toward it. Once they can stand independently and start walking, they can pull the toy along on their own. Many pull-along toys make sounds when pulled, making them more attractive to toddlers.
4. Push Toys
Big and small push toys help babies improve their gross motor skills. Small push toys help strengthen their arm muscles. On the other hand, large push toys can be very helpful when babies are learning how to walk. They can use these toys to maintain their balance and develop muscles.
5. Rocking Horse
Sitting on a rocking horse helps your child develop gross motor skills by encouraging them to use their upper body strength to stay upright. The back-and-forth rocking movement stimulates the inner ear system and helps the baby develop a better sense of balance.
6. Foam Blocks
Large foam blocks can be arranged differently to create an obstacle course for kids. Some foam block sets also include a block with an inclined plane that they can slide down. You need to ensure that your child uses these blocks under adult supervision. As your child develops the ability to grip things, these blocks will also become toys to push, pull and throw, improving hand-eye coordination.
7. Stepping Stones
Stepping stones are slightly raised, flattish platforms that can be placed in a child's path. They can be placed in a row at varying gaps or incorporated into an obstacle course. As your child climbs up and down from these stepping stones, they improve their balance and coordination. Stepping stones also help children understand how to estimate distance. Make sure you choose stepping stones with an anti-skid base.
8. Pikler Triangles
Pikler triangles are a great example of gross motor toys for babies. It enables the transition from lying down to sitting, standing, and climbing. The low rungs help babies pull themselves up and sit with support or pull themselves up to a standing stance. Also, it helps develop core muscles.
Introduce your child to cycling after they start walking. Tricycles, trikes, and scooters are great gross motor toys for 1-year-old babies. They strengthen their leg and thigh muscles as they learn to pedal their way forward. Also, they learn how to coordinate multiple movements simultaneously and maintain balance. Moreover, it improves hand-eye coordination.
What can Parents Do to Boost Their Baby's Motor Skills Development
There are many gross motor skills activities that you can do with your baby to help them strengthen muscles and achieve their developmental milestones.
- Put Them on Their Tummies
Placing newborns on their tummies encourage them to raise their heads and strengthens the neck and shoulder muscles. This will later help them roll over, crawl and walk. Since movement while lying on their backs comes more naturally, limit tummy time to a minute initially. You can also place colourful toys in their line of sight to encourage movement.
- Give Them Space
Putting your child in a bouncer gives them less time to develop their motor skills. Let them play in a large playpen or on the carpet. Children are born explorers, and spending time on the floor encourages them to learn how to move.
- Challenge Your Baby
Babies thrive on being challenged. They can seem to get frustrated while mastering a skill, but this trial and error can be very beneficial for them. Don't give in to the temptation to pick your baby up whenever they stumble. Once they have mastered a skill, increase the difficulty level. For instance, place the toy a little out of your kid's reach to encourage them to crawl toward it.
Developing gross motor skills is essential for children. It's the first step towards being independent. Free play at home and in the playground is great, but introducing age-appropriate toys can be even more beneficial. Isn't walking while pulling along a duck on wheels more fun than walking alone?
As your child develops gross motor skills, they will simultaneously develop fine motor skills and cognitive skills as well. Thus, you need to pay attention to their gross motor skills and overall development. If you're looking for guidance, the Raising Superstars program can help. Raising Superstars focuses on the development of children through several age-appropriate activities. Their Prodigy Program is designed by experienced childhood educators and researchers. So, what are you waiting for? Let your child discover their full potential.