Gross Motor Skills for Preschoolers
Gross motor skills for preschoolers are one of the easiest skills to work on with young children.
What are gross motor skills?
Gross motor skills are also called large motor skills and can be used interchangeably. These are abilities that use large muscle groups like walking, running, and jumping. And they are full-body movements that use the arms, legs, and torso.
Development of these skills happen usually around the same time for every child. But boys do develop gross motor skills a little earlier than girls. (Girls develop fine motor skills earlier though!)
Why are gross motor skills important?
Development of gross motor skills is important because these are abilities that we use every single day, all day long. Children need to be able to efficiently move around and explore and play and learn to keep developing in other areas. Gross motor skills enables them to do just that.
Gross Motor Skills Milestones
This is a brief list of gross motor skills milestones to show you the variety of different skills our large muscle groups are needed to do. There are more than this; I just picked a few.
- Birth to 1 year old – Holds head up, rolls over, crawls, pulls to standing position
- 1 to 2 years old – Cruises around furniture, walks, walks down stairs with support, walks independently, runs alone, jumps in place, jumps over objects, kicks a stationary ball, throws ball intentionally
- 2 to 3 years old – Walks backwards, marches in place, jumps in place with two feet together, carries a large ball while moving, flings a beanbag
- 3 to 4 years old – Runs, walks up and down stair while alternating feet, climbs up and down on playground equipment, rides tricycle using pedals, gallops but not smoothly, strikes a balloon with a large paddle, kicks ball forward by stepping or running up to it
- 4 to 6 years old – Runs smoothly and quickly changes directions, jumps and spins, plays “Follow the Leader” using a variety of movements, gallops and skips with ease, hops on one foot then the other, attempts to jump rope, catches a thrown ball with both hands, dribbles a ball
What if my child can’t do all of these skills?
It’s okay! More than likely, you just haven’t thought to work with your child on that particular skill. Most of these skills are skills that kids just automatically practice during play. One day you will notice your preschooler standing on one foot and say, “Wow! I didn’t know you could do that!”.
Then there are skills that you might need to show them just one time how to do, like how to skip and gallop. Usually after you show them one or two times how to skip and gallop, they take off and can do it like an expert!
And honestly, as homeschooling families, you may not teach certain skills that public schools teach in physical education class. For one thing, we don’t have all of the specialized equipment. And sometimes we just plain don’t think about it!
Here’s an example!
For example, jump roping…teaching my kids how to jump rope never crosses my mind. Why? Because we don’t own any good jump ropes! For example, when my kids do receive one as a gift, they are usually the cheap, flimsy ones that just don’t turn well. And buying an expensive jump rope like we had in gym when I was growing up isn’t on my short list of things to buy.
But guess what? They somehow end up learning how to jump rope, whether at friends’ houses or a homeschool co-op class, after all. Even if they didn’t ever learn, it’s not something I am worried about.
6 Main Gross Motor Skills for Preschoolers
Here are the 6 main gross motor skills for preschoolers that we can work on as parents. It just takes a little intentional effort on our part. Most of these skills are ones your preschooler works on their own every day anyway!
- Balancing Activities – Balancing activities such as standing on one foot, walking on a straight line, walking on a low balance beam, standing on one foot playing hopscotch, riding on a balance bicycle
- Riding Toys – Riding toys such as tricycles are a great way to practice muscle coordination. It takes skill to pedal and steer at the same time!
- Rhythmic Activities – Children need to practice rhythmic movement, such as dancing or clapping to the beat of a song.
- Ball Skills – This is one that takes some time to develop and needs you to work with your child. Have you ever thrown a soft ball to your toddler or young preschooler, and he just stands there laughing? Or she tries to catch it after the ball has hit her? These are typical steps in learning to throw and catch a ball. Totally normal! Just keep working on it and practicing.
- Jumping Skills – Jumping skills include hopping, skipping, jumping, and galloping. These skills develop your child’s bilateral coordination which means it takes both sides of the body to do. Both sides have to coordinate together to get it to work. Sounds hard, right? It is, and that’s why it takes practice to develop these.
- Climbing Skills – These include activities that need strength to perform too. Playgrounds are perfect to practice these skills on such as climbing a jungle gym, hanging from money bars, and climbing the ladder to the slide. In addition, swimming uses these same muscles as climbing!
What activities can help develop gross motor skills?
There are some activities that you can set up for your preschooler to do at home to work on certain gross motor skills. And other activities are just normal everyday activities that preschoolers already do naturally. But above all, keep it FUN for them!
12 Gross Motor Activities for Preschoolers
This game is loved by all ages! Hopscotch works on the very difficult gross motor skill of hopping on one foot across the board and bending down to pick up the rock.
2. Bean Bag Activities
The popular game of corn hole is perfect for this! Or just a simple yet highly effective game of toss the bean bag in a bucket.
3. Beach Ball Basket
Toss a beach ball or other soft ball into a laundry basket. Take steps further back after each complete basket.
4. Kick Ball
A good game of kickball will help develop the skill of kicking a moving ball while running. If it’s just you and your child, just roll the ball to him and encourage him to run and kick it.
5. Balloon Volleyball
Use a low net and balloons to do a “volleyball” game!
6. The Floor is Lava Game
Yes, I had to add this one! It requires lots of large muscles to run and climb.
Trampolines are perfect for developing gross motor skills for preschoolers. But first make sure it’s safe from dry rot and old springs and has a safety net!
8. Post-It Note Jump
A fun rainy day activity is to have your child jump and reach as far as he can and touch the wall. Wherever he touches, place a Post-It note. Encourage him to jump higher and reach past that sticky note. And keep moving it as he reaches higher on the wall.
9. Classic Movement Games
Classic games such as Hide and Seek, Freeze Tag, Red Light/Green Light, Simon Says, and Mother, May I are wonderful ways to get moving! In addition, these also help practice the skill of quickly turning direction while running.
10. Build an Obstacle Course
Get your kids input and ideas and let them help! Build a simple obstacle course with items you already have: boxes, hula hoops, riding toys, etc.
I’ve found homeschoolers don’t do this very much; let’s change that! Play some fun kids music and get out there and dance with the kids! Similarly, you can also make a game out of it: dance until the music stops then freeze. They can’t move until the music starts again.
12. Walk the Line
This is an easy and fun indoor or outdoor activity to practice balancing. If you have a child that’s into pirates, call it “Walk the Plank”. Indoors, use masking tape and make a straight line on the floor. Outdoors, use chalk to make a line. Have your preschooler walk on the line without getting off. Show him how to hold his arms out to his side to help keep his balance. Mastered that? Move on to doing a forward flip and try to stay on the line! It’s harder than it sounds!
Want more gross motor activities for preschoolers?
To help you incorporate more large motor activities into your homeschool, I’m offering you a FREE sample of my Large Motor Activities Cards! I have created fun and engaging gross motor activities cards for preschoolers and kindergarteners for holidays and seasons that have been very popular among parents and teachers alike! I want to give you 8 cards from my Summer Fun Large Motor Activities Cards that have a summer/beach theme.
What can you do with these cards? I like to use them as brain breaks in between subjects or to break up a long lesson or just to get the wiggles out. For instance, I like to pull them out when I see my little ones start to get wiggly and not paying attention. Get them moving when you see signs of losing their attention!
Sign up below to get them and have FUN!