Gross Motor Skills

Developing the Large Muscles

Gross motor skills are skills that involve different body parts such as your child’s feet, legs, head, and arms.


Ross is very excited because today he is going to his very first children’s gym class. He sits thinking about what he will do in the class. In gym class the teacher places three hula-hoops in the middle of the floor. “Today, class, we will jump and hop in and out of the hoops. You will need to keep your hands extended at your side to give you balance. Let me show you how,” says the teacher. After the teacher shows the children how to hop and jump in and out of the hoops, Ross has a turn. He starts at the nearest hoop, extends his arms, and hops from one hoop to another with alternating feet. “Good job, Ross! You made it to the other side without falling,” says the teacher.


This activity helps Ross develop his gross motor skills as he hops in one hula-hoop and out another. Ross is not only developing his leg muscles, he is also developing his arm muscles as he keeps his arms extended for balance while he hops. Gross motor skills develop very quickly during the early years. Now that your four year old has some confidence in his gross motor abilities, this is the time when you can support him even further. In Ross’ case you can support his skills by adding a tunnel at the end of the hoops. Then he works on going from a standing position to a bending and crawling position.

Put on the sunscreen and take your child outdoors. Encourage him to run at different speeds or toss and catch balls of different sizes. By doing so you support gross motor skill development.

This is also the time when you can put your child in gymnastics, more advanced swimming classes, ballet, soccer, T-ball, or karate. These activities support his gross motor skill development, but there are things a parent can do at home as well. When you go to the park, let your child try to walk along a very low wall. He can walk a two-inch line for at least 10 feet without stepping of f if you provide the experience for him to practice.

Play a game of tiptoe around the house or stomp to music. Turn on soft music first and tiptoe as softly as you can. Then play a marching band song and stomp around the house together. Four year olds can tiptoe, which encourages them to learn to balance without their hands held out for support. Gross motor skills are important for your child to perform everyday functions, such as walking and running. These are critical for everyday self-care skills like dressing because you need to be able to stand on one leg to put on your pants without falling over.

Gross motor skills impact the endurance your child needs to cope with a full day of school or home activities. In other words, gross motor skills improve your four year old’s muscular strength, endurance, posture, body awareness, balance, coordination, and muscle tone. Play with your child and enjoy all the things his body can do.