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The Importance of Gross Motor Skills

By Apricus Health

25th March 2022

Gross motor development is an important milestone for a child – gross motor skills are those which allow us to conduct each movement throughout the entire body.

So, what are gross motor skills? And why is it important to develop gross motor skills?

You’ve likely heard terminology around developing fine and gross motor skills if you're a parent. Gross motor skills are critical in early childhood, as they can influence how a child learns to coordinate and control their body. Gross motor skills come into play with muscular abilities like walking, skipping, sitting upright, climbing, and dancing.

This article will break down the importance of the development of gross motor skills, and how you can support a child’s gross motor development to be able to engage in play and daily tasks. 

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills begin to develop in infants from being able to control posture and will continually improve throughout childhood. We rely on our gross motor skills for more significant movements of the larger muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. Our gross motor skills impact everyday functions like standing, sitting, walking, running, and jumping. Hand-eye coordination is also influenced by gross motor skills, which include abilities like throwing, catching, or kicking.

Why Is It Important to Develop Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills enable us to engage in play and daily tasks such as walking, running, and sitting. For children, play is an important part of their life as it helps “grow their brain”, this can enable them to participate in group play in a playground, day care, school, and home environment. Play can include activities such as climbing a tree, swinging on a swing, jumping on trampoline, hitting a ball with a bat, or throwing a ball. Beyond physical skills, gross motor skills allow us to complete routine tasks such as getting dressed, brushing hair and teeth, getting in and out of bed, and even getting in the shower.

The importance of gross motor skill development cannot be overstated – development will work to boost strength in children and increase the confidence they have in their bodies. Forming foundational gross motor skills in a child’s youth will increase the capability to complete more complex tasks as they get older.

Gross motor skills also impact a child’s ability to engage in more fine motor skills. These skills require more specific muscle functions, like writing, drawing, tying shoelaces or fastening buttons and can only be completed effectively with a solid foundation of significant gross motor skills. 

Improving Gross Motor Skills

The importance of gross motor skills is well documented; as children mature, the improvement of these skills will continue to evolve. Some methods of strengthening gross motor skills in children include:  

  1. Playground activities, like swinging, climbing, balancing. 
  2. Trampolines - jumping can aid in improving balance.
  3. Dancing - boosts coordination and sequencing skills as well as improves rhythm.
  4. Ball games - rolling, throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing.
  5. Obstacle courses - improve problem-solving abilities and shift between critical motor skills based on the obstacles. 

Delayed Development of Gross Motor Skills

Children can experience trouble with gross motor skills at any age and for a wide variety of reasons. Dyspraxia is a common cause of delayed gross motor skills and can generally be improved with the help of a paediatric therapist. If your child is not meeting the general development milestones, it may be worth talking to a professional about how you can improve gross and fine motor skills.  

Paediatric Occupational Therapy with Apricus Health

The complete answer to “why is it important to develop gross motor skills?” lies partly in correctly assessing the underlying causes of these issues and encouraging positive muscle behaviours. At Apricus Health, we understand that every child is unique. Our paediatric occupational therapy services are centred around helping children develop the required skills for any daily activities that they may be struggling with. If you think your child may need the support of an occupational therapist for delayed gross motor skill development, please get in touch with our North Queensland team today.