Improve Your Toddler’s Gross Motor Skills
By Maria T. Pepin
Gross motor skills refer to the development and strengthening of the large muscles in the body. For example: movements required for head control, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing and walking. Toddlers learn new gross motor skills by practicing until a skill is mastered. Therefore, it is very important for children to have plenty of opportunities to exercise these skills every day!
Here are some great activities to consider:
Enjoy some physical exercise with your child. Most toddlers are just learning how to walk and run and need the practice. Go for lots of walks on different surfaces such as grass, gravel or sand that will challenge your child’s balance and help them improve these skills. Let toddlers practice climbing up and down the stairs with your help. Climbing is good for stimulating a child’s sense of laterality. Play with large balls. Encourage your child to kick the ball and take turns using both feet. Practice throwing and catching too.
Put on some music at home and dance with your toddler. Songs with hand motions are a creative way for children to improve their gross motor skills. Think “Itsy-Bitsy Spider” or “Patty Cake.” Toddlers love to bounce and wiggle to music. As they get older, you can make instruments like paper plate tambourines, cereal box drums or noisemakers by filling up bottles with coins. Have your toddler march with their knees high for a parade or play "follow the leader."
There are tons of childhood games designed to enhance gross motor skills. “Simon Says,” “Red Rover,” “Twister,” and “Hide and Seek” are all popular ones. These are simple, active games a child can participate in. As your child gets a little older, hop scotch and jump rope are fun ideas to incorporate as well. These activities not only contribute to improving motor skills, but will also serve to enhance the child's social skills.
A fun game to play with toddlers is, “What animal are you?” This will get your child moving around and using a variety of muscles. Ask your child to imitate the movements of different animals. For example: crawl like a snake, hop like a frog, waddle like a duck, etc. Not only does this stir up your child’s imagination, but it will increase muscle function and agility.
Toddlers really enjoy scribbling and coloring. Get your child some big coloring books and show them how to hold a crayon. Having your child color on the floor will strengthen the hips and shoulders. You can also hang paper on a kid’s easel and have your child sit on their knees. To color, they will need to raise their bottom off of their heels/calves. This takes strength and stability in the hip muscles
Have your toddler help out with chores around the house. Dusting, sorting laundry, gardening and putting away groceries all involve bending, stretching and squatting. Your child will have a healthy dose of motor skill improvement and an added boost to their self-esteem for being mommy’s little helper.
There are so many fun ways to use blocks. You can build a tower with your toddler ~ which encourages them to bend down, pick up the block and raise back up again. You can line up a wall of blocks and have your child step over them or kick them down. Another option is to use large blocks so that your toddler can roll, crawl or duck under the tower as well. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Now… go play!