Build your children’s gross motor skills The best way to strengthen your child’s gross motor skills is through play! Running, jumping, dancing and catching are all great ways to encourage growing muscles to work together. Strong gross motor skills will give your child greater confidence on the playground, enable them to engage with activities for longer and help them tackle everyday tasks like getting dressed for school. They’re also important building blocks for achieving future developmental milestones, including fine motor skills like writing. Choose age-appropriate games that encourage your little one to develop balance, spatial and body awareness, muscle strength and coordination, and an ability to cross between using different sides of their body. Here are 10 fun ideas to get you started. Play tug of war Rope activities help children build core strength and learn reciprocal movements, which is when one hand or foot is used first, followed by the other. It helps little hands to start working rhythmically together. Go to the park Spend an active morning at the playground! Have fun on the swings with your little one, and watch them build muscle strength by climbing on ropes, up ladders or stairs, and pushing off the see-saw. Encourage them to run, jump and balance on the grass edge or other lines along the ground. Chase bubbles or balloons Have your child chase bubbles, catch them with fly swatters or tennis racquets, or stomp on them with vigour! Try blowing up a balloon and challenge them to keep it off the ground for as long as possible using their hands, racquets or other play equipment. Have a dance party Turn on some lively music and have a dance party in your living room! Getting your child hopping, shaking, stomping and jumping to the beat will help build their muscle strength and movement capabilities. Try watching YouTube for nursery songs that require your child to follow the actions. (Hint: Some great examples include Hokey Pokey, Open Shut Them, or Wheels on the Bus.) Run on the beach Walking, running or crawling over uneven surfaces such as sand, foam and mattresses helps children develop core strength and balance. It’s also a great excuse to spend an afternoon at the beach, exploring the rock pools, walking on the sand, carrying buckets of water to build sandcastles, jumping waves and swimming. Play follow the leader This classic game is not only fun and social, it also helps children gain awareness and control over their bodies’ movements. Children can see how their bodies are positioned in relation to others, think through and act upon a plan for motion, test out new movements, follow directions and work to another’s agenda. You could even throw in turn-taking, or try stomping in a straight line, crawling, rolling, jumping and crashing. Take what your child is already interested in and start from there! You can then extend this game however you like. Set up an obstacle course Tailor the obstacle course to your child’s age and abilities, incorporating hopping, rope or dance activities that will have them breathless, laughing and learning multiple gross motor skills all at once. Roll down slopes Have your child lay on their back, keeping their body as straight as they can. Then, roll them up in a blanket and unroll again slowly. Alternatively, have them roll across the lounge room, or down a gentle slope at the park. Do it together and have fun! This game teaches your child about the relationship between their upper and lower body. Get the water pistols out! On hot days, throw caution to the wind and let your children have a water fight in the backyard! It’ll get their little bodies moving, encouraging leg movement and development, plus give them the added challenge of planning and coordinating hand-eye movements. Modify this game with water spray bottles or water bombs instead of water pistols—don’t worry, they’re just as must fun! Play pretend Challenge your child to move like an animal, pretend to catch a ball, or run in slow motion. Playing pretend allows them to experiment with new movements. Draw inspiration from your child’s favourite animals, movies and activities to make it more engaging, and gradually make the game more challenging as they learn and grow. Our Physiotherapists and Occupational Therapists provide caring, expert advice and assistance to families and their children with learning delays and disability. For a helping hand, give us a call on (02) 4910 3130.