Skip to content

What are gross motor skills?

By Gail Belsky

At a Glance

  • Gross motor skills involve movements of the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso.

  • People rely on gross motor skills for activities at school, at work, at home, and in their everyday lives.

  • People who struggle with gross motor skills have trouble doing whole-body movements like running and jumping.

Gross motor skills are abilities that let us do tasks that involve large muscles in our torso, legs, and arms. They involve whole-body movements. We use gross motor skills for all sorts of physical activities, from running to raking leaves. 

Most people use these skills easily and automatically. But gross motor skills are more complex than they might seem.

They involve the coordination of the muscles and the neurological system. They impact balance and coordination. They also form the basis for fine motor skills that help us make small movements like using a pencil.

Gross motor skills are related to other abilities. These include:

  • Balance

  • Coordination

  • Body awareness

  • Physical strength

  • Reaction time

Having poor gross motor skills can impact people in all areas of life. It can make it hard to do key tasks and school, work, and home. Difficulty with motor skills can also take a toll on self-esteem.

Dive deeper

How gross motor skills develop

Gross motor skills start developing in infancy, and keep improving throughout childhood. Kids don’t all develop at the same pace, but there are milestones they usually reach at different ages.

For example, at age 3 or 4, kids are typically able to jump with two feet. By 7 or 8, they can typically ride a bike without training wheels and catch small balls. Kids continue to get more coordinated during their tweens and teens.

Learn more about gross motor skill milestones for different ages.

Trouble with gross motor skills

People can have problems with gross motor skills at any age and for different reasons. But when difficulties start in early childhood, a common cause is developmental coordination disorder (DCD). It’s sometimes referred to as dyspraxia.

DCD affects gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and motor planning. It’s lifelong, but there are ways to improve motor skills. Occupational therapy (OT) is the main treatment, and kids may be able to get it for free in school. Adults can work with their doctor to find a therapist who works privately.

Learn more about how DCD affects gross motor skills .

Next steps for parents and caregivers

If you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skills, talk with your health care provider. You can also reach out to the school to request a free evaluation . An evaluation may lead to your child getting free occupational therapy through the school. It can also help you understand your child’s strengths.

There are ways to help your child build motor skills at home, too.

Related topics

Root causes

Tell us what interests you

Tell us what interests you

Select the topics you want to learn more about

Share

Share What are gross motor skills?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom

Share What are gross motor skills?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom