Issues involving movement

8 Fun Ways to Build Gross Motor Skills

By Erica Patino

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When young kids have weak gross motor skills, it can get in the way of having fun. Running, jumping and throwing all require using large muscles. Help build gross motor skills with these eight activities.

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Young girl and grand parents playing airplanes in a field
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Play pretend.

A key to developing gross motor skills is understanding what the body can do. Fire up your child’s imagination and movement through pretend games. Have him waddle like a duck, fly like an airplane or hop like a rabbit. Or let him pretend to be something, and you can guess what he is.

Preschool boy playing hopscotch on the sidewalk
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Jump around with hopscotch.

Hopping and jumping can be challenging for kids with gross motor issues. These activities require strong muscles, balance and coordination. Give your child practice through a game of hopscotch. You can alternate the hopscotch pattern so he hones his sense of balance by hopping on two legs, then one. When it’s cold or wet outside, set up an indoor hopscotch game with colored tape.

Preschool girl wearing sunglasses chasing bubbles in the park
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Break out the bubbles (or balloons).

Have your child chase the bubbles and try to pop as many as possible. Or blow up small balloons and ask him to keep them afloat by bouncing them with his open palm. Either game will help your child get practice with hand-eye coordination as well as gross motor skills.

Two young boys laughing and rolling in a field
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Roll down a hill.

This one might spark memories of when you were a kid, too. Take your child to a gently sloping hill and practice rolling down. Body rolling can help him become aware of the relationship between his upper and lower body.

Young boy swinging on the playground
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Swing on the playground.

Swinging on a swing set helps your child develop balance. It also requires him to coordinate shifting weight and moving his legs back and forth. Other ways to develop gross motor skills on the playground include going up and down on a slide, and climbing up equipment.

Three young boys in cute plaid shirts dancing in the grass
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Have a dance party.

Dancing to music helps build your child’s awareness of rhythm. At the same time, it improves his gross motor skills. Songs with lyrics that call for movement, such as “I’m a Little Teapot” or “The Hokey Pokey,” are also great games to get his body moving in coordinated ways.

Close-up of children balancing and walking across a log in a field
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Try easy balancing acts.

Make balancing less intimidating by practicing it without leaving the ground. Extend a piece of string or tape in a straight line on the floor and have your child practice walking on it. Or create a backyard balance beam by taking spare planks of wood and laying them on the lawn.

Young girl in striped shirt climbing through a jungle gym
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Set up an indoor obstacle course.

Obstacle courses are a fun way to get your child moving, while giving him goals to accomplish. Use furniture, pillows and blankets to create areas he’ll need to crawl on, under and through. Try to set up obstacles that will challenge your child to balance, crawl, jump and run.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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