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What Are Gross Motor Skills and Why Are They Important?

What are gross motor skills? 

Gross motor skills involve the movement and use of large muscles of the body (for ex: arms, legs, trunk, and torso) to enable such functions as walking, running, jumping, swimming, playing on a playground, hand-eye coordination required for various sports, and daily tasks such as walking up and down stairs or getting into and out of bed. Mastering gross motor skills can help children develop their sense of autonomy and independence and enable them to learn how to perform tasks safely and efficiently.
 
How do gross motor skills impact fine motor skills? 

  • Because children develop from their midline (middle of the body) to their extremities, and from their head to their toes, they will master gross motor skills before developing fine motor skills. 
  • Strengthening larger muscles help support, develop, and refine fine motor skills such as writing, drawing, cutting, sitting upright for extended periods of time, and using utensils. 
  • Hand-eye coordination skills (i.e. throwing, kicking, catching) all help develop a child's visual system and strengthen the same eye muscles required to track words or letters across a page when reading and writing. 

Gross motor activities to try at home:
1. Follow the Animal
A fun rendition of follow the leader! Take turns with your child walking around the house pretending to be different animals. Try changing the speed and direction of the movements. For example, "Let's stomp like elephants, waddle like penguins, slither like snakes, sprint like a cheetah, or crawl like a sloth."

2. Take a Magic Carpet Ride 
Pull your child around the room on a large blanket! Encourage them to sit or lay on their bellies and hold on tight.* In addition to being fun, this activity helps children with postural control and their sense of balance.
*Always fly with caution, make sure young children are ready and don't fall off the back of the blanket. 

3. Stomp & Splash
Find a puddle outside, or fill up a baby pool, and encourage your child to make a splash! Splashes can be made by tossing objects into the water or stomping / marching around. 

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