59. Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are whole-body actions such as kicking legs, swinging arms and bends of the torso. Confident gross motor movement is fundamental to a child’s play and forms the foundations for the crucial fine-motor movements (fingers and toes), required for writing later on.

Give your child ample opportunity to build strength and co-ordination with these essential activities:

Skipping and hopping

Skipping and hopping – or a version of them – crop up naturally in many children’s playground games and there are plenty of good reasons why. Jumping is great for increasing bone density in developing limbs ( the child who cannot stand still is in fact busy building strong legs.) Games that involve skipping and hopping are also great for developing fast footwork, providing early training for school sports. Timing and co-ordination are also required – particularly with skipping, which requires a certain rhythm and doesn’t always come easily to the under-fives. Old fashioned games like hopscotch are the best way to develop skipping and hopping practice. Including counting and numbers not only builds number skills, but helps children connect abstract ideas (counting) to physical activities (jumping) and as such is an early introduction to maths.


Swimming enhances strength and flexibility, and it helps keep young lungs and hearts healthy. It promotes self-esteem and confidence, as children see their own progress. It’s also a chance to enjoy some unbridled fun together – even the most committed workaholic parent can’t be distracted by emails or domestic chores when they’re marooned in a swimming pool with a four-year-old.

Children can start to learn to swim from as young as six months. If you’re thinking of teaching your child to swim, a good place to start is at home in the bath. Make bath time fun with lots of toys and splashing, and the transition to the pool will be smoother.


Everyone knows exercise is good for you, and that children need to do plenty of it to stay fit and healthy in mind and body. Luckily children don’t tend to need the encouragement, and will happily run around like crazy for hours, if you give them the space and time – not many children will turn down the challenge of a race to the front door on the walk home from school. The message here is simple: running is good for them, do lots of it.

Here are some other things you can try:

  • Holding head up (for newborns – but take care to supervise at all times)
  • Lifting and supporting upper body (‘tummy time’)
  • rolling
  • crawling
  • pulling up to stand
  • ‘Cruising’ (walking supported)
  • walking
  • running
  • climbing stairs
  • hopping and jumping
  • kicking a ball
  • riding a scooter and a bike
  • climbing

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