Gross motor activities encourage a child to use, coordinate, and control her large muscles to move around and manipulate objects. Throughout early childhood, gross motor skills improve as large muscles develop. Give your child plenty of opportunities to use large muscle groups throughout her early years to encourage gross motor development.
While an infant won't use his large muscles to sit unsupported and crawl until he's approximately 9 months old, babies begin to develop gross motor strength, control and coordination from the time they're only a few weeks old. As a baby reaches for toys, kicks his legs back and forth and pushes himself up with his arms during tummy time, he's flexing and strengthening the large muscle groups that will enable him to sit and move around on his own near his first birthday. Put your baby down on his tummy and encourage him to reach for toys in front of him. Sit just above him and call to him, encouraging him to lift his head and chest up as he follows the sound of your voice. Bouncers, jumpers, and walkers promote large muscle development in older babies preparing to stand upright and eventually walk.
Toddlers learn about their environment by actively exploring the world around them. Make the most out of a toddler's increasing mobility and curiosity by taking her to a playground, park or toddler gym class where she can use large muscles to run, hop, climb, crawl, jump, balance and perform other gross motor-based tasks. Dance together, sign up for "Mommy and Me" swim classes, or play with ride-on toys together as your toddler approaches preschool age to reinforce and build upon her ever-increasing motor abilities.
By the time a child reaches preschool, he should be able to walk with agility and balance, run at a steady pace, aim and throw balls or other toys, and even pedal and steer a tricycle. Structure activities to mirror and reinforce these gross motor skills. Play a game of tag or hide-and-go-seek in the backyard; supervise your child as he rides his tricycle along the sidewalk or in a park; play Frisbee, catch and other throwing games; or have a good old-fashioned race to see who can reach the patio first. Provide toys and equipment that promote gross motor development -- plastic hoops, large building blocks, wagons and child-sized basketball hoops are just a few common playthings that encourage your child to use his large muscles during play.
Large muscle development continues into middle childhood, when kids increase and refine their gross motor abilities. Encourage older children to combine gross motor-based tasks to promote large muscle strength, coordination and control. Challenge your child to a contest to see who can walk the fastest while dribbling a basketball. Learn a new dance move together, engage in kinesthetic video game play, or pick up a healthy hobby such as bike riding or jogging together.
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