Gross Motor Skills (Birth To 5 Years) And Activities To Encourage It


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Gross motor skills are skills that involve the larger muscles in the arms, legs, and torso and enable us to perform different activities, such as standing, running, sitting, throwing, catching, and swimming. The beginning of body movements since birth marks the start of the development of gross motor skills (1).

The saying, “healthy mind dwells in the healthy body,” highlights the significance of gross motor skills in a child’s mental development. These skills help the child grow into an all-round individual. Read this post as we answer the question, “What are gross motor skills?” We also give you a few activities that can help hone your child’s gross motor skills and tell you a few factors that can cause developmental delays in your child.

Types Of Motor Skills

Motor skills are classified into gross motor skills and fine motor skills, and the development of both is essential to perform everyday activities. While gross motor skills involve the larger muscles, fine motor skills involve the smaller muscles of the hands, fingers, and wrists and help you perform activities such as writing, grasping, and building LEGO blocks.

Gross motor skills are further divided into:

  • Locomotor skills: These help the body to move from one place to another. Examples include actions such as walking, running, jumping, sliding, and body balancing.
  • Object control skills: These are the skills that allow you to handle and control objects. Examples include actions such as throwing, kicking, and catching.

Development Of Gross Motor Skills In Children

We develop motor skills throughout our life, but the major development milestones are achieved in childhood. The pace at which each child develops gross motor skills may vary, but some skills usually develop in the specific age groups. Here are some gross motor skills milestones in children in the first five years (2):

Birth to five years

  • Zero to three months: Babies develop the abilities to raise their head and chest when on the stomach, open and shut hands, and bring their hand to mouth.
  • Four months old: Babies begin to roll from back to sides.
  • Five months old: Babies begin to roll from back to front.
  • Six months to eight months old: Babies begin to raise their chest and upper abdomen during tummy time, explore things with their hands, and sit on their own.
  • Eight to eleven months old: Babies start crawling around the house.
  • Nine to twelve months old: Babies start reaching out for toys when in a sitting position.
  • Eleven to twelve months old: Babies begin to stand and take their first steps.
  • Fifteen months old: Babies develop the skills to climb steps and walk without support.
  • Eighteen months old: Babies learn to run, although they may keep falling often.
  • Two years old: Toddlers develop skills such as kicking and jumping.
  • Three years old: Kids are able to balance the body on one foot for a few seconds. They also learn to catch a ball.
  • Four years old: Children learn to ride a tricycle, hop on one foot, climb well, and do somersaults.
  • Five years old: Children can do activities such as skipping, skating, and swimming.

Activities To Encourage Development Of Gross Motor Skills

You may help your child develop their motor skills with ease by encouraging them to do the following activities:


1. Alternating the head positions

When babies sleep, they sometimes lay their heads sideways. Alter the sides every day rather than always letting the babies sleep on their back. This helps them lift their head, strengthens the neck muscles, and prevents flat head (3).

2. Encouraging tummy time

This all-time favorite baby activity makes the back and neck muscles strong and helps develop the skills to balance the body on the upper abdomen. It also helps the baby build strength to crawl, sit, and roll over (4).

3. Making the baby sit

Support the baby while making them learn the sitting position. Place some toys to interest them as they sit, and encourage them to explore the toys and things around them.

4. Playing with rattles

Rattles amuse babies and help develop hand-eye coordination and perception skills.


5. Dancing

Shaking the body to the rhythm of music is a good gross motor activity. It helps develop body balance and coordination effortlessly and in a fun way (5).

6. Playing with bubbles and balloons

Chasing and popping bubbles or balloons is an activity enjoyed by everyone, especially young children. It encourages toddlers to run and jump and develops hand-eye coordination (6).

7. Reaching up high

Place the baby’s favorite toy at a height where the baby needs to make efforts to reach it. This will encourage the baby to stand and climb and hone their coordination skills.

8. Playing with boxes

Using empty boxes as play objects allows babies to crawl through and climb over the boxes. You could also try to create an obstacle course for your little ones with these boxes.


9. Having fun with trampolines

Trampolines are great for helping your child jump,  roll, and balance their body while having a fun time. Supervise children as they play on trampolines (5).

10. Riding tricycles or scooters

This kids’ favorite activity is excellent for developing gross motor skills and improving body fitness (5).

11. Playing in the park

Activities such as swinging or sliding in the park help develop body balancing and leg movements. Climbing rope ladders and bridges can help build the large body muscles (6).

12. Swimming

It helps build strong core muscles and develops coordination skills (7).

Delayed Development Of Gross Motor Skills

Some children may develop gross motor skills a little later than others of their age, which is normal. Do not draw conclusions, but visit the pediatrician or physician if you notice the following in your child (8):

At three months

  • Difficulty lifting head
  • Stiff legs
  • Fisted hands and lack of arm movement

At six months

  • Rounded back
  • Poor head control
  • Stiff legs
  • Difficulty in bringing arms forward

At nine months

  • Difficulty crawling
  • Inability to straighten back
  • Poor use of arms while sitting

At 12 months

  • Stiff legs and pointed toes
  • Stiff extended arms
  • Sits with weight on one side

At 15 months

  • Poor standing balance
  • Inability to take steps independently
  • Walks on toes

Probable Factors That May Cause Delayed Development Of Gross Motor Skills

Some of the factors that may cause developmental delays include (9):

Remember that all these conditions require immediate attention.


Some cases may not require any intervention and treatment, as they might resolve as the child grows and develops. Other cases may need physiotherapy and the doctor’s suggested exercises, occupational therapy, and treatments depending upon the problem and its severity. It is important to resolve the problems associated with gross motor skills, as they may interfere with your child’s all-round development.

It is fulfilling to watch your child develop the skills needed to master the tasks of life. Guide and assist them through this important developmental journey. Avoid comparing and competing your child with other kids because this may lower their self-esteem. Instead, motivate your child to try new activities, and help them build their confidence.


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