Gross what? Is often the reaction from people new to this terminology, but as a parent it will soon become part of your “lingo”. For those who aren’t yet familiar, motor skills are movements and actions of the muscles. Gross motor skills are the bigger movements like rolling, sitting, walking, running, jumping, and swimming. These movements use the large muscles in the arms, legs, torso, and feet. Gross motor skills form part of the fundamental foundation skills for babies.
As your baby grows and develops, it’s the development of these muscles that will enable him to hold his head up, sit, crawl, and eventually walk, run, jump, and skip.
Several natural reflexes control new-born babies’ movements and interactions – he will turn his head in search of food when his cheek is stroked. If you lean him forward while in a standing position his legs will naturally begin to step. These reflexes are there to ensure his survival but are also the foundations of muscular development and movement patterns.
Rolling at around 5 months is one of the first major big movements for him as he is now able to view the world from a completely different perspective. Usually, by the end of the first year your little one’s gross motor skills have advanced enough that he is now able to crawl and probably even cruise around on his feet while holding onto the furniture. What better way is there to show off his gross motor skills than through dance! At around 18 months he can bob and ‘dance’ to music while standing independently. By the time he turns 2 your little one’s balance has improved significantly, and he can run without falling (bar the frequent speed wobbles)
Gross motor skills develop and strengthen through practice and repetition. Babies and children need repetition (and lots of it) to learn and then master a skill, which is why a baby takes weeks to perfect the skill of rolling, sitting, and crawling. Proficiency in these skills develops the child’s inner motivation which builds confidence.
To help their gross motor skills develop, infants, toddlers and children need to be exposed to many different opportunities allowing them to move freely and experiment with their bodies – paving the way for the momentous gross motor development that takes place in a relatively short amount of time.
It is also important to remember that his gross motor skills form the foundations for fine motor skills and the ability to sit still later. Give your little one time and opportunities to learn about his body and how it moves so that this foundation is strong.