Children develop gross motor skills--their ability to control their large muscles--through physical activities such as running, jumping and crawling. Children begin gross motor development as infants by moving their body, sitting up and crawling. There are activities you can do with your child to help these skills. The goals for developing gross motor skills are for the child to develop balance, awareness of his body and muscle coordination.
Parachute play is an excellent way to get your child to move and make her aware of her body in relation to objects, which is also known as spatial orientation. If you do not have a parachute, a sheet can serve as your parachute. The ways to use a parachute are unlimited. You can practice simply raising and lowering the parachute with your children according to your verbal directions. Have the children hold the parachute tightly and roll a ball around on the surface. They can even use teamwork to try to bounce the ball on the parachute. The children can make waves or spin the parachute by holding it in one hand and running in one direction. You can also play parachute tag, where one student is tagged as "it" and must run under the parachute before it comes down.
Tossing objects and playing with balls helps a child to develop awareness of spatial orientation and hand-eye coordination. Provide different-shaped containers and balls, beanbags, and yarn balls. Encourage children to toss the items into the containers. Increase the distance from the can as the child increases his skill. Children can practice crawling or walking while balancing a beanbag on their head, back or shoulder.
Gross motor skills are developed most naturally through play. A playground provides an excellent place for gross motor development. Climbing, sliding, balancing, running and riding a bicycle are natural ways to develop gross motor skills. Encourage children to stretch themselves by trying new equipment or finding new ways to play.
Play "Simon Says" and encourage children to stand on one foot or raise their hands above their head. This encourages children to mirror what another person is doing, which will help them to develop control over their own bodies. Also, ask the children to walk and act like certain animals, such as "waddle like a duck" or "gallop like a horse." This will encourage the children to think about how they will manipulate their bodies to accomplish the task.
Games that require ball, such as baseball, basketball and soccer, require gross motor control. Practice individual skills, such as hitting, shooting or kicking the ball, as a gross motor activity. Children also love playing kickball, which is very similar to baseball except that children kick a large, round, bouncy ball instead of hitting a baseball. Another game is flamingo ball, in which students stand on one leg while participating in a relay game passing a ball to one another. When children put both feet on the ground, they are "out," and the last child standing on one foot wins.
Almost any physical activity is beneficial to gross motor skill development. You can use simple objects, such as blocks or bubble wrap, to help children develop muscle control. One such activity is to put down bubble wrap and allow children to use trucks and blocks to pop the bubbles. Hula hoops are fun for kids and require a lot of coordination. Children can hula hoop by swinging the hoop around their hips, neck, arms or legs. They can also practice tossing hoops over an object or running through them like a tunnel. You can also teach your child songs with body movement and sing and dance along with them. Toys that will help to develop gross motor skills include rocking horses, toy lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners, tunnels and jump ropes.
- Photo Credit playground image by Lori Pagel from Fotolia.com
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