Young Minds

Thoughts of an early childhood teacher…

Gross Motor Skills

on October 26, 2012

Gross motor skills, referred to in primary school as ‘fundamental movement skills’, are important to develop in young children. They are based on the movement of the body on a larger scale, for example movement and manipulation of the legs, feet, hands, arms, head or body as a whole. They help your child to develop knowledge of the left and right sides of their body, balance and which movements will affect equipment in various ways. Gross motor skills also help children to learn to control their bodies and assist with coordination.

Some common gross motor skills covered in a kindergarten programme are as follows, together with activities you can do together to nurture these skills.

Jumping

Jumping involves using two feet together, like a kangaroo, as opposed to leaping with one foot and having the other foot follow. Most will master this skill by the end of kindergarten.

Tip #1: Invest in some hoops! Jump around like kangaroos in your backyard and have them hop into hoops or hop over other obstacles.

Tip #2: I find music games the best way to nurture jumping. Tumble Tots have some fantastic songs on iTunes.

Tip #3: Throw a little jumping into everyday life! As you go for a walk with your little one, have them jump over the cracks in the pavement. Or put on some wellies and have them jump over the puddles (they will love you for it!)

Hopping & Balancing

This is a two-part skill. The first thing they have to learn is how to balance on one foot; the second is having to jump on that foot without falling over. It is difficult for a child to do, but important to practise. About a third of kindergarteners I have seen can hop by the end of kindergarten.

Tip #1: As with jumping, I find music games the most effective way to help children practise the skill of hopping. I like the song “Skipping Time” by Tumble Tots which involves skipping, marching, jumping and hopping.

Tip #2: To help them balance on one foot, give them something to stare at on the wall or in the distance. This should be something specific and something at their eye level.

Tip #3: It is good practice to have them balance objects on parts of their body. I use a song by Tumble Tots called “Bean Bag Time” which is excellent at having children balance a bean bag on their head, arm, foot, hand, back, etc.

Throwing and Catching

Children should first be taught underarm throwing as opposed to overarm throwing, unless they are learning it as training for a particular sport.

Tip #1: Have them practise swinging their arm like a monkey to get to know the action of underarm throwing. Overarm is the action done by a lot of kindergarteners by default).

Tip #2: Start with beanbags! I love beanbags!

Tip #3: Invest in a couple of balls. If your child has difficulty gripping the ball, places like K-Mart and toy stores have balls that have bumps all over the ball to make it easier to grip. Obviously the bigger the ball, the easier it is to catch – children need to keep their eyes on the ball and have their hands ready to catch and both of these things are going to be easier if the ball is bigger. You can decrease the ball size as your child gets more adept at catching.

Tip #4: Have a washing basket or other large container and draw a line in chalk on your pavement. Have them throw the ball into the basket and see how many times they can get it in. As they get more skilful, you can decrease the size of the container they throw into, swapping the washing basket for a bucket for example.

Crossing the Midline

Another important skill to foster in your young child is the bilateral skill, or crossing the midline. This means that your child learns to use their right hand on their left side of the body, and their left hand on their right side of the body. The same goes for their feet. It is a crucial skill for several everyday life skills, such as reading and getting dressed.

Tip #1: I used to use a lot of streamers in kindergarten and have the children draw circles on one side and then on the other side of their body using the same hand. They would then swap over.

Tip #2:  I used to also have them lie on the ground, belly facing up, and lift up their right leg and left arm simultaneously and vice versa (this will be effective regardless of whether or not they know their left from right).

Tip #3: Anything that involves your child reaching over one side of the body to reach the other side will be practising crossing their midline. For example, offering them a piece of fruit on one side of the body and asking that they take it with the opposite hand. Or having them use only one hand whilst painting and requesting that they use the whole page. This will force them to go over the left side if painting with their right hand and the right side if painting with their left.

I came across a fantastic website that not only describes the bilateral skill, but also how it affects every day life skills and activities you can do to develop it in children:

http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/help-your-child-develop-the-crossing-the-midline-skill/

 

Definitely worth a look!

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