By Mariel Uyquiengco
Children grow in developmental stages. As newborns, our little ones cannot do anything for themselves. They become more independent physically, though, as they grow bigger and stronger and their gross motor skills develop.
Gross motor skills are big movement skills that are vital in children’s mobility: creeping, crawling, sitting, walking, running, jumping, and leaping.
In order for children to be successful in these skills, they need to be allowed to explore with their bodies and encouraged through different gross motor activities. The goal is for kids to have a lot of practice to master skills that will help them move on to more complex movements.
Encouraging the development of a child’s gross motor skills is easy to do. Here are some ideas:
1. Ditch the walker and the stroller
We have so many contraptions now for helping children with such an ordinary task like walking. Really, toddlers just need their own two feet and an adult who will look after them as I practice their skills.
Letting them stand up and walk on their own without the help of a walker and making them walk instead of being wheeled around in a stroller will already greatly benefit their gross motor skills.
2. March around the house
Kids love to move and parents should take advantage of this love. Teach your child how to march by doing it yourself, and once he’s under the marching spell, you can basically ask him to do anything without a fuss.
So, lead him to the bathroom for bath time by marching fast and loud. Get him to go to the dining table by leading a parade from the playroom- simple and healthy.
3. Give him a wagon to push
One of the skills that children need to master is pushing. It helps him in his balance and coordination as he uses his strength to move something.
Get him a wagon not just for pushing but for pretend play too. You’ll be hitting two birds with one stone then.
4. Encourage climbing up and down the stairs
Parents are so scared to let their toddlers go up and down the stairs – and it’s totally understandable! However, if we help our children master the skill early on by helping them navigate the steps and showing them how to do it properly, we will have more confident kids.
5. Crawl through tunnels
Crawling uses both upper and lower parts of the body strengthening the arms and legs. And because you’re supposed to use opposite sides of your body (right arm and left leg), it is also a cross-lateral movement that connects both sides of the brain.
6. Roll on the bed
Rolling is also a whole body movement that kids enjoy. Make sure that there is no mess on the bed before you start rolling about! Ask your child to practice rolling first; when he’s already comfortable, ask him to roll straight and in both directions.
7. Walk backwards
Walking backwards is fun, but it is also healthy. It was even practiced in Ancient China for good health! Walking backwards allows kids to exercise their other leg muscles and helps them improve their balance.
8. Do animal movements
Movement and pretend play are always a hit, and even more so when combined together. So, get your animal act together and start slithering like a snake, hopping like a kangaroo, leaping like a frog, and stomping like an elephant; you can even swing like a monkey, too!
9. Get a balance bike
There are so many toddler bikes out there vying for your hard-earned cash. Your toddler, though, will benefit the most with a balance bike – a bike without a pedal and requires the rider to balance. Forget the cute tricycles with push handles, get a real bike that will allow your child to move independently.
10. Play ball
Little kids love playing with balls, and we can play so many games that will help their gross motor development. Toss, kick, and run after a ball… all will develop your child’s body confidence, balance, and coordination.
Let your toddler move – and move with him too!
Mariel Uyquiengco hopes to inspire parents to be their children’s first and best teacher. She does this through her blog and online children’s book shop www.thelearningbasket.com and by giving parenting seminars about early childhood development, preschool homeschool, and raising children to be readers.