Gross Motor Skills

When a baby is born, development starts in the head with the ability to control movements in the face, moving onto the larger body muscles such as core, legs and arms. It is likely that by the age of two most children will be able to walk and run, however Gross Motor skills will continue to improve throughout childhood.

Gross Motor Skills – Bodies, arms and legs

Motor skills refer to actions that require the body to use muscles. Gross motor skills refer to the larger muscles and movements the body makes involving arms, legs, feet and whole body.  They are actions that require postural control, balance, strength & muscle tone, some examples are:

  • Crawling
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Kicking
  • Lifting

Gross Motor Skills develop over time through practice and repetition. You will begin to see them develop in your newborn baby as they learn to lift their head and arms, learn to roll over, crawl, pull themselves to standing and eventually learn to walk.

What are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor is a skill that develops from birth. Gross motor skills develop the ability for children to use movements with their larger body parts and muscles together, such as torso, arms and legs.

Your child will use these skills to support their bigger body movements, for instance walking, running, riding a bike or dancing. Developing their gross motor skills by taking part in a wide range of activities will support the strength of gross motor skills in early childhood and beyond.


Gross Motor Skill – Sitting

Sitting is a gross motor skill that typically begins developing when your child is a baby. It is often a skill that comes early, especially when supported by adults. Your baby may be able to stay upright from a young age when supported by cushions or pillows, and will be able to stay in this position when motivated by something. For example, if you sit up your baby supported by pillows, and place toys that they like in front of them.

Once your baby is more confident to sit independently, they will be able to lean forwards to grab objects without toppling over. They will continue to be able to add movements to their sitting as they develop their core strength.

Gross Motor Skill – Standing

Once babies are able to sit, and move in a seated position, they will begin to explore the next step in their gross motor development – standing. Once your baby is ready to begin standing, they will start to hold onto nearby objects for support. When they can do this, they will start to pull themselves up using furniture such as sofas and chairs.

Following on from this, your baby will become more steady in a standing position, and will begin to turn their torso to look around. They will later stand without needing to hold on to other things as they prepare to take their first steps.

Gross Motor Skill – Walking

After being able to stand, your child may start to prepare to take their first steps. Initially, they will take steps when holding onto an adults hands for support. They may also cruise on furniture in the home, and pull themselves along on objects such as sofas. As they grow more confident in this, they will take steps whilst holding onto moving objects, such as toy prams, or baby walkers.

Following on from this, your child will start to walk without wanting support from adults or objects. They may not be completely steady on their feet at first, but they will take their first unsupported steps. As they become self-assured in this skill, they will begin to have more control over their bodies when walking – they will start to stop themselves, turn and change direction, as well as developing more awareness of their bodies and the spaces that they can fit in.

Gross Motor Skill – Running

Once your child is a confident walker, they will start to move on to running. After exploring different aspects of walking, for instance, stopping, changing direction and walking backwards, your child will start to run. 

Initially, your child will not be able to foster the same bodily control when running as they do when walking. For example, they may bump into things, and not be able to navigate their space with as much ease.

After some time, your child will be able to experiment with stopping and starting with more fluency when running. They will start to be able to change direction rather than running in a straight line, managing to balance well. Following this, they will begin to be able to avoid obstacles better, being less likely to bump into objects. As well as this, they will start to incorporate different movements into running whilst playing, such as turning, jumping and climbing.

Gross Motor Skill - Jumping

As your child incorporates more gross motor movements into their repertoire, they will start to explore things such as jumping and climbing. Now that your child is jumping during play, they will have developed a good level of balance in order to propel themselves and land steadily.

They will also have greater planning and sequencing skills than previously, as they will have to judge when to jump in order to land in the place that they want, and also how much power to use – they will be able to control their bodies in order to jump off small steps and ledges, and across larger gaps and puddles when exploring outside.

Gross Motor Skill – Lifting

Lifting is a gross motor skill that is also highly reliant on a child’s fine motor abilities. Children begin to lift and hold objects from being babies, but they will be able to do this with growing accuracy as they get older.

Example of lifting 

they may be able to lift up an item like a hairbrush when a baby, but could struggle to grip it for a sustained period, or use it as intended. As your child becomes more confident with lifting, they will be able to pick up objects as intended and use them with purpose. For example, they will be able to lift a jug and pour milk on their cereal with minimal spillage.

Gross Motor Skill – Kicking

Kicking is a gross motor skill that is often first seen in babies. Babies will begin to move their legs in kicking motions, and will also put pressure against items, or adults, using their feet.

As children grow older, they will begin to be able to carry out this action with intent. They will kick a large football during play. Eventually, as your child’s planning and sequencing skills develop in tandem with their fine motor skills, they will be able to kick a ball towards a goal or a target, judging the distance and direction with more accuracy.


Streams of Development

At My First Five Years, we have divided your child’s unique learning journey into 6 streams of development focusing holistically on physical, emotional and cognitive development.

  • Gross Motor Skills – Bodies, arms and legs
  • Fine Motor Skills – Hands and fingers
  • Cognitive Skills – Thinking and processing
  • Language, Speech and Communication Skills – Making sounds and talking.
  • Social and Emotional Skills – Understanding feelings
  • Sensory Development – Senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, proprioception, interoception)

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