Outdoor Activities that Promote Gross Motor Development

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Have you ever watched your kids swinging from the monkey bars, running, or climbing seemingly nonstop and thought, “that looks exhausting!”?

You’re right! When children engage in certain outdoor activities, some of their muscles are really put to work. Not only is it fun for kids to play outside in the fresh air, it’s also the perfect way to develop and strengthen their gross motor skills.

Gross motor skills refer to a child’s ability to use the larger muscles (like those in their arms, legs, and torso) to move their body as a whole.

Kids have to develop both strength and coordination of these muscles in order to engage in gross motor movements such as jumping and climbing.

Gross motor development is important because it allows children to participate in everyday activities at school and at home. Research has shown that gross motor skills can even affect a child’s academic skills.

Try incorporating these activities this summer to develop your child’s gross motor skills in a fun way!

#1 Go for a Bike Ride

Learning to ride a bike builds a child’s coordination, endurance, and strength. Not only that, bike riding helps children develop sensory awareness of their body as a whole.

Depending on your child’s age and skill level, they might ride on a tricycle, use training wheels, or go for a regular bicycle. Teaching your child to ride a bike can also be a great bonding activity, and is likely to boost his or her confidence!

#2 Start a Ball Game

Consider signing your child up for a new sport, like basketball, soccer, or baseball. Or, practice in your own yard!

Keeping your eye on the ball before you swing the bat, kicking a soccer ball into a net, jumping up to make a basket – engaging in activities like these can improve children’s balance and coordination. Try a few and see what your child likes best. The more motivated he or she is, the more likely your child is to get outside and practice (which means gross motor skills get stronger!).

#3 Hide and Seek

When kids run as fast as they can and crawl, climb, or step over bushes to find the perfect hiding spot, they’re developing those gross motor skills while having fun with friends and family|

#4 Swim

Getting your kids in the pool can improve their coordination and arm, leg, and core strength!

Research has shown that children who learn to swim before 5 years old have improved skills in several areas compared to those who could not swim. That includes better balance, and improved ability to color inside the lines and use scissors.

#5 Take a Nature Walk

Stroll around your neighborhood or visit a nearby National Park to challenge your child’s endurance as he or she walks over different terrains.

Even the youngest explorers will love experiencing all of the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Bring a small notebook and pencil so your kids can draw or write the names of the plants and animals they see along the way.

#6 Make a Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course

Kick Hopscotch up a notch by drawing an entire obstacle course out of sidewalk chalk in your driveway.

Draw spirals for children to spin in, rectangles for “landing pads” to jump into, and long lines to serve as balance beams. Your kids are likely to help you think of a few obstacles to include too!

#7 Build at the Beach

Pass your child a shovel for digging a huge hole in the sand. Fill up pails together to flip over and make a city of sandcastles. Even bending down to collect seashells can help your child’s gross motor skills grow while enjoying a beach day.

#8 Visit a Playground

It might be easy to see how activities like climbing up stairs or pumping legs while swinging can strengthen your child’s larger muscle groups like arms, legs, and torso. But playground time can promote your child’s gross motor development in other ways too!

Swinging helps children develop body awareness. Holding onto the monkey bars and coordinating how to swing while moving one arm at a time can help children develop motor planning skills.

#9 Hula Hoop

Hula hoops are a fun, inexpensive toy that can be used to create a variety of activities for developing your child’s gross motor skills.

A few ideas? Lay them down on the grass (in a row or scattered closeby) and have your child jump from inside one to the next. Stand one up and roll it to see how far it can go. And of course, challenge your kids to master the art of hula hooping to help build core strength!

#10 Play Simon Says

This one’s great because you can easily work in whatever skills or body movements you want your child to practice. Simon Says... jump on one leg, do five jumping jacks, touch your toes! This is a wonderful listening activity that can really target your child’s big muscle movements.

If you have concerns about your child’s gross motor development, seeking help early is best. Therapy Works offers Physical Therapy both in person and through teletherapy. If you would like to learn more, or discuss your child’s specific needs, please don’t hesitate to reach out to TherapyWorks!

Therapyworks Erin Michelle

Are you interested in services for your child? Founded by Michelle Worth and Erin Vollmer, TherapyWorks provides in-home speech, occupational and physical therapies in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and teletherapy nationwide.

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