It allows children the ability to move and gain control of their own bodies in order to complete tasks independently (e.g. to develop core stability in order to maintain a seated posture while using the potty/toilet)
It helps children build strength and endurance which assists them in maintaining a good posture and performing functional tasks
It promotes healthy growth and better concentration through physical activity
It enables them to actively explore their environment and the world around them which enhances learning on a sensory, cognitive and language-based level
It allows them to feel confident in their own ability and keeps them motivated to try and perform or refine new skills
If we do not monitor our baby/toddler’s gross motor development through reaching of basic milestones, we may miss signs of developmental delay which can cause children to lack many functional skills. It is important to speak to a physiotherapist or an occupational therapist if you suspect your child has any delayed gross motor milestones.
One of the best ways to encourage gross motor development in toddlers is to create a DIY obstacle course which encourages whole body movements such as crawling, climbing, balancing, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching. When your toddler is still young (12 – 18 months), you will need to build the course for them and assist them greatly in executing it. However, as they get older and more independent, you can encourage them to plan and create their own obstacle course while executing it under your supervision. This also encourages motor planning and body awareness which are also extremely important skills.
You can also encourage whole body movements through physical activity including running, hiking, swimming, riding a bike/scooter, dancing, yoga or basic jungle gym activity. Animals walks are also a firm favourite. Your little one can pretend to be a crab, bear, dog, leopard or frog while practicing whole body movements. You can also hold their legs while they walk on their hands (known as the “wheelbarrow walk”).
Isolating large muscle groups for certain activities is also a great option. Torso activities include sit ups, bridging, leg lifts and crab walks. Whole arm movements encourage shoulder girdle stability which allows the entire arm more control and precision. This includes doing activities against a vertical surface such as water sponge painting against a wall, playing in shaving cream on a glass window or door, drawing with jumbo chalk on a blackboard, or activities where your arm is reaching above your shoulder such as catching bubbles, hitting a balloon or reaching for objects just out of reach. Whole leg movements encourage hip girdle stability, balance and coordination and this includes tasks such as stomping, jumping on two feet, marching or walking up/downstairs.
See below some more Nanny ‘n Me inspired activities that I have recently done with my toddler:
~ Written by Courtney Mercer ~