Gross Motor Development in Young Children

What are gross motor skills?

Your child is developing gross motor skills from day one! As babies grow, the strength in their arms, legs, and torso develops to support learning how to crawl, walk, run, and do all sorts of things during playtime, such as lifting, jumping, and kicking. Other gross motor-related skills include developing balance and awareness of the body in space (these are actually additional senses we have! Read more about them here.)

Why are gross motor skills important?

Gross motor skills allow us to do daily activities with ease, such as active play, chores, and even having the stamina to sit up in a chair for a meal. Gross motor skills (using the large muscles in the body) set the stage for development of our fine motor skills (using smaller muscles for things such as feeding, self care, and writing). When our gross motor skills are well developed, oftentimes our fine motor skills are able to be more fully developed as well. This video clip does a great job explaining both gross and fine motor skills and what to do if you feel your older preschooler is missing out on meeting some of these milestones:


Activities for babies, toddlers, preschoolers to help develop gross motor skills:


  • Put daily tummy time in your routine from birth (get ideas to make Tummy Time fun here!)
  • Roll a soft ball back and forth with an older infant 
  • Place toys just out of reach – motivating for a child to reach and move towards!
  • For babies who are crawling, allow them to crawl over pillows or couch cushions placed on the floor. Getting down on the floor with them makes these activities even more fun for baby!


  • Create an obstacle course for your child using pillows, cushions, tunnels, etc.
  • All that bending down, picking up, and transporting objects during clean up time is a great gross motor activity!
  • Practice climbing up and down stairs. It may take longer to get there, but develops strong muscles and coordination.
  • Head over to the playground or simply spend time outside. All that jumping, climbing, balancing, and running is exactly what your child needs!
  • Any type of scooter or bike (with helmet!) or a pedal car are great tools for kids to have and can be found inexpensively at yard sales.
  • A dance party with kids of any age is always a healthy family activity! With young children, songs with motions are really helpful as they grow and develop the large muscles in their body.