January 20, 2018
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Children and Gross Motor

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A child using her gross motor skills while on the playground.

Gross motor involves the use of big muscles, such as the torso, arms, legs and feet and is one of the most vital parts of a child’s development. Learning to control these muscles is challenging for children, but through repetition and support from a parent or caregiver they can make progress.

Parent support for gross motor activities is important to children for many reasons. Children learn where their body is in relation to their surroundings, which may increase their confidence and self-esteem. Also, children can learn to release stress and frustration through physical exercise, which is great because exercise has long-lasting benefits.

Children develop according to their own schedules, which is likely different from any other child. Gross motor development progresses from head to toe. In other words, your baby leans to lift up his/her head before the torso is strong enough to maintain a sitting posture. Around 3 months babies are generally able to raise their head and chest when placed on their stomach. Usually by 6 months babies can roll over from their back to stomach and vice versa. Core muscle or strength and coordination begins close to the body and moves outward. Babies can sit without support and frequently start to crawl around 8-9 months. In order to crawl, your baby has to coordinate arm movements at the shoulders first, elbow next and then the wrists.

A toddler is a child around 12-18 months that can walk without support. Around 2 years old a child typically knows how to run, jump and throw a ball. By 3 years a child likely has the ability to walk on tiptoe and climb.

How can you foster your child’s gross motor abilities? Give them time, space and the opportunity to move. Parent Education Professionals with the Maine Families home visiting program plan monthly group activities such as, “The BIG Muscle Challenge: A Gross Motor Obstacle Course,” which gives enrolled families a chance to enhance the skills learned during home visits and socialize with one another.

If you or someone you know is pregnant or has a newborn at home, and would like information about the Teen and Young Parent Program or Maine Families home visiting program, please call (207) 594-1980 or toll-free within Maine at 1-877-972-5804. We enroll prenatally and up until the baby turns 3 months old. Parent Education Professionals provide enrolled families with up-to-date information on subjects such as gross motor, routines, eating healthy, social/emotional development and much more. We are proud to be a program in cooperation with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.