Gross motor skill

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Gross motor skills are the abilities usually acquired during infancy and early childhood as part of a child's motor development. By the time they reach two years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood, and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual's years of development into adulthood. These gross movements come from large muscle groups and whole body movement. These skills develop in a head-to-toe order. The children will typically learn head control, trunk stability, and then standing up and walking. (Humphrey)

Types of motor skills[edit]

Motor skills are movements and actions of the muscles. Typically, they are categorized into two groups: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are involved in movement and coordination of the arms, legs, and other large body parts and movements. They participate in actions such as running, crawling, swimming, etc. Fine motor skills are involved in smaller movements that occur in the wrists, hands, fingers, and the feet and toes. They participate in smaller actions such as picking up objects between the thumb and finger, writing carefully, and even blinking. These two motor skills work together to provide coordination.

Development of posture[edit]

Gross motor skills, as well as many other activities, require postural control. Infants need to control the heads to stabilize their gaze and to track moving objects. They also must have strength and balance in their legs to walk.[1] Newborn infants cannot voluntarily control their posture. Within a few weeks, though, they can hold their heads erect, and soon they can lift their heads while prone. By 2 months of age, babies can sit while supported on a lap or an infant seat, but sitting independently is not accomplished until 6 or 7 months of age. Standing also develops gradually across the first year of life. By about 8 months of age, infants usually learn to pull themselves up and hold on to a chair, and they often can stand alone by about 10 to 12 months of age.[1] There is a new device called a “Standing Dani” developed to help special needs children with their posture.[2]

Learning to walk[edit]

Walking upright requires being able to stand up and balance position from one foot to the other. Although infants usually learn to walk around the time of their first birthday, the neural pathways that control the leg alternation component of walking are in place from a very early age, possibly even at birth or before.[1] This is shown because 1- to 2-month-olds are given support with their feet in contact with a motorized treadmill, they show well-coordinated, alternating steps. If it were not for the problem of switching balance from one foot to the other, babies could walk earlier. Tests were performed on crawling and walking babies where slopes were placed in front of the path and the babies had to decide whether or not it was safe. The tests proved that babies who just learned how to walk did not know what they were capable of and often went down slopes that were not safe, whereas experienced walkers knew what they could do. Practice has a big part to do with teaching a child how to walk.[1] Vision does not have an effect on muscle growth but it could slow down the child’s process of learning to walk. According to the nonprofit Blind Children Center, “Without special training, fully capable infants who are visually impaired may not learn to crawl or walk at an appropriate age and gross and fine motor skills will not properly develop.” When the child is not able to see an object then there is no motivation for the child to try to reach for it. Therefore, they do not want to learn independently. Learning to walk is usually done by modeling others and watching them. The babies will imitate others, picking up the skills a lot faster than creating their own errors. Visually impaired children may need physical therapy to help them learn these gross motor skills faster. One hour of therapy each week is not enough so parents have to make sure they are involved in this process. The parent can help by telling the baby the direction of where the object is and encourage them to get it. You must have patience because every child has their own developmental schedule and it is even truer for the children with special needs. Focusing on the progress of your child is better than focusing on comparing your child to other children. (Humphrey)

Infancy development[edit]

It has been observed by scientists that motor skills generally develop from the center to the body outward and head to tail. Babies need to practice their skills; therefore they will grow and strengthen better. They need space and time to explore in their environment and use their muscles. “Tummy-time” is a good example of this. At first they are only able to lay their belly on the floor but by around two months they start to gain muscle to raise their head and chest off the ground. Some are also able to go on their elbows. They will also start to kick and bend their legs while lying there, this helps to prepare for crawling. By four months they are able to start to control their head and hold it steady while sitting up. Rolling from belly to back movements is started. At about five months the baby will start to wiggle their limbs to strengthen crawling muscles. Infants can start to sit up by themselves and put some weight on their legs as they hold onto something for support by six months. As they enter their first year caregivers needs to be more active. The babies will want to get into everything so the house needs to become ‘baby proofed’. Babies are able to start to reach and play with their toys too. It is said that the use of baby walkers or devices that help to hold the baby upright are said to delay the process of walking. Research has been found that it delays developing the core torso strength, which can lead to different issues down in their future. Around ten months they should be able to stand on their own. Throughout their years of life different motor skills are formed. (Oswalt)

Development in the second year[edit]

Development in the second year of life, toddlers become more motorically skilled and mobile. They are no longer content with being in a playpen and want to move all over the place. Child development experts believe that motor activity during the second year is vital to the child's competent development and that few restrictions, except for safety, should be placed on their motoric adventures.[1] By 13 to 18 months, toddlers can move up and down steps and carry toys. Once they reach the top of the stairs though, they are not able to get back down. They also begin to move from one position to another more smoothly. (Oswalt) By 18 to 24 months, can move quicker or run for a short distance along with other motor skills. They also start to walk backwards and in circles and begin to run. They can also not only walk up the stairs with their hands and feet but are now able to hold onto the handrail and walk up. Near the end of their second year, complex gross motor skills begin to develop including throwing and kicking. Their skills become more natural. Pedaling a tricycle and jumping in place is acquired. At the end they are very mobile and can go from place to place. It is normal for them to get themselves into small situations that could be dangerous such as walking into the street because their brain can’t send the information fast enough to their feet. Parents need to keep an eye on their children at all times. (Oswalt)

Development of children with disabilities[edit]

Children with disabilities who are as young as seven months can learn to drive a power wheelchair. This chair may decrease the rate of development of the child’s gross motor skills, but there are ways to compensate for this. These children usually work with a physical therapist to help with their leg movements. Walkers and other devices are used to help aide this process and avoid obstacles. The negative side to this is that they are limited in their mobility. There is research out to find a device to encourage children to explore their environment while gaining their gross motor skills. This will also hopefully help them with their exercise.[2]


As a preschooler, the child does not need any help standing alone or moving quickly. At 3 years of age, children enjoy simple movements, such as hopping, jumping, and running back and forth, just for the sheer delight of performing these activities.[1] A study was done to assess motor skill development and the overall rate and level of growth development. This study shows that at the preschool age children develop more goal-directed behaviors. This plays a big role, because their learning focuses around play and physical activity. While assessing the gross motor skills in children can be challenging, it is essential to do so in order to ensure that children are prepared to interact with the environment they live in. Different tests are given to these children to measure their skill level.[3] At age 4, children continue to do the same actions as they did at age 3, but further their moving. They are beginning to be able to go down the stairs with one foot on each step. At 5 years of age, they become even more adventurous. During middle and late childhood, children's motor development becomes much smoother and more coordinated than it was in early childhood.[1] As they age, children become able to have control over their bodies and have an increased attention span. Having a child in a sport can help them with their coordination, as well as some social aspects.[citation needed] Teachers will suggest that their students may need occupational therapists in different situations. Students could get frustrated doing writing exercises if they are having difficulties with their writing skills. It also may affect the teacher because it is illegible. Some children also may have reports of their “hands getting tired”. There are many occupational therapists out there today to give students the help they need. These therapists were once used when something was seriously wrong with your child but now they are used to help children be the best they can be.[3]

Adolescence and adulthood[edit]

Between the ages of 7 and 12 there is an increase in running speed and are able to skip. Jumping is also acquired better and there is an increase in throwing and kicking. They are able to bat and dribble a ball. (Age) Gross motor skills usually continue improving during adolescence. The peak of physical performance is before 30, between 18 and 26. Even though athletes keep getting better than their predecessors—running faster, jumping higher, and lifting more weight—the age at which they reach their peak performance has remained virtually the same.[1] After age 30, most functions begin to decline. Older adults move slower than younger adults. This can be moving from one place to another or continually moving. Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can slow this process. Aging individuals who are active and biologically healthy perform motor skills at a higher level than their less active, less healthy aging counterparts.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Santrock, John W.; Santrock, John W. Topical approach of life-span development. (2008). Life span development : a topical approach t. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-338264-7. OCLC 171151508. 
  2. ^ a b Schoepflin ZR, Chen X, Ragonesi CB, Galloway JC, Agrawal SK (October 2011). "Design of a novel mobility device controlled by the feet motion of a standing child: a feasibility study". Med Biol Eng Comput. 49 (10): 1225–31. PMID 21850470. doi:10.1007/s11517-011-0820-5. 
  3. ^ a b Williams, Harriet G.; Pfeiffer, Karin A.; Dowda, Marsha; Jeter, Chevy; Jones, Shaverra; Pate, Russell R. (2009). "A Field-Based Testing Protocol for Assessing Gross Motor Skills in Preschool Children: The Children's Activity and Movement in Preschool Study Motor Skills Protocol". Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science. 13 (3): 151–165. doi:10.1080/10913670903048036. 

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