Gross motor skill development is creating exercises for children that help develop activity areas in the brain. The skills your child will learn include balance, hand-eye coordination, rhythm, reflexes and basic exercise.
It’s a lot of fun, so be sure to take part in these activities with your child. Chances are; if they see you doing it, they will better understand how to do it themselves. Therefore, make sure you demonstrate these actions before asking your child to perform them.
- Throwing a ball through an open door or goal post
Let your child stand sideways and toss a ball towards a target or goal post. This is surprisingly challenging for younger children so be patient as they figure it out. Once they succeed, move them slightly back and enhance the challenge.
- Bounce a ball off a wall and through a goal post
Teach your child a basic understanding of angles by doing the same exercise as above but by bouncing the ball off a wall first. The ball should bounce off a nearby wall and into the goal post. Reposition your child once they have successfully made the target and let them try again from a different angle.
- Soccer ball challenge
Rhythm and balance play a huge part in gross motor skills development. A great exercise is to have one foot on the ball and the other flat on the ground. Alternate between the two and then speed up the alternation. This is done best with some music playing so that your child can perform the exercise to a beat in a song.
- Tennis racket challenge
Grab a tennis ball and a racket and get your child to walk while balancing the ball on the racket without touching it. After a while, tell them to only use one hand to hold the racket. As they get better at this, extend the walking distance.
- Basic body balance
Standing on one foot at a time teaches your child balance. Alternate between both feet and be sure that equal time is spent both ways. Make it interesting by adding something to pick up with his or her mouth—like a packet or a basket with a large handle. You can also get your child to hop on the leg he or she is standing on.
- Hula hoop stepping
Place about seven hula hoops side by side flat on the ground. Demonstrate the exercise to your child by stepping three times in each hoop and then skipping to the next. Count, “One-two-three” as you do this. Now watch as your child does the same and correct them if they step less or more than three steps within each hoop.
- Bounce and catch
Throwing a ball up and catching it is a great exercise. But if your child needs a challenge, let them bounce it and catch it as it comes up. This teaches them both hand-eye coordination and reflex training.
- Stair hopping
If your child has loads of energy, this one will tire them out. Get your child to hop up a flight of stairs with both feet at the same time. Make sure to supervise your child to make sure they don’t get hurt. Do it with them for a great workout!
- Catch the handkerchief
Find a light handkerchief or scarf and hold it fairly high above your child’s head. As you drop it, let them grapple to catch it. Once they get the hang of it, let them throw it up themselves, twist completely around, and catch it as they stop.
A great game for five-six year olds is Sevens. This game seems simple at first, but it takes a lot of concentration to get it right. Perform any task with a tennis ball such as bouncing it against the wall and catching it or simply throwing it in the air. Whatever you do, your child must do the same seven times in a row without deviation. If they get it right, they pose the next challenge—and so the game continues. (Best played in groups of four or five kids.)
- Throw – Look – Catch
This is a hard one, but it’s worth teaching your child hand-eye coordination. Get them to throw a medium or small sized ball up into the air, then to look ahead of them, and then to look up again to catch it. After a while, your child should be able to throw the ball up without looking, and then catch it while looking straight ahead.
- Fun with Frisbees
Frisbees are great for gross motor skill enhancement. Place a goal post or target somewhere on your lawn and get your child to throw the Frisbee to the target. If they hit the target, move them further back to enhance the challenge.
- Kicking angles
Place a soccer ball on the ground and place a goal post either straight ahead, left of, or right of your child. Show them that if they kick the ball in the centre, the ball will travel straight. If they kick the left side of the ball, it will travel right; and if they kick the right, it will travel left. Alter the goal post to make them figure out how to kick the ball to make their target.
- Rhythm exercises
You can use your initiative with this one. Create clapping and stomping sounds in a circle with your child and his or her friends. Be sure to create a systematic beat, like “clap clap (pause) stomp stomp clap clap clap”. Remembering the beat is great for developing their musical abilities.
- Catch the balloon
An activity that stimulates the reflexes of your child is ‘catch the balloon’. Begin by holding two large balloons in your hands. Stand opposite your child and tell them to catch one of the balloons before it drops to the ground. Release one of them and watch your five year old grapple for the balloon before it touches the floor. If they start getting the knack for it, let some air out of the balloon to heighten the challenge.
- Thrust a ball up with feet and legs
This is one of the hardest exercises, so leave it for after your child has developed the other skills. Demonstrate this activity by grabbing hold of a soccer ball between your ankles and throwing it up—then catching it with your hands. This exercise will leave you both out of breath, so leave it for a Friday afternoon.
When doing these exercises, encouragement is of utmost importance. If your child struggles with any of the challenges, let them see it as a game and not as a task. Each activity must be fun and engaging. Failure to perform well in any of these ten activities simply means that some more time should be spent on them. Enjoy!