Activities such as standing, walking, sitting without support, and touching toes help develop gross motor abilities in infants. Encourage gross motor skill development by including activities, such as tummy time, rolling a ball, playing with blocks, and sensory bags.
Gross motor activities for infants require them to use their largest and strongest core muscles such as the torso, legs, and arms (1). These activities are associated with improved physical activity and better cognitiveidevelopment, resulting in enhanced cardiorespiratory fitnessi and reduced body mass indexi (BMI) (2).
According to WHO guidelines, infants should ideally be engaged in such activities for a few hours every day for improved motor skillsi (3). Keep reading this post for some fun and interactive activities and include them in your child’s routine for their motor skill development. You may learn and share them with your friends and relatives as well.
In This Article
- Gross Motor Skills In Infants
- 12 Gross Motor Activities For Infants
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Infographic: Examples Of Gross Motor Skill Activities In Infants
- Key Pointers
Gross Motor Skills In Infants
Some activities that help develop gross motor abilities in infants are (4):
- Throwing things
- Sitting without a support
For young infants, the scope of physical activities is limited, but gross motor skills increase at a rapid rate. Some general developmental milestones based on gross motor skills for infants are (5):
- Being able to stand without any support for a brief period
- Pulling things for support while standing up
- Sitting without support
- Taking small steps
- Reaching for their toes
Related: 15 Fun Running Games For Kids
12 Gross Motor Activities For Infants
1. Having tummy time
Tummy time is when you place your infant on their tummy on a play mat. Having tummy time is important for infants because it (6):
- Strengthens the shoulder and neck muscles
- Enhances motor skills as the baby needs to utilize muscles and strength to move or lift their head
- Helps prevent flat spots at the backside of baby’s head
2. Rolling a ball
Take a ball that your little one may enjoy playing with. Make them sit with the help of support, and you sit across them. Now roll the ball towards them and let them try to get a hold of it. Do this a few times, and then let them do the same and roll the ball towards you and explore their ball skills. You can also do this activity with the help of an exercise ball.
This activity will help enhance the muscle strength of the lower body as they sit, move from one place to another, and improve their balance and hand-eye coordinationi.
Strong gross motor skills help strengthen fine motor skills such as pinching or grasping. (10).
3. Playing with blocks
Blocks are a favorite for every infant because they can move them from one place to another. Build a tower with blocks a little far away from the reach of your infant and encourage them to crawl towards it. You can also keep one or two blocks closer to your baby for help and encouragement.
4. Allowing free movement
Exploration is key for infants’ gross motor development. Infants often enjoy being placed in an open area. It provides them an opportunity to freely move their hands and legs to develop and increase their body awareness.
Put your baby on a play mat and let them entertain themselves. You should supervise them at all times.
5. Having a toy bin treasure hunt
When your little one is beginning to sit up, with or without support, you should keep them entertained and enthusiastic. Make a toy bin for them to stay engaged.
Take a basket and put all their toys into it. Then place this basket by their side and let them explore. Going through the basket and playing with different toys will help develop their sensory skills.
6. Playing with sensory bags
You can make DIY sensory bags for your baby to play with during tummy time or while they are laying awake on their mat, to keep them engaged.
To make a sensory bag, you will need:
- A transparent zip-lock bag
- Buttons and beads (you can use other things such as pom poms)
Take the zip lock bag and put the beads and buttons inside it. Then fill it with water and seal it properly so that the stuff inside will not leak out when pressure is applied. You can give this bag to your baby during their tummy time to keep them engaged. This activity may help enhance your baby’s sensory and eye-hand coordination skillsi. Please make sure to monitor your baby at all times while playing with a homemade sensory bag.
Who doesn’t love playing with colors? Grab a medium-sized sheet of paper and some colors such as watercolors. Place them in front of your child and let them create masterpieces with some splish here and there. Art projects help them move their hand muscles over a wide range of areas and develop their motor skills. The sensory stimulation from the vibrant colors and the tactile experience of painting further enhances their gross motor development. Also, remember to keep them under continuous supervision while painting to avoid choking hazards.
8. Kicking a balloon or a ball
This is another activity that helps strengthen the leg muscles of your baby. Place your baby on a play mat and attach balloons or a ball surrounding the mat. Kicking and playing with the balloon or ball can keep them occupied and helps improve their physical development.
Strengthening motor skills is important for your child to move around independently. It helps them meet their developmental milestones and enhances their cognitive, speech, and sensory development (11).
9. Pulling a stuffed pet
For infants who have just started to walk, this can be a fun activity. Tie a ribbon or a lace around the neck of a stuffed dog or a cat and give it to your infant. They will have fun pulling it around. You can also model this activity by doing the same with another toy for them to watch and learn.
10. Climbing a box
Climbing boxes can help develop the muscles of the hands and legs. Take an empty cardboard or plastic box and fill it with random things to make it heavy, so it does not tumble over while being pushed. Tape the mouth of the cardboard and decorate it with colors or colored paper to make it attractive. Now your infant can either push it or use it as a support to stand or sit on it.
11. Crossing tunnels
Introducing your infant to tunnels can be exciting. Such simple obstacle courses tailored to the infant’s developmental stage can promote exploration. Place a blanket in between two chairs and make a tunnel. Then, sit on the other side of the tunnel opposite to your baby and encourage them to come towards you through the tunnel. You may also take the help of toys to attract them and cross the tunnel.
12. Playing on a texture mat
Sensory experiences play a crucial role in gross motor skill development for infants. Introducing different textures to your infant can help develop their sensory skills. Take a play mat and place various toys of different textures. Now let your infant crawl around the mat, discover various textures and shapes, and enjoy themselves. Make sure the toys you choose are big enough to not be swallowing hazards.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What motor skills do infants develop first?
Babies usually start developing gross motor skills as early as two months. They may start kicking their legs or moving their arms by this age. In the following months, babies will start to roll over and develop head and neck muscle control (7).
2. Is clapping a gross motor skill?
No, clapping hands falls among the fine motor skills infants begin to develop at nine months (8). Babies usually clap their hands in while singing songs or while playing games.
3. Is waving a gross or fine motor?
Waving hands requires coordination skills, muscle function, and control and is categorized under gross motor skill activities (9). Developing gross motor skills is essential as these skills aid babies in performing several body movements and activities.
Large motor activities for infants play a key role in developing their motor skills, which are essential to brain development. However, choose developmentally-appropriate motor activities for infants. Holding their head in position, tummy time, and sitting up are simple motor activities for infants during the early months of life. You may introduce them to more complex motor activities after they reach the milestones appropriate for their age. Do not worry about slight delays in achieving milestones since each child grows at a different pace. However, a significant delay must be discussed with your child’s pediatrician.
What Are The Motor Activities Of A Baby?
Within the first year of life, your baby will develop critical motor skills that help them make small movements, hold up their head, sit up-right, crawl and eventually walk. As a caregiver, there are many things you can do to encourage the development of bones and muscles to help them reach these milestones.
What Are 5 Fine Motor Skills For Infants?
Here are some examples of the ways you may see your 1-year-old developing her fine motor skills:
- Building a tower with toy blocks, and then promptly knocking it over.
- Playing with boxes or containers and their lids.
- Flipping the pages of a book.
- Turning doorknobs.
- Sticking pegs into holes
Infographic: Examples Of Gross Motor Skill Activities In Infants
Babies may display different and evolving movements that enhance their gross motor skills as they age and develop muscle strength. Here is an infographic that presents the most noted activities that babies perform routinely as a part of their gross motor skills development.
Fine motor skills engage the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers so a child can grasp, hold, grip and pinch.
Other examples of fine motor skills include:
- Clapping hands.
- Shaking musical instruments.
- Picking up and putting objects down.
- Rolling playdough.
- Putting on shoes.
- Cleaning teeth.
Fine motor skills help children with hand movements like grasping, holding and pinching. They also help kids in other ways such as building coordination, and strengthening small muscles in the hand and wrist. These skills are required for activities like writing, drawing, coloring, assembly and preparing food.
Fine motor skills are the ability to use the small muscles in your hands and fingers to perform precise movements, such as grabbing toys or toothbrushes. They are also needed for more advanced skills, such as coloring, writing, and playing sports. Children typically develop fine motor skills between age 2 and 4 years old.
What are The 7 Basic Motor Skills?
7 Motor Skills needed for better Academic Performance
- #1 – Hand-eye Coordination. …
- #2 – Bilateral Coordination. …
- #3 – Core Muscle. …
- #4 – Balance and Coordination. …
- #5 – Crossing the Midline. …
- #6 – Back to Front Activities. …
- #7 – Patterning. …
- Related Products.
There are many ways to encourage and enhance your baby’s fine motor skills. In fact, all of the above examples demonstrate some of the things that help strengthen these tiny muscles. Encouraging these abilities is important in helping your child learn new skills and develop coordination as they progress through childhood.
Mental, physical, and social development come along with the acquisition of fine motor skills. These skills allow a child to perform actions such as holding a pencil and using scissors. They can also help children with their oral-motor skills and an understanding of cause-and-effect relationships.
At this stage, you won’t be concerned about your child’s fine motor skills. However, as your baby grows and develops into a toddler, learning to use his hands will become very important. At times he may appear clumsy and even seem frustrated at not being able to do certain things. So feel free to give him all the support you can by patiently encouraging him to try again until he masters new skills such as managing a spoon and cup
Stretching and moving the hands, fingers, legs and bodies to different positions helps children build up their motor skills. For example, crawling, jumping and running allow children to develop their physical skills. Children can build up their social skills by interacting with people, animals and objects in their environment. As babies grow older and more comfortable with communicating through speech and listening skills they might play pretend games like being a vet treating an animal or pretending to read books.
Fine Motor Skills for Infants
This article provides information about the 7 essential motor skills needed to “awaken” the brain for better academic success. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider. None of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.
We have always been a big proponent of purposeful movement to help kids learn and thrive in the classroom. But, more importantly, we have seen the impact purposeful movement has on the brain.
Did you know building your child’s motor skills is not only for staying healthy and strong, but also for supporting every area and aspect of your child’s learning development?
Don’t believe me?
Think of the body as a tool needed for the mind to grow so it can reach the highest level of academic performance. Just like when we lift weights or run a marathon, the more we build our endurance, our bodies get stronger and faster.
As we “exercise” and “warm-up” the body, we are also giving the brain an even better workout.
Why does the body need strong motor skills for my child to learn?
Most people don’t realize there is a body and mind connection. When the body is prepared for learning, learning becomes automatic.
We want our kids to naturally read words across the page, have the ability to write words on the page and copy notes on the chalkboard. Surprisingly, many kids today are entering school without these simple basic skills.
The end result, gaps in learning start to form and a child may begin to breakdown as those gaps get wider and wider.
However, purposeful movement exercises can help. They can be the key to strengthening a child’s body for academic success.
Here’s a breakdown of all the motor skills kids need and use on a daily basis for higher learning. Did you even realize they use their bodies so much?
7 Motor Skills needed for better Academic Performance
#1 – Hand-eye Coordination
A strong development of hand-eye coordination can prepare the brain and body for handwriting, letter formation and tracking words across the page
#2 – Bilateral Coordination
Developing bilateral coordination is an important skill needed for simple tasks like holding the paper with one hand while the other writes across the page.
#3 – Core Muscle
Believe it or not, a strong core can help a child sit upright in their chair while supporting the head for copying notes off the chalkboard.
#4 – Balance and Coordination
If a child’s balance is off, you may begin to see them fidget in their chair. Building better balance and coordination can support your child’s attention and focus, emotional regulation and behavior.
#5 – Crossing the Midline
Crossing the midline activities are important for brain development. They can help a child track words across the page, problem solve and write words from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph.
#6 – Back to Front Activities
Because higher learning takes place in the higher centers of the brain, kids can do back to front activities to help organize thoughts, improve speech and language, support memory and help follow directions.
#7 – Patterning
Playing games and participating in activities that require different patterns help kids with sequencing, fact retention, math and equations.
Warm-Up Activities for “Awakening” the Brain
If you don’t know where to begin or if you have students that need additional support at home, this FREE warm-up packet can help.
It’s a great way to get your children and students better prepared for homework, studying, tests and other academic performances.
For a copy of the free warm-up packet, click here.
Integrated Movement Activity Center
If you still feel your child has not developed the necessary skills for learning readiness, there is more you can do to help.
The Integrated Movement Activity Center provides parents and therapists with step-by-step videos to strengthen all areas of the body and the brain. Parents and professionals can use the activity center to help their kids and students “awaken” the brain for higher learning development.
For more information or to enroll, click here.
Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs