For the most part, all learning is sequential, which means that we build on known skills to acquire new ones. This is especially true for young children, who are developing gross and fine motor dexterity.
Gross motor skills involve the large muscle groups such as torso, legs, arms, and feet. Fine motor skills use the smaller muscle groups, such as hands, fingers, toes, and lips. Both are critical in learning. For example, if a young child has trouble catching a ball, he might not be able to print his name.
Strengthening gross-motor skills will lead to improved fine motor skills, which are important for early school success.
Here are five ways to help your kindergartener or 1st grader practice gross motor skills:
- Ride bikes together. If your child still has training wheels, gradually help him become less dependent on them. If possible, try riding bikes to school together, rather than driving or taking the bus. Or take advantage of any nearby bike paths or parks. (Don’t forget helmets.)
- Balance on a curb or low beam. When walking outside together. help your child balance on a curb, low beam, short wall, etc. Hold her hand until she can easily balance on her own when walking on a slightly elevated surface.
- Practice hopping, skipping, and jumping. Once your child can easily do all these movements, increase the difficulty. Create “obstacles” to move around, such as skipping around the tree, jumping over the hula hoop, or playing Hopscotch.
- Practice running backward. Most young child can easily run forward. Running backward is harder to master, yet will strengthen opposing muscle groups for better balance. Make sure it’s an obstacle-free, flat, grassy or soft place for her to practice.
- Do jumping jacks together. This simple activity can help increase his balance and coordination while strengthening bone density.
Good gross motor skills are a natural segue to improved fine motor skills. Next week I’ll share some activities to promote fine motor tasks.