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Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.

Your Child's Gross Motor Skills: How to Improve Them

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Outdoor summer activities are great tools for improving your child's Gross Motor Skills. Parents often ask: "What is the difference between Gross and Fine Motor Skills, and how do they impact on my child's ability to learn?" 

Gross Motor Skills involve bigger muscle groups, like the arms, legs, feet, and torso. 

Fine Motor Skills involve smaller muscles, like hands, fingers, toes, or lips. 

All motor skills require a connection between the brain and muscles in the body. They require practice to improve and enhance coordination. Motor Skills usually develop sequentially. Gross Motor Skills usually need to be developed and mastered before Fine Motor Skills can evolve. Most children roll, sit up, crawl, then walk, before running. 
Here are five fun, easy activities to promote Gross Motor Skill development. You can adapt where you and your child play these games according to your own seasonal environment. 

  1. Take a "discovery walk" around your neighborhood, bike path, nearby park, or beach. Look for objects that are up in trees, building, or rocks, and things that are on ground level. Look for colors, shapes, and sizes. This promotes bending and stretching, as well as walking and running. 
  2.  Create an obstacle course with three or four objects in your yard. (Some example for obstacles are bases, hoops, tires, beanbags, etc.) Have your child practice running, jumping, skipping, and hopping around the objects. Increase the difficulty by running, jumping, skipping, and hopping backwards around the objects. 
  3.  Lay a Hula Hoop on the ground. Have your child stand about five feet away and throw a bean bag or block into the hoop. (You'll want an object that will not roll.) Once your child can do this easily, increase the distance by twelve inch increments. If starting the toss at a five foot distance is too difficult, start at three feet, and increase the distance in six inch increments. 
  4. Hold a Hula Hoop vertically, and let your child toss a bean bag through the hoop, taking one step backwards for each successful toss. 
  5.  Hold a Hula Hoop vertically, and let your child kick a large beach ball, or other large, soft ball through the hoop. Take one step backwards for each successful kick. 

In my next post I'll give you five more activities for improving your child's coordination, balance, and Gross Motor Skills, as well as having a great time outdoors with you! 

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