As opposed to fine motor skills, gross motor skills can use the muscles of the torso, arms, and legs to create full-body movements. The mastery of these core-stabilizing muscles is crucial in performing common movements like walking, jumping, running, and even standing. They also work in conjunction with hand-eye coordination skills to catch, throw, and kick balls, swimming, and bike riding. That means that children count on their gross motor skills each day for home, school, playground, and community activities.

Usually, these skills come together automatically and without much thought, though the process behind them is quite complex. The neurological system and larger muscles work together and are responsible for balance, body awareness, strength, reaction time, and coordination.

Lack of Gross Motor Skills

The average child achieves specific gross motor skills at different points in time. For example, they should ride a bicycle between the ages of seven and eight and jump with both feet by the age of four. These milestones may vary, but they are when most children develop these skills on average. Unfortunately, however, some kids struggle with these tasks at a time when they should come quickly.

These children may have a condition known as dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder. This means that they have a lack of gross motor skills, and they may struggle without intervention. In addition, there are often warning signs, such as a disinterest in, or avoidance of, most physical tasks, rushing through a challenging task, or ordering others to complete a physical task in their place.

Playdates and sports are downright embarrassing for these children. Still, the lack of gross motor skills can impede even regular self-care skills like getting out of bed, exiting a motor vehicle, or dressing, since it is nearly impossible to stand on one leg to put on pants. Upper body support is sometimes non-existent, so it is hard to sit at a table to eat, write, draw, or attend school. It can be challenging to use the toilet, carry a bookbag, walk up stairs, or navigate their environments in general.

If you have serious concerns about your child’s gross motor skills, you should talk to your pediatrician. He or she can work with your child’s school to assess your son’s or daughter’s needs. Your child should be able to get started with occupational or physical therapy right away to strengthen his or her muscles. If the school cannot provide such services, you can always access them on your own through your insurance network or try building muscles at home by learning musical instruments and playing video games that fine-tune gross motor skills.

Developing gross motor skills are a crucial part of growing, and they are needed as an everyday part of life. If you believe that your child may be struggling to achieve his or her milestones, confer with a doctor right away.