Gross Motor Skills

Forms of Gross Motor Dysfunction

Age Developmental Characteristics

Activities for Development


Gross Motor Skills



  • Gross motor output entails the use of large muscles for participating in athletic events and accomplishing a range of other activities.


  • To perform adequately in physical activity a child must be able to form judgments regarding various kinds of incoming data and respond quickly with appropriate and accurate muscle movements. While in the process of a motor activity the individual must make use of ongoing sensory feedback.


  • Gross motor memory is vital at this stage as it allows a child to recall the muscular steps used in the past for successful performance. Numerous muscles and muscles groups must be properly and rapidly engaged, so that the right muscles are accomplishing the appropriate necessary steps at the right time. For some children these processes can be nearly instinctive and for other continual training and discipline will be required.


Forms of Gross Motor Dysfunction



Poor sense of body position

Trouble perceiving the location of the body in a static position, possible problem with balance.

Weak kinesthetic sense

Trouble keeping track of body movement while in the middle of a motor activity (e.g. jumping, hopping)

Inaccuracy of visual-spatial processing

Trouble perceiving timing and predicting in the spatial domain (e.g. problems judging trajectories for catching, throwing)

Ineffective verbal-motor integration

Trouble translating verbal inputs into desired responses (e.g. difficulty following instruction from coach)

Poor motor planning

Trouble previewing outcomes and selecting motor strategies to meet a motor challenge (e.g. how fast to run to catch a ball)

Poor coordination of muscle groups

Trouble allocating muscles to specific task roles and/or poor synchronization of muscles during activities

Motor memory weakness

Trouble recalling accurately and quickly the sequences of muscle movements needed for a specific skill

Tone control weakness

Trouble developing appropriate muscle tone and strength

Poor monitoring

Trouble evaluating how effectively muscle performance is proceeding during activities

Table from





(2-5 Years of Age):

GROSS MOTOR BEHAVIOR (Arnheim & Pestolesi, 1978)

Below are a number of examples of indicators of average motor development within children across a varying age range.

48 months

May ascend a ladder by leading with alternate feet. Broad jumps approximately 0.61 meter. Balances on one foot for 8 seconds. Is able to hop on one foot. Catches objects that have been thrown. Jumps in place with two feet. Jumps from 0.61 meter box with two feet.


52 months

Displays highly synchronous walking. Descends stairs by leading with alternate feet.


56 months

Descends ladder by leading with alternate feet. Is able to hop seven or more steps on one foot. Throws 0.08 meter ball 3.05 meter.


5 years

Is beginning to skip. Walks backward heel to toe. Walks like an adult. Gallops. Throws a 0.23 meter ball approximately 3.05 meters. Hops ten or more steps on one foot.


Gross Motor Skills

As teachers and parents it is important to provide experiences to develop the following:





































Activities for Developing Gross Motor Skills


Balancing (develops control and coordination through two - sided activity.)

1. Alternate feet inside large shape. Decrease as children become more skilled.

2. Walk along chalk line, string line or narrow board.

3. Tiny tracks - paths made from placing unit blocks, carpet strips, etc.

4. Use a balance beam. Vary the levels (inclined, declined), type of board etc.

5. Climbing steps/ stairs/ step ladders and walking on knees with hands in the air.


Crawling (develops coordination - laterality, synchronizes right and left body sides)

1. Treasure Hunt - crawl to find hidden objects

2. Crawl through an obstacle course - through (boxes, tyres, pipes, hoops, tunnel) under objects (table, large fixed equipment, rug/sheet, chairs, rope, ladder) around objects (tree, box, chair, fixed apparatus) over objects (pillow, box, mattress, mat.)

3. "Follow the line," set up a string line or chalk line for children to crawl along.

4. "Follow the leader," crawl behind someone, create an obstacle course.

5. "Floor map," crawl over large floor map with roads, rivers, etc.


Climbing (strengthens muscles, develops posture, gives opportunities for viewing environment from different perspectives)

1. Climb over, up, down boxes, ladders, planks, logs, etc.

2. Up/down steps

3. Along an obstacle course using a variety of equipment of differing heights etc.


Hopping (helps gain body control and balance)

1. Around obstacles - boxes, trees, reels, tyres, fixed equipment hoops

2. Hop into/out of hoops

3. Hop along stepping stones

4. Make patterns on the ground of shapes, colors, dots. Hop on one color,dot etc.

5. Ladder painted on ground - children hop along it


Jumping (develops overall gross motor skills - coordination)

1. Over objects - string, line, magazine, bean bag

2. Jumping obstacle course, low boards, string, blocks, logs, boxes etc.

3. Jump up to touch/reach suspended objects, leaves, balloons, toy etc.

4. Stand and jump from one pace to another, from shape to shape

5. Jump on mattresses, tyres, large tractor tubes, trampolines



1. Balls of different sizes

2. Balloons

3. Aim at a target - set up target areas for children to kick at e.g. "bulls eye"



Pushing - Pulling (Develops control over objects. Used in imaginative play - control over particular body joints)

1. Tug of war

2. Complete an obstacle course on a hobby horse


Rolling (Body rolling develops awareness of relationship between upper and lower body and pivot points of neck and feet. Rolling objects develops coordination)

1. Balls using feet/foot

2. Balls using hand/s

3. Hoop using hands

4. Body on mat - 'log rolling' forward, backward rolls.



1. Around an obstacle course

2. On the spot/on the toes

3. With hands on head/hips/behind back etc.



1. Around objects

2. In circle games

3. To music with variety of rhythms


Turning, twisting, bending

1. Inside hoop - turn, twist, bend to reach things outside hoop

2. Use different body parts as a base

3. Doing 'tricks' inside a hoop/on a mat

4. Using mats for somersaults, rolling etc.



1. In and out of circles, hoops, tyres, outlines

2. Along a line (chalk), piece of string etc.

3. On wide surfaces gradually becoming narrower

4. Use a rope or string to guide children through a maze

5. Following cut outs or painted footsteps etc.

6. Walking to different music tempos


(Hogben J, 1981)





  • Approximately 15% of students attending primary schools experience motor difficulties.


  • Of the students diagnosed as having poor coordination the lowest 5% have severe problems and 10% have moderate problems.


  • The ratio of boys : girls with motor disability is 3: 1


In addition to this, 60% of the identified students also have problems in areas such as:

1. speech

2. short attention span

3. poor listening

4. poor self concept

5. abnormal or unacceptable behavior

6. learning problems



Possible causes are:

1. Lack of experience

2. Slow maturation

3. Complications during pregnancy and delivery

4. Apraxia - poor planning of motor skills



Areas of concern resulting from poor coordination include:

Lack of confidence -

  • the students may not attempt new activities explore or experiment.

Playground Isolation -

  • the students are often excluded from friendship groups and may sit alone or over eat,


  • may not experiment on playground equipment and lack opportunities to practice


  • may not develop appropriate social skills