Children love to move. Sadly though, Gross Motor Development in the preschool years is often over looked in classrooms. Many teachers think outside play is enough to develop any gross motor skills that are needed. The truth is, developing gross motor skills needs more attention in the classroom! With a big push for academic learning, planning gross motor activities gets brushed off to the side.
Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements – Maria Montessori
But, gross motor development is important and here is why…
- School readiness: building up core muscles help children’s sitting posture for sitting at a desk doing work and with the important skill of writing.
- Healthy Habits: gross motor activities help create healthy habits of exercise at a young age.
- Stress Relief: long school days and high academic expectations can be stressful on little bodies. Gross motor activities help alleviate that stress.
- Confidence: children learn how practice makes them better at gross motor tasks and succeeding helps build self-esteem.
- Imagination: children can pretend to be different animals and play a pretend gross motor game with friends all while fostering their imaginations.
- Problem Solving: children have to learn how to solve problems, like how to climb to the top of the play equipment or what they will have to do to get over a log.
- Risk Assessment: children learn to assess risk when moving their bodies in different ways. They assess what feels safe to do and what feels like a risk.
- Happier Children: why is recess the favorite part of the day for a lot of students? Because they were born to move and moving makes them happy!
How can preschool teachers help children develop strong gross motor skills?
Plan it into your day!
Three great times to plan gross motor activities include:
- Carpet Time – are children getting antsy while sitting at the carpet? Break it up with a gross motor activity.
- Movement Time– create a special time in your schedule (in addition to outside time) for gross motor activities.
- Transitions– when moving from one activity to the next (either throughout the school building or just in your classroom), challenge students to a gross motor activity. For example, when lining up to wash hands encourage children to catch a bean bag that you throw before lining up. Or, be bunny rabbits hopping down the hall!
Which skills should I focus on?
There are three main areas in which we can plan activities to nurture gross motor development:
- Locomotor Skills: moving body from one place to another (walking, hopping, running…)
- Non-Locomotor Skills: movements done in place (bend, stretch, sway…)
- Manipulative Movements: movements that require control of the body and an object beyond it (throwing, catching, kicking)
Here is a cheat sheet to help you plan! There are 8 Locomotor Skills, 14 Non-Locomotor Skills and 3 Manipulative Movement Skills that we can plan for our preschoolers.