13 Gross Motor Activities Ideas With a Montessori Twist
Gross motor skills are responsible for moving our head, torso, arms, and legs. They are necessary for proper walking, running, house chores, bike riding, playing ball, and generally moving your body. They are all those skills that don’t necessarily require precision but core strength, coordination, and stamina. You know, like the stuff you do at the gym.
Improving these large motor skills often starts as early as a baby is born. The first gross motor skill babies practice is neck movement. Later on, they begin waving their arms and legs. Those basic body movements lead to more complex stuff, such as crawling or holding on to the edge of the crib.
The point is gross motor skills are crucial because they help us move. Practicing gross motor skills also makes us healthier. Finally, gross motor activities designed to build gross motor skills can help a lot with burning that extra energy your toddler has at 11 p.m. when it’s way past bedtime.
Gross vs. Fine Motor Skills
These two terms are quite often tossed around when discussing a child’s development. They are closely related but still differ in some aspects. The fundamental difference is that gross motor skills focus on large muscles and fine motor skills on small ones.
For example, when your child picks up their books and puts them in their backpack, they use gross motor skills. They use fine motor skills when they write in them, holding a pencil.
The development of both these sets of skills happens at the same time but at a different rate. Their progress depends on children’s innate abilities and time spent doing one thing or the other. Some activities, like throwing magnetic darts, employ both skills simultaneously. Usually, sports help develop gross motor skills more, and fine motor skill toys can help with the other.
What Are Examples of Gross Motor Activities?
Playtime is one of the best ways for kids to develop their gross motor skills. Here are some examples of gross motor activities and games that will boost your child’s gross motor skills:
This is such a simple yet creative game. On top of gross motor skills, it also helps with your kid’s creative side. It can be as simple or as complex as they like. Use as many colors as you have.
Jumping using only one or both legs at a time strengthens leg muscles and develops coordination. The best thing about this game is that your child can play it independently or with friends.
A great birthday-party-starting activity for any age. It does more than just make everyone laugh when a player messes up. It also teaches kids to follow instructions and requires increased focus to play. As for motor skills, it’s one of the best exercises out there.
You can ask children to jump or run, do twists and turns, try to rub their tummies while patting their heads, and do all sorts of movements that exercise their coordination. Whatever Simon says can be a good exercise.
Another party game that kids love and enjoy throughout the world. This one can get really competitive. It’s almost like sports. The rules are quite simple - use one less chair than there are children playing. As the music plays, all kids are circling around the chairs. As soon as it stops, they rush to find an empty seat. The kid who’s standing last is out of the game. The last player who snatches a chair is the winner.
The benefits of this game are numerous. It helps with coordination, quick movement, agility, and attention. As a bonus, kids get really hungry after playing it. It’s a win-win situation.
This is something you and your kid do at your home. Watch for obstacles and regularly check if your child can keep going. It’s fun and silly and brings laughter right into your living room. However, it does more. It’ll help your child build arm and shoulder strength. It’s like doing push-ups for kids. Moreover, it trains coordination and focus.
A game as old as a ball itself. First, people invented the ball, and then they started throwing it around. And for a good reason. It helps with coordination, upper body motorics, and arm strength. It’s also a great bonding game between a parent and a child. You can do it inside your house (watch out for that vase, though) or outside. You need nothing apart from a ball or any throwable object your child might enjoy.
What Does Montessori Say About Physical Development?
For a child to become independent and self-sufficient, they need to work on all their skills - gross motor included. Maria Montessori believed in educating a child as a whole. Every aspect of a child’s development is equally important.
One of the standout principles of Montessori education is freedom of choice and movement. That’s why learning materials in Montessori classrooms are arranged so children can easily access what they wish to learn and when. The only thing required is to go and take it, pick a spot for playing, and then return it to where they found it.
This type of education invites children to always be on the move. There’s no sitting at the desk facing the teacher for hours every day. With Montessori, children are active, going from one corner of the classroom to the other, because people learn better when they’re moving than when they’re sitting down.
What Is Montessori Gross Motor Work?
These are activities that focus on gross motor skills development but also nurture the learning of real-life skills. The idea behind this is to create the perfect blend of physical exercise, learning practical skills, and, most importantly, fun. They might seem like regular chores (which they are), but kids love feeling important and helpful and acting all grown-up.
Here are some Montessori gross motor activities you can start doing right now to help your child’s growth and development:
This is the staple activity of almost all Montessori kindergartens and schools. It brings many benefits, such as spending time outdoors, constantly moving, learning about nature, squatting and standing up dozens of times, and more. If you have a patch of garden in your backyard, we strongly recommend that you include your child in any activity you think they can get a grasp of and is absolutely safe.
Dusting and Sweeping
This house chore might take a bit longer than usual this way, but your kids will love it. There is something about brooms and hoovers that children find exciting. Show them how to do it and let them start with their rooms. After that, they can do some tidying up. This activity will engage all the muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. On top of it, it’ll teach them to keep their living environment clean. All good habits start when we’re young.
One of the kids’ favorites! There’s no better feeling for a kid than seeing their pastry baking alongside their mom’s. It doesn’t matter what it looks like when it comes out of the oven, the important thing is that they made it. However, kneading dough is a great exercise for arms, hands, and shoulders.
This is a proper workout for the biceps and triceps muscles. It’s also a great bonding experience and something you’ll remember and laugh over for ages. “Remember when Nick was little and wanted to bake a cake with me? He took that bag of flour and spilled it all over the kitchen! Aaah…Great times…”
Fixing and Repairing
Another thing kids love pretending to know how to do is fix their bikes when the chain comes off. Some know for sure, but this points to another fact - humans (tiny ones included) love to fix stuff. You can start by repairing things around your house together.
Begin with something simple, safe, or even with tool toys such as this Montessori Wooden Toolbox. This activity is not only great for gross motor skills but for problem-solving ones as well.
Painting a Room
Let your little Michelangelo have a go at painting their bedroom walls. If you don't like it, you can always paint over it. This is a great chance to do something together, boost their imagination and creativity, and practice gross motor skills.
Give them a paint roller, point out what needs to be done, and watch their excitement. Your children will have tons of fun and maybe make some mess, but they’ll also build up their arm strength with that repetitive up-and-down gross motor movement.
There are a lot of activities that improve gross motor skills when it comes to washing and taking care of your clothes. First, explain to your child how to sort their clothes and watch them do it. Then, it's time to put them into a laundry basket, carry them to the washing machine, and fill it up.
After that, they can help you hang those clothes out to dry. Finally, they can fold their own clothes and put them in their closet. All these gross motor activities are filled with gross motor movements and require stamina. It is not precisely an obstacle course, and there's no playground equipment involved, but this is a range of great gross motor activities that exercise the entire body.
Washing the Car
When it’s summertime and hot outside, you can have a lot of fun with a simple gardening hose. Your car needs washing anyway, so why not let your kid do it while they’re still young and find it fun and exciting? They’ll need to control the hose, keep it in the air, and point it in the right direction. These are all great exercises for developing gross motor skills.
Raking Leaves and Shoveling Snow
Lastly, when the year nears its end, new possibilities present themselves. Give your child a small rake in the fall or a shovel when it snows, and clean your driveway together. It’s one of the best outdoor gross motor activities. It’s good exercise, and it keeps your yard clean. It’s a win-win-win situation in our books.
When it comes to all these gross motor activities, you should remember a few things:
- Do it only if your child feels comfortable doing it. Try to encourage them to participate but don’t force them.
- It’s a perfect way to teach your kids responsibility while they are young. Once they get to their teenage years, you’ll have a much harder time motivating them to clean up their room.
- Just because it doesn’t look like play, it doesn’t mean it isn’t. Children see almost any activity as play. And every playtime is a new learning opportunity. Better to learn how to fix a bike than play the latest video game.
- Make it fun! If you keep going about it how it’s hard and needs to be done quickly, your child will lose all interest in it. It will take longer than usual to finish all these tasks, but you’ll be doing much more than just cleaning your house or cooking.
- All these gross motor activities are Montessori aligned and help develop gross motor skills. They also teach practical life skills and prepare children to become independent and self-sufficient.
Try one, some, or all of them. See how it goes. Choose what you, your child, and the rest of your family feel comfortable with. If you want to start with something simpler, like toys, for example, you can check out our Montessori toys for 5 year olds, since that’s where you’ll find numerous gross motor skills toys.
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