While fine motor skills are required for tasks like tying shoes and handwriting, gross motor skills enable children to coordinate major muscle groups and complete tasks like jumping, climbing, walking up stairs and getting in and out of a chair without falling. Children go through a significant spurt in gross motor development between the ages of 2 and 5, reports Jodene Smith in her book, "Activities for Gross Motor Skills Development." Developing your child's gross motor skills is less of a process with a definitive end and more like a continuum. Creating opportunities for your little one to strengthen her gross motor skills is much easier than you might think.
Strengthen your child's coordination between her torso, arms and legs by building a pillow mountain next to a couch for her to summit. The task of keeping her body stable and moving up the pile of pillows requires her to push with her legs, while holding her torso stable and pulling upward with her arms. Make sure you build the mountain of pillows away from anything that could injure her if she falls, such as the sharp edge of a table corner or coffee table.
Build arm and shoulder strength with dumping, scooping and pouring activities. Scooping and pouring water from the bathtub or kiddie pool or sand from the sandbox is the perfect opportunity for exercising these muscle groups. Once he's mastered basic dumping and pouring, have him pour the contents of his bucket at different speeds. This adds additional challenge by requiring him to control the speed of his exertion rather than just coordinating the muscle groups together.
Develop balance and coordination between the muscle groups in the lower body with jumping activities. A toddler can benefit from jumping in place, and eventually between two points, while landing on two feet. If your child is preschool-aged, practice playing hopscotch, first by jumping with two feet and then attempting one-foot hops. Jumping activities help your child learn to coordinate and control his movement even when moving between two points with his feet leaving the ground briefly.
Gross motor skills are easy to incorporate into everyday games you play with your child, so keep the atmosphere low-pressure or your little one may resent being told she must summit pillow mountain.
Start at the easiest level and gradually increase to a more challenging level. Don't give your 2 year old a bucket so large that he's likely to break his toe if he accidentally drops it drying to transport sand between sides of the sandbox.