• Introduction
  • The basics of gross motor skills
  • Delays in motor skill development
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Fine motor skills: the coordination between small muscles in movement with the eyes. Often involves the synchronization of hands and fingers.
  • Gross motor skills: full-body movements that require large muscle groups, trunk, arms, legs, etc. simultaneously.
  • Schema: memory representations of movement patterns.


Motor skills refer to skills associated with muscle activity. These basic actions are what form the foundation for all human movement. For example, crawling, walking, running, and jumping are all considered basic motor skills. Physical development also goes hand-in-hand with other development areas. Therefore, motor development is essential during early childhood years.

In the first stages of learning a new motor skill, the movements are often inaccurate and inefficient. But with age and repetition, they become much more refined. This results in being able to perform them with more force, velocity, and accuracy. Continuous motor skill development also makes it possible to learn new and more complex movement patterns.

Motor skills can also be divided into two categories: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills consist of movements that often require hand-eye coordination, accuracy and dexterity. Gross motor skills are more broad, powerful, and less accurate.

This post explains the basics of gross motor skills, and what makes them so important for motor development.

The basics of gross motor skills

Gross motor skills are movements/actions that require large muscle groups and movement of the entire body. They are usually more energetic and broad, but less accurate than fine motor skills. Gross motor skills also create the foundation for all physical activity and skill development.

Gross motor skill development also follows a few rules. First, skills are learned in a head-to-toe order. For example, children first learn to control their heads and trunk before standing up or walking. Second, skills are learned from gross to specific. This means that new skills are built on previous ones (for example, reaching your arm before grabbing a spoon). Lastly, skills first develop close to the body and then further away.

Gross motor skills can also be divided into three subgroups; locomotor skills, manipulative skills, and stability/balance skills. 

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Skipping
  • Galloping
  • Marching
  • Sliding
  • Climbing
  • Leaping
  • Throwing
  • Catching
  • Kicking
  • Punching
  • Striking
  • Bouncing
  • Rolling
  • Standing
  • Turning
  • Stretching
  • Bending
  • Spinning
  • Rolling
  • Balancing
  • Swinging
  • Stopping
  • Dodging

Gross motor skills are simple movements that are easy to learn. Because of this, they are also the first motor skills you learn. This paves the way for fine motor skill development.

Although gross motor skills consist of simpler movements, they still require a tremendous co-operation between muscles and the nervous system. Thus, gross motor skills play a crucial part in balance, coordination, strength, body awareness, and reaction time. 


Gross Motor Skills

The basic skills used in daily life (walking, sitting up, grabbing, etc.)Follow a certain hierarchy - some skills are learned before othersBuild on previous skillsBecome more refined with repetitionBuilds a foundation for sport-specific skills

Delays in motor skill development

Gross motor skill development follows a certain hierarchy. Every new movement is built upon older skills. This means that broader gross motor skills are learned before fine motor skills that require dexterity. With repetition, the skills learned in early childhood are improved and refined, making them more efficient to perform. 

The motor skill acquisition for a normally developing child looks like this:



0-2 Years

Reflexes & Rudimentary Skills

2-6 Years

Basic Motor Skills

6-10 Years

Advanced Motor Skills

10-14 Years

Sports-Specific Skills

>14 Years

Advanced Sports-Specific Skills

It is important to remember not all children learn at the same rate. Children with developmental delays, neurological conditions, or disabilities may have challenges reaching some motor skill milestones (rolling over, crawling, etc.). Although some delays in motor skill development are easy to notice, others can go undiagnosed until preschool when they become more apparent.

Delays in motor skill development are always diagnosed by a pediatrician if the child consistently misses major milestones. Once a diagnosis has been made, the child is often offered additional learning support. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, and assistive technology are great examples additional help available for the child and the family.

Note: if you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s motor skill development, consult your pediatrician. 

Gross motor skills are broad and energetic, but lacking in accuracy.

Final thoughts

Gross motor skills develop naturally as you grow up. How well and how quickly this happens is largely determined by genetics and the amount of physical activity the child participates in.

To ensure the child learns the necessary skills used in everyday life, they should stay physically active. For example, going to the playground or joining a sports team are excellent ways to learn how different body parts work together. This will also help the child gain new skills. 

Physical activity also strengthens the muscles, joints and bones. It even has beneficial effects on learning and memory. This is proven by the fact that inadequate gross motor skills have a strong correlation to lower grades in school.

Did you learn anything new about gross motor skills? Let us know in the comments. 


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