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What are Gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills are the movements children develop that involve moving their whole body. They use large muscle groups in order to perform a skill.

Often we interchange gross motor skills with milestones and as you follow your babies development you will be watching if they are meeting their milestones. These milestones include

Rolling over

Sitting up








All of these milestones are also know as gross motor skills. Motor just means movement. Gross motor skills develop gradually in children as they grow and mature. These skills also play a crucial role in physical development and overall well-being in individuals of all ages. As a child gets older there are other gross motor skills which develop such as hopping, throwing and catching a ball, riding a bike, going up and down the stairs and jumping off a height.

Children often develop these skills through free play and structured physical activities.

Why can I do to promote my child's gross motor skills?

The best place for your baby to play is on the floor. Try to have more time out of a container (eg car seat, baby bouncer, high chair etc) than in one. It's about balance, we need to have baby in a car seat to keep them safe but at home try to let them play on the floor. Here they will develop the skills to learn how to move their body. They cannot learn those skills if they spend a lot of time having their movement restricted.

Try to make sure your baby is playing in a variety of positions. Yes tummy time is good, but too much of any one position can mean some muscles are working more than others. Try putting baby on their back, on both sides to play aswell as supporting them in sitting.

For toddlers and older children give them as much free play as possible, preferably outdoors. Yes activities and games and sports are good but a child learns and moves best though free play. I LOVE this because it makes our job as parents so much easier, no fancy crafts or messy play ideas that take longer to clean up than the child actually played for or expensive toys or sports fees. You just need to go to the garden, a forest or a park, bring a drink, snack and a change of clothes - and your child will be working on their gross motor skills without knowing it!

Doing these simple things will set up a great environment for your child to develop efficient gross motor skills which are the foundation for development.

Why is my child not meeting their milestones?

This can be for a variety of reasons. The first thing to remember it is not your fault. Some of the reasons are

  •  Your child has been medically unwell and spent some time in hospital.

  • A restriction or a muscle tightness somewhere in their body is preventing them from learning a new skill.

  • A neurological disorder -if you have any concerns about a neurological problem you should always talk to your doctor or health visitor.

  • Prematurity - A baby born prematurely should always have their milestones monitored by their corrected age ie when their due date was as they have missed out on some development in the womb.

  • Sometimes the cause is unknown.

Remember everyone's context is different - my first child got way more time to play on the floor than my third. Some babies have colic and reflux and can't be put down without screaming. You do what you need to do to survive especially in those early days, believe me I know I have been there. It was only when my youngest son was 2 and a half was I able to really work with his developmental problems properly. Do I wish I was able to earlier or that I knew what I know now when he was a baby...absolutely. But I can't go back and its better to focus on what I can do to help him now.


  • Gross motor skills are the movements and skills children learn such as rolling, crawling, sitting, standing etc.

  • Keep it simple - get your babies out of containers and onto the floor in a variety of positions with a few simple toys.

  • For children of all ages make sure they get outside for unstructured play everyday.

  • We don't always know the reason why some children have gross motor delays but the important thing is to get intervention. If you have concerns about your child's gross motor development please get in touch. When it comes to development its always better to be proactive than to wait and see... you might regret waiting but you won't regret getting help for your child if its needed.

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