This is the perfect time of the year to explore the outdoors and the ideal opportunity to support children’s motor development. According to the Center for Disease Control, 12.7 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are obese. The obesity rate was higher among Hispanics (21.9%) and non-Hispanic blacks (19.5%) than among non-Hispanic whites (14.7%). These statistics provide a prime reason to get kids moving. Introducing children to outdoor activities allows them the opportunity to enhance their gross motor skills in authentic ways.
Gross motor development encompasses the use of various large muscles which can be divided into three main categories: locomotor, manipulative, and non-locomotor (stability). Locomotor movements involve moving from one place to another. Walking, running, sliding, and leaping are considered locomotor movements. Manipulative movements involve giving or receiving objects with force. Throwing, kicking, and catching are types of manipulative movements. Lastly, non-locomotor movements are movements that do not cause the body to travel. Bending, twisting, pulling, and pushing are some examples of non-locomotor movements.
Children need many opportunities to develop and practice all types of large motor skills. Verbal cues and modeling can support children in the process of learning motor skills. Meeting children at their level of ability and interest allows children to feel safe and gain a sense of accomplishment in mastering large motor skills.
Below is a list of ways to encourage large motor development:
1. Schedule time for extended periods of unstructured play
2. Introduce games that require the use of large muscles i.e. kicking, running, throwing
3. Make gross motor activities exciting and interesting
4. Plan daily movement experiences
5. Encourage children to enjoy and embrace the process of learning
6. Challenge children to expand their skill level
Introducing children to the outdoors can be a wonderful experience that supports their motor development and provides opportunities to address obesity and health concerns. So don’t miss the chance to enjoy your time in the great outdoors!