Play is crucial to the development of children’s gross and fine motor skills. Through play, children practice and perfect control and coordination of large body movements, as well as small movements of hands and fingers. Child care providers can support young children’s motor development by planning play activities that provide children with regular opportunities to move their bodies.
Activities to Support Gross Motor Development
Gross motor skills involve control of the arms, legs, head, and trunk. Child care providers can help children develop gross motor skills by building in opportunities for children to
- throw and catch
- climb up, down, over, under and through things
- pedal tricycles or other ride-on toys
- push and pull
- dump and fill
Specific activities that support gross motor development include running at different speeds, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, tossing and catching balls of different sizes, pitching bean bags, climbing in many different directions, pedaling riding toys, pulling wagons or toys, pushing toy strollers or brooms, and filling and emptying buckets and other containers. Remember that gross motor development happens inside as well as outside. A crawling tunnel, ride-on car, or pull toy can help children practice large movements of their arms and legs.
Activities to Support Fine Motor Development
Fine motor skills involve the careful control of small muscles in the hands, feet, fingers, and toes. Controlling the muscles of the tongue and lips in order to speak or sing is also a fine motor skill. Child care providers can plan activities that encourage children’s developing fine motor skills. Try some of the following activities that practice hand and finger coordination:
- play dough or clay with plastic tools such as scissors or cookie cutters to form into various shapes
- blocks of various sizes to stack and arrange
- beads, macaroni, rigatoni or wheel-shaped cereal to string on yarn or shoelaces
- puzzles with varying size handles or knobs
- scissors, paints, brushes, markers, crayons, and large chalk that are all child-safe
Shared reading is also a great time to encourage fine motor skills. Encourage children to turn the pages of a book. Remember that board books are best for very young children, because the pages are sturdier and easier to manipulate.
For More Information
Gross and fine motor skills are an essential tool that children use in the classroom, at home and on the playground. Play is one of the best ways to strengthen motor skills. When given ample opportunities to play with a variety of interesting materials, young children will grow many new and exciting ways.
To learn more about planning activities that support children’s physical development and encourage active play take a look at the following eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care articles:
- Active Play in Child Care
- Keeping Children Active Indoors
- Supporting Both Large Motor and Small Motor Development in Child Care
- Three “Bs” in Child Care: Blocks, Balls, and Books
- What Child Care Providers Can Expect in Infants’ Physical Development
- What Child Care Providers Can Expect in Toddlers’ Physical Development
- What Child Care Providers Can Expect in Preschoolers’ Physical Development
- What Child Care Providers Can Expect in the Physical Development of 6 – 8 Year Olds
If you are looking for specific activities to use in your child care program, visit our database of Hands-on Activities for Child Care.