Written by Robyn Papworth – Exercise Physiologist and Developmental EducatorWhenever I explain the work that I do with children’s motor development, I like to start by describing one of the children that I have worked with. Today I would like to introduce you to a young 3 year old boy who has difficulty with his balance and leg strength.
By the age of 3 years we expect children to be able to
- stand up from the floor without using their hands to push off of their legs or hold on to a chair,
- step up onto and over a small step (gutter or timber sleeper) without holding on to a rail or an adult’s hand
- run in a straight line in a nice smooth motion without falling over.
The young man that I have been working with found these three milestones listed above quite difficult. When he stood up from the floor he pushed off of the floor using his hands. His hands then rest on his knees as he straightened his legs into standing position. Secondly, this young man found it difficult walking through a playground without holding on to an adult’s hand as getting up and down steps, sleepers, and small ladders was a challenge for him. Additionally, his running style included a wide hip action with minimal movement coming from his feet. You could hear him stomp as he walked and ran.
Now you’re probably wondering, why do I need to read this?
Well, this young boy seems ‘typical’ for his age in his kindergarten class. Unless you closely monitor his gross motor movements you wouldn’t tend to notice his challenges.
How do you miss these challenges? Quite easily…
Children tend to avoid activities that they find challenging or activities which make them feel nervous. So he avoided outdoor gross motor activities and equipment which challenged his balance. Instead he played with cars and imaginative play inside where there were less obstacles to walk around and it only required him to sit at a table top activity or stand up from the floor using furniture and shelving nearby.
It was his mum who highlighted her concerns from a very young age, and with a team of 3 allied health professionals he is now making great improvements with his gross motor development.
The point of this story?
Encourage children to participate in all different activities, with adult supervision of course!
To develop gross motor skills ‘typical’ for a 3 year old, children need to practice running in a straight line, getting on and off the floor without using their hands, stepping up and down from small steps using their balance and core strength, jump with two feet on the spot, marching with high knees on the spot, and throwing and catching a large soft ball.
To learn more about gross motor skill development and how to play gross motor activities with a busy toddler, come and order your copy of my early learning motor skills book here.