How Can An Occupational Therapist Help Develop Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills?

How Can An Occupational Therapist Help Develop Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills? | NHWS | Occupational Therapy Clinic in Tigard Oregon

Your child’s gross motor skills play a crucial role in their development.

For instance, gross motor skills are necessary for a variety of movements, such as crawling, walking, running, and hopping.

Delays in gross motor skills development may interfere with your child’s ability to learn in school, achieve independence, form a positive self image, and much more.

Therefore, early identification and correction of gross motor skills delays is extremely important.

Occupational therapy for kids near me can help.

Keep reading to find out how.

What Is Gross Motor Coordination?

Your gross motor skills require coordination between your muscles and neurological system.

Gross motor skills typically involve whole body movements.

Therefore, several muscles in your torso, arms, and legs are involved in your gross motor skills.

Your neurological system is responsible for sending instructions to those muscles.

For example, you wouldn’t be able to walk without your brain telling your legs when to move.

Without this coordination, gross motor skills can become difficult to perform properly.

Why Is Gross Motor Coordination Important?

Gross motor coordination is important for a vast number of skills, including:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Body awareness
  • Physical strength and stamina
  • Core stability
  • Crossing midline
  • Reaction time

In fact, gross motor coordination is essential for virtually all your body’s movements.

Typically, children develop this coordination over time through repetition and practice.

However, some children struggle with gross motor skill delays.

Children with gross motor skill delays often struggle with a variety of skills that are essential to their development, such as:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Skipping
  • Sitting
  • Standing
  • Hand eye coordination

Additionally, gross motor skill delays can cause children to struggle academically due to their inability to sit and engage in class, participate in physical education, play on the playground, and navigate the school.

This can affect the development of their social skills as well.

Finally, gross motor skills are also important for the development of fine motor skills.

These are the skills your child needs to do things like grab and pick things up, write, self care skills, and other activities of daily living.

Therefore, gross motor coordination is extremely important for your child’s overall wellbeing.

Conscious Vs Automatic Gross Motor Coordination

There are two types of gross motor coordination.

Conscious gross motor coordination refers to activities that require focus to perform.

For example, learning a new skill or following new instructions both require conscious gross motor coordination.

On the other hand, automatic gross motor coordination refers to higher level activities that can be performed without thinking about it.

For example, walking is typically performed with automatic gross motor coordination.

During early childhood, children learn a variety of new skills that initially require significant focus to perform but, overtime, become automatic.

This switch is important to free up brain space in order to focus on other things, such as academic information.

How To Tell If Your Child Has Gross Motor Coordination Issues

Since children develop at different rates, gross motor coordination issues may be hard to identify.

Developmental milestone guidelines are useful in identifying possible delays in your child.

For instance, by one year of age, your child should be able to stand without assistance and take a few steps while holding onto furniture for support.

If your child is struggling with their gross motor coordination, you may also notice that they:

  • Have delays in their developmental milestones, such as crawling and walking
  • Avoid playing games that require physical tasks
  • Have poor endurance when playing sports or performing physical tasks
  • Have poor posture when sitting
  • Struggle to perform physical activities and movements involving sequences, such as an obstacle course
  • Are clumsy and accident prone

How To Tell If Your Child Has Gross Motor Coordination Issues | NHWS | Occupational Therapy Clinic in Tigard Oregon

Conditions Associated With Gross Motor Skills

Certain medical conditions may affect your child’s gross motor skills.

These include:


ADD/ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder associated with difficulties with attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.

Children with ADHD often struggle with motor skills, such as balance and coordination.

These difficulties often interfere with daily activities, getting dressed, feeding, and washing.

As a result, occupational therapy for kids with ADHD often focuses on these issues.

2. Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities often struggle with multiple gross motor skills, including use of large muscle groups, balancing, and planning of motor movements.

Therefore, children with learning disabilities may also struggle with everyday tasks, such as learning to walk and ride a bike as well as playing.

Learning disabilities can often affect a child’s speech, so they may need pediatric speech therapy as well.

3. Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder associated with difficulties with communication, learning, and behavior.

Children with autism spectrum disorder often struggle with their gross motor skills, such as walking, holding objects, moving objects between hands, and balance.

These difficulties can range from mild to severe.

Additionally, babies with autism spectrum disorder typically move their arms and legs less than their peers.

4. Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a congenital disorder associated with atypical chromosomal development.

One of the physical symptoms of down syndrome is low muscle tone throughout the body.

Low muscle tone can affect a child’s ability to develop their gross motor skills.

Therefore, children with down syndrome often struggle with gross motor skills, such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, and jumping.

How Can An Occupational Therapist Help With Gross Motor Skills Development?

Occupational therapists frequently work with children struggling with their motor skills development.

Your child’s occupational therapist can help to improve their independence and performance of a variety of daily living skills, such as getting dressed and eating.

Depending on your child’s specific strengths and weaknesses, an occupational therapist may use a variety of strategies aimed to focus on different aspects of motor skills.

Some occupational strategies for gross motor skills development include:

  • Core strengthening exercises to improve stability, coordination, and balance
  • Breaking large physical tasks down into smaller, more manageable tasks
  • Stimulating the senses to enhance attention and complete activities
  • Slowly adding more intense tasks to develop stamina and tolerance
  • Asking your child to state their plan of action before performing it

Book Your Appointment With New Horizons Wellness Services Today

At New Horizons Wellness Services, our qualified occupational therapists have a special interest in helping children develop their gross motor skills.

Does your child seem to have issues with their gross motor skills?

If so, we can help.

Book your appointment with New Horizons Wellness Services today.

Yours in Health,

New Horizons Wellness Services
13333 SW 68th Pkwy,
Tigard, OR 97223


New Horizons Wellness Services provides a true multidisciplinary approach to mental & physical health treatments for children, adults and families.