Developing gross motor skills


A recent report from Foundation Years states that many early years children are not being physically active for 3 hours a day (linked to the childhood obesity epidemic). 3 hours is the recommended daily activity level to ensure children develop appropriately: physical activity links to healthy growth and building strong bodies.

The requirement for early years providers to support children’s gross motor skills is found in the ‘moving’ aspect of Physical Development (Early Years Outcomes) which is a prime area of learning. Further guidance is provided by NHS Choices here.

Physical development is a huge area of learning: for example, babies sit and crawl, toddlers walk and roll and children run, climb, jump, skip, hop and learn to ride a bike.

There are a lot of advantages to getting children up and moving – both in the house and outside in the garden. We notice that children are more alert with increased mental awareness after a period of physical activity; when moving around outside there is more space so they can be freer with their movements; when they are moving around we can observe children learning the gross motor skills they will need to balance and coordinate movements etc.

We have been putting together an outside play gross motor skills activity booklet over the last few months for the children to use in the hopes that it will inspire and excite them to try some different activities linked to physical development – movement. We want to encourage them to choose from a range of activity ideas to extend their play.

Some of the ideas we have included, with pictures to support our younger children to make choices, are –

  • Joining in with our ‘wake up shake up’ morning dance session
  • Balls, balloons and bean bags for throwing, catching, rolling and kicking
  • Balancing games
  • Hopscotch – we have a painted hopscotch and some big number mats
  • Dance mat to make music with our feet
  • Fishing with nets and jam jars to the local duck pond
  • Skipping ropes – great for balancing games
  • Parachute games
  • Games with a practitioner or older child taking the lead such as ‘follow the leader’ and ‘Simon says’
  • Digging – we have a digging trough in the garden for the children
  • Dancing – waving scarves to music and joining in with movement songs
  • Obstacle courses – the children set them up and help each other
  • Painting projects with spray bottles or water and brushes
  • Games to music – musical bumps or statues
  • Bubbles – we chase and catch them
  • Daily music and movement session
  • Painting the walls with big brushes
  • Silly races – sideways, rolling, hopping, jumping etc
  • Stop – go / red light – green light road safety game
  • Sweeping and tidying the garden
  • Gardening is great fun and we try to plan something plant related every month
  • Bear hunts in the local woods
  • Collecting leaves, conkers or fir cones for craft activities
  • Standing up when doing playdough or painting
  • Paper aeroplanes to make and throw
  • Tidying up to music or silly songs – putting things away and keeping the space safe
  • Mopping up spilled water or using the dustpan and brush to sweep up
  • Nature walks to collect natural finds we can use for craft and sorting
  • Bikes and scooters in the garden – small ride on toys in the house
  • Messy play – we plan something sensory for the children to explore every day
  • Water play – we have a small water wall and water in trays for the children to use – we make boats and experiment with floating and sinking
  • Outings to the park – we try to visit the playground every week with as many children as we can… they love the space which allows them to move around freely and the challenges on different types of equipment.

Risk assessments – we carefully risk assess all the activities we plan for the children. We check equipment and resources to ensure safety and we consider the ages and developmental stages of the children involved and the level of supervision we might need to offer.

Parents – you can monitor children’s ‘typical behaviour’ in your copy of ‘What to expect when? A parents guide’ … and plan more activities to support their learning when you have observed what they can do.

Practitioners – e-book 6 ‘Outside play’ from Knutsford Childminding contains many more activity ideas including advice about how to set up your garden for childminding.

Foundation Years have provided us with this poster to share with parents – we have displayed it on our parents notice board.

3 hours physical activity a day

Further reading – if you want to find out more about how to support children’s developing physical activities, I recommend you read this blog from Janet Lansbury which advises allowing children to learn new skills in their own time.

More inspiration – I have included lots of outside play activity ideas on my ‘Welly Wednesdays’ Pinterest board.

Chat soon, Sarah | Knutsford Childminding




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