All babies are unique and all have their own rhythm. These exercises to stimulate their gross motor and spatial skills can be a playful moment that allows you to promote their muscular, cognitive, and affective development.
The exercises that stimulate a baby’s gross motor and spatial skills are part of the care and attention that parents must give to their children. Through play, they get to know the muscles that are part of their psychomotor and neurological development.
Exercises that include activities with balls, rattles and specific movements stimulate arm, hand, and leg skills as well as hand-eye coordination. Babies are born ready to learn at their own pace and rhythm.
However, early stimulation is beneficial for physical and emotional development. Later, this is reflected in their academic performance. Gross motor skills, unlike fine motor skills, strengthen the legs, upper body, and arms, which helps us develop balance to be able to sit, stand and crawl.
What are gross motor skills?
Gross motor skills are the ability that we develop to perform movements with several large muscle groups. They help the body perform many general movements in a coordinated manner. Each time we do this, we gain better control over balance and changes in posture.
Although gross motor skills are more visible due to the bodily and spatial area they cover, they are complemented by fine motor skills. Basically, as you will see below, gross motor skills involve movements and control that allow us to perform a wide range of movements, which we then adjust and refine with our fingers, eyes, and tongue.
Move your head
Newborn babies can move their heads from side to side, but they cannot control their necks and need support to lift their heads. The eyes are one of the first body parts that the child can touch on purpose.
In fact, sound stimulation from voices or other general sounds can cause the child to move his head and look at the source. In the second month of his life, your baby will be able to lift his head when he or she is lying on his stomach. This will also happen to a greater extent when there are stimuli that capture the child’s attention.
Learn to use your arms
In its second month of life, the baby will wave its arms if it is exciting. This is a function of gross motor skills, but we also see how they discover and become fascinated by their own hands.
After trying many times, he or she will eventually succeed in bringing the hands up to the mouth and sucking on them. At first, children will insert an entire fist, but as they develop more control, they can suck on one finger at a time.
In the third month, the baby will kick so much that she or he will be able to turn from the stomach to back. Therefore, it is risky to leave them unattended on the changing table or bed.
They can do this because they have created an integrated sensorimotor perception of the body parts working together. They get ready to, for example, move toward an object, a beam of light, or their mother’s arms. Their gross motor skills give them the impulse which their eyes and hands then complete through the vestibular sense.
Follow an object
This skill uses all of the above: neck control, use of the arms, and rotation of the body. The baby uses these to get up on all fours and move towards an attractive element that has caught its attention.
If the baby reaches the object, he will definitely take it in his hands. From the age of eight months, babies can also sit down to explore such objects. When they are interested enough, their eyes, mouth, tongue, gums, and teeth are activated. These help the baby explore and learn to recognize the world.
Catching a ball
All the complicated processes that we can imagine are what happens when the child catches a ball. This skill begins to appear in infants at 24 months of age. Balancing with outstretched arms and then catching a ball requires motor planning, hand-eye coordination, and bilateral thinking.
Exercises to stimulate your baby’s gross motor skills at different ages
To perform the exercises, the child must be alert and calm. You should try to make the activity fun and enjoyable by using music and games. Also, be aware of what your body language, voice, and facial expressions convey. Celebrate each achievement with joyful shouts and applause.
Exercises for your baby’s gross motor skills: From 0 to 3 months
1. Let the child lie on his back. Hold it in your fingers and help it slowly lift itself up to a sitting position for a few seconds. Then make sure you help the child lie down again. It is not a good idea to keep them in a sitting position for any length of time. After two months of age, they will try to hold their head steady during this exercise.
2. In the same position, lying on your back, raise your arms to your chest for a few seconds and then stretch them out. This exercise promotes their breathing and strengthens their arms.
3. Lay the baby on his stomach and let his chin rest on your arms. This helps strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.
4. When the baby is three months old, lay her or him on his or her back and ring a bell on the opposite side to the one the baby is looking at. The child will turn his head to look for the source of the sound.
Exercises for your baby’s gross motor skills: From 4 to 7 months
5. Place the baby on the stomach and present something interesting, such as a toy, to entice the baby to lift its head. He or she will try to get up on their arms and lean on their hands.
6. Now we will take a closer look at one of the exercises for how you can stimulate a child’s gross motor skills. This exercise involves laying him or her on the back and holding your fingers so that the baby lifts up. In this phase, the baby will support his head. From the age of 5 months, your baby will be able to sit with some support and from 6 months the baby will be able to do it independently for a few seconds.
Once babies can sit up without help, they will try to move around on their own. To motivate your baby, you can try to entice her or him to reach for an object that you notice sparks interest. After six months, the baby’s eyes will follow an object if you drop it.
Exercises for your baby’s gross motor skills: From 8 months to 1 year
7. It’s time for them to take their first steps! We suggest you sit the baby up in front of you, hold their hands and lift them until the baby stands up. Then move first one of the baby’s arms forward and then the other.
8. During this period they will try to stand up when supported. Their spine needs to get stronger. So you can hold your baby’s legs and lift him or her all the way up for about two or three seconds. To train the legs, you can lay the child on his back, hold on to the ankles and then move the legs as if he were riding a bicycle.
Exercises for your baby’s gross motor skills: From 1 year and up
9. Balance is essential in this intense phase. One exercise involves having the child pick up toys from the floor, challenging the child to bend down and stand up with the object in their hands.
10. Another interesting exercise and fun game is rolling a ball. The idea here is that your baby receives the ball, sees it roll, rolls it himself, and follows it with his body and eyes. The interactive cycle is closed when the baby catches the ball and throws it.
Exercises to stimulate a child’s gross motor skills to promote their development
It is important not to force or stress the child’s musculoskeletal development. Every child is unique and every child has their own framework for how fast their development can go. We recommend that you keep an eye on your expectations and compare them with statistics and normal development curves. Your most important job is to make sure your child is healthy and happy.
Never force a small child to walk with aids such as learn-to-walk strollers. It is better to let them crawl. Keep them on the floor as long as possible and let them explore and discover areas of your home freely under supervision. When they crawl, they are working on developing the skills necessary for their overall bodily balance.
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