Gross Motor skills are the skills that allow the whole body to move. So we’re talking about the large muscles in the legs, arms and the torso. You’ll see children making good use of these skills when you go out onto any school playground when they’re hanging from monkey bars or thrashing a ball around. But for some children where they have a disconnect between their physical body and their spacial awareness, their gross motor skills aren’t developed as easily and naturally as it is for other children. Something called a ‘Propreoception Disorder ‘can occur when the brain has difficulty understanding the body’s position in the space around it or when it has difficulty making sense of the body’s actions.
In other children there can also be development issues of the muscles. I taught a boy with Dandy Walker Syndrome and abnormalities in the brain affected his muscle coordination. So, he required adult support to take part in some of these P.E. lessons or outdoor games that required balance and coordination of his core muscles.
Like most difficulties, the strength of the gross motor skills is on a scale of none, to some, to many; while some can have serious difficulty walking, others are simply weak in the area of developing gross motor-skills and need practise building the skills through physical activities. There are some questions you can ask to determine if a child may need support developing Gross motor skills:
· An issue balancing, i.e. do they find it hard to balance on one foot?
· Clumsiness, i.e. are they able to carry things a short distance without fumbling or dropping things?
· Posture, i.e. can they sit at their table without causing a physical disturbance to the children around them?
· Coordination, i.e can they walk and do another task, or follow a hopscotch activity?
Once you’ve determined that a child may have issues in this area, you and your SENCO can decide if a referral needs to be nade to an Occupational Therapist. Alternatively you’ll want to inform the parents/carers who should then make an appointment with their GP who can then refer to specialists in this area. In the meantime you may want to decide how to incorporate Gross Motor activities into the child's daily learning. My previous school incorporated OT session into the morning routine, which specific children with identified Gross Motor skill difficulties could attend.
If all of this isn’t possible you can consider to-do the following activities:
· Heavy Work – this includes picking up, carrying and moving items that require the whole body, e.g. boxes of books or stationery. Try and make this a frequent, or if possible, daily activity. The ladies in the school office always love a helper!
· Gym Ball – children can sit on a gym ball during their table activities. This means that during their table-based work, they are able to work on those core muscles without even trying. This is also a lot of fun and motivating.
· Animal Walks – the whole class can get involved in this one in a large space such as the school hall. Call out the name of an animal and ask the children to do the walk around the room mimicking the animal as they believe it move. You make this as quick or as long as you like.
· Hopscotch – you can draw the hopscotch grid using chalk if you need to and this activity is great to support with building counting skills also.
· Jump Rope/Skipping – this engages the core muscles and you can find lots of skipping rhymes online to make it extra fun!
Give these a go and let me know how your children get on!