4 Tips For Developing Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills

Posted by

Alicia Amsberry, PT, DPT

Time to read

3 minutes

A developmental milestone is an acquired skill a child learns at a specific time in the development process. They come in all shapes and forms, and some are more easily recognizable than others are. Some developmental milestones can even come in the form of sleep regressions, food discrimination, and behavior around the home.

developmental milestones

In this article, we focus on the development of your child’s gross motor skills. To monitor a child’s developmental milestones in this arena, a child’s development is broken down into five main areas.

  1. Physical Development:
    1. Gross Motor Skills – movements related to large muscle groups, such as arms, legs, and trunk
    2. Fine Motor Skills – movements coordinated by the hands and fingers in order to complete small tasks 
  1. Cognitive Development: reasoning, thinking, problem-solving, learning, understanding, and remembering 
  1. Sensory Development: reaction and recognition of smells, sounds, sights, and textures; interaction with the environment 
  1. Language Development: communicating, using body language and gestures, speaking, and understanding what others say
  1. Social and Emotional Development:
    1. Social Development – interacting with others; responding to the feelings of others
    2. Emotional Development – understanding one’s own feelings and appropriate ways to express them; feelings and emotional responses to events  

With a focus on gross motor development, here’s how to help your baby or child strengthen these skills.

gross motor skills

Facilitate and Encourage Floor Time

Typically babies who spend more time on the floor or on their tummy will roll sooner. Tummy time allows for muscle strengthening and movement development for future motor milestones. Oftentimes babies will become frustrated and fussy while on their tummies or when on the floor. It is important to show your baby how they can move (rolling) so that they learn to be independent movers rather than dependent on someone else to pick them up. 

Tips and Tricks 

  • Encourage tummy time throughout the day. 
  • Provide opportunities for rolling to occur through both left and right sides.
  • Use motivating and encouraging toys or objects. 
  • Prop baby on their side with a pillow to promote side-lying and encourage rolling stomach to back. 
  • If your baby has a preference for rolling to one side, block that side to encourage rolling to the other side. 

Decrease The Amount of Time in “Containers”

Baby containers = car seats, bumbo seats, jumpers, walkers, floor seats, infant carriers, etc.

Any device that limits a baby’s movements is considered a container. They are everywhere. In magazines, all over social media, in stores, and various other places being promoted for all to see. Placing a baby in one of these containers for long periods of time can limit all areas of development, limit problem-solving skills, cause deformity and lead to poor movement patterns. 


To prevent “container” baby syndrome:

  • Limit the time your baby is in a container.
  • Increase your baby’s floor time/tummy time 
  • Hold your baby for short periods of time throughout the day
  • Let your baby play freely on the floor or in a play pin

Limit Screen Time

Limit screen time to encourage opportunities for indoor and outdoor play, which results in improving gross motor development. 

  • Indoor Play: create obstacle courses, build forts, 
  • Outdoor Play: climbing, running, swinging, swimming, 

Make It Fun; Get The Whole Family Involved 

Babies learn best through play and from watching others. If you have siblings or other family members, get them involved in playing on the floor with your baby. Find toys that are interesting and actively engage your baby. Making play fun will result in more positive floor time experiences for your baby; leading to more participation from your baby. 

Timeframe for Reaching Milestones

Developmental milestones should be reached within a certain time frame, in order for children to reach their full potential. Children will acquire new skills through their own learning and experiences and will develop at their own rate. 

A delay in one developmental milestone or a short-lived delay is not caused for too much concern.  When a child does not meet multiple milestones, there may be a more global issue present.  The lack of skill development may suggest a broader problem and the baby may need to receive assistance or help to achieve those milestones.

If you feel your baby or child is not reaching their developmental milestones please reach out and book a free consultation with us. We’d be happy to help.