Effective Practice Guides

Gross Motor: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-PMP 3. Child demonstrates effective and efficient use of large muscles for movement and position.
  • IT-PMP 4. Child demonstrates effective and efficient use of large muscles to explore the environment.
  • IT-PMP 5. Child uses sensory information and body awareness to understand how their body relates to the environment.

Teaching Practices


Engage children in experiences that support gross motor skills.
After playing a game of rolling a ball back and forth, Talia, 8 months, sits on the carpet across from Ms. Barco, her family child care provider. Ms. Barco reaches out, grasps Talia's hands, and gently pulls her to standing. She says, "Talia, are you standing up?" Talia bends her knees and bounces up and down. Ms. Barco continues, "Talia, you are so tall." Talia gurgles in response. Ms. Barco loosens her grasp so Talia can sit if she wants to. Talia wants to keep bouncing, however, so Ms. Barco makes up a song, "Talia likes to stand up tall, stand up tall, stand up tall."

Demonstrate successful strategies for gaining certain gross motor skills.
Older toddlers Akim and Valeria are tossing bean bags into a laundry basket. Valeria's bean bags get into the basket almost every time. Akim's soar past the basket and onto the floor behind it. After watching for a while, Ms. Reyes steps in. She says to Akim, "I think you are so strong that your tosses go too far." She models a successful throw saying, "Try throwing more gently and swinging your arm like this."  


Create a setting in which children can move their bodies safely while being challenged to enhance gross motor skills.
The toddler play yard has a large open area where children kick large balls. Rafael, 28 months, kicks his ball at the fence. "I did it," he says when the ball hits its target. Ava, 26 months, kicks her ball into a large crate turned on its side to create a target. "Again," says Ava when her ball goes wide of the crate. She runs to pick it up so she can kick it again. Mr. Baez suggests, "Ava, try moving a little closer to the crate." Ava agrees, and Rafael says, "Me, too." Both toddlers continue kicking their balls toward the crate until it is time to go inside.

Place safe toys and play materials where children can see and reach for them.
Hugo, 11 months, crawls quickly toward a basket of toy vehicles in the block area. Once there, he pulls the basket off the shelf and onto the floor. Next, Hugo looks for the red tractor with the little man driving it. Ms. Alba says, "Hugo, you found your favorite red tractor—traktè a wouj. It looks like the ones at the farm where your mom and dad work. You can push it on the floor as you crawl." Hugo scoots along using one hand to balance while the other hand rolls the tractor.  


Suggest a strategy or approach that will allow a child to experience success in accomplishing a gross motor task or challenge.
Nicholas, 10 months, crawls under the dining room table during a home visit. His mother, Ms. Donnelly, looks through the chair legs and asks, "Nicky, are you stuck?" Nicholas holds up his arms and whimpers. Ms. Donnelly says to their home visitor, Ms. Kingman, "I can't reach him." Nicholas continues to whimper. Ms. Kingman suggests to Ms. Donnelly, "Perhaps you could move a chair and then he can get out." Ms. Donnelly agrees with the suggestion and guides Nicholas through turning around and backing out through the opening. Once Nicholas is out, his mother picks him up and says, "Silly Nicky. You found a way in but it was hard to get out."

Respect a child's individual pace for developing gross motor skills.
Soren, 34 months, has shown some interest in riding a tricycle. Ms. Genoa has seen him use a trike several times, but he moves it with just his feet and not the pedals. Today she asks him, "Do you want to learn to pedal?" Soren shakes his head and says, "No pedals." Ms. Genoa says, "That's fine. Tell me when you are ready and I will help you learn." Soren nods and scoots away on the trike

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-PMP 1. Child demonstrates control, strength, and coordination of large muscles.
  • P-PMP 2. Child uses perceptual information to guide motions and interactions with objects and other people.

Teaching Practices


Provide physical and emotional support for building gross motor skills.
At the start of each group socialization session, the children take turns saying what they plan to do that day. Lance announces, "I'm climbing up to the loft." Ms. Unger, his mother, and home visitor Mr. Todd exchange puzzled looks, both thinking, "In the past, Lance has been reluctant to climb so high." The adults have a quick conversation while the children head off to carry out their plans. Ms. Unger says, "I'll keep an eye on Lance so I am available when he decides to climb." Mr. Todd responds, "I think that is a great idea. He may need your encouragement."

Engage children in games and activities that support perceptual and gross motor development.
"We're going to play 'balloon tennis' today," says Ms. Wallis at morning meeting. She demonstrates how to tape a wooden paint stirrer to a sturdy paper plate to make a racket. "Can everyone make a racket?" asks Carla, 4 years old, who uses a wheelchair. "Yes, you can," responds Ms. Wallis. "You'll find tape and plates in the art area. If anyone wants a racket with an extra-long handle they can tape two stirrers together." After choice time, the children take their rackets to the gym where they find a dozen balloons ready for play. Ms. Wallis says, "Let's try to keep all of the balloons in the air." The children work hard watching where the balloons go and using their legs (for Carla, her wheelchair), upper body, and arms to reach the balloons before they fall to the floor.


Create a setting in which children can move their bodies safely while taking age-appropriate risks.
On a community walk to the park, Talia and Niko, both 4½, spy a grassy hill. Niko asks, "Can we roll down the hill?" Talia and Ms. DePaz scan the hillside for rocks and other hazards. When they see none, Ms. DePaz says, "Yes, let's all roll down the hill." She rolls first so she can stand at the bottom to make sure the children are okay as they roll down. Mr. Trent waits at the top describing the different ways children position their bodies to roll and offering encouragement to those who need it. "Talia, try tucking your arms in close to your body to see if that helps you roll better."

Offer toys and equipment that fit a range of physical abilities so all children can succeed and progress.
In their family child care home, Kimi and Whit, both 3, are walking along a wide piece of tape on the floor. Kimi moves quickly, heel to toe, all the way to the end. Whit takes a bit longer and loses his balance a few times. Next to them, Jack is walking along a balance beam. He's a little wobbly too, but makes it to the end without falling off. Ms. Lester, the family child care provider, has been watching the children test their skills. She says, "I see you are watching where your feet go and using your arms to stay balanced. That's a good strategy." 


Suggest a strategy or approach that will allow a child to experience success in a gross motor task or challenge.
Raffi, age 4, wants to climb up the ladder to the loft where his friends are reading books. He gets most of the way up, but then can't quite make the last step. Ms. Barnes suggests, "Put both feet on the top rung. Then put your hands on the floor of the loft and crawl onto the surface. Let's see if that works."

Suggest multiple gross motor options children can choose from during an activity.
Ms. Dean knows that some of the preschoolers have a long ride home to the other side of the reservation. After the rain stops and the clouds give way to sunshine, she takes the children outdoors to get their wiggles out and to help them be ready to sit during the bus ride. She has half of them line up at one end of the playground and the other half at the other end. Then, she challenges them to meet in the middle. "You can walk, hop, skip, or jump your way to the middle," she instructs. "You decide how you want to move. Ready, set, go!"

Last Updated: December 3, 2019