Gross motor skills are large movements that we perform with our whole body, the ability to move our arms, legs and torso in a functional manner. They are usually developed throughout a typical timeline of milestones in early childhood; siting, crawling, walking, jumping, running. Motor development is key when it comes to being able to physically navigate the world.
Studies have shown that sometimes there is a link between autism and a delay in gross motor skills, however they are not considered a trait as sometimes they can be linked with other conditions or disabilities. Autism may not be present in the first few years or life, but a later diagnosis may in fact show that the delay in early motor skills was relevant to autism. Difficulties with motor skills may involve anything that relies on balance, body awareness and motor control.
Differences in connectivity between brain regions could help explain some difficulties that may be present for those who have autism, such as;
-Having an uncoordinated gait
-Difficulty coordinating bilateral movements
-Struggle with spatial awareness
-Difficulty with motor planning skills
-Delayed compared to that of their peers
Gross motor skills are an important everyday skill that allows individuals to move and function. Moving our bodies can actually take a considerable amount of skill, especially when there are challenges involved. It’s important to work on gross motor skills consistently from a young age, the more we move the more we are able to coordinate both sides of the brain which improves overall coordination. Exercise and movement are important to lead a healthy life, to release happy endorphins and in particular for ASD to assist in adequate regulation.
Simple home DIY home activity ideas for a 9-year old
Hopscotch – You can’t go past a great game of hopscotch. Make one inside using tape on the floor or draw one outside on the concrete using chalk.
To make it even more motivating add some music and when it stops, they need to freeze where they are without falling.
Laundry basket goal – All you need for this simple game is a balloon, 2 x laundry baskets and 2 x bats (paper towel rolls, cut up pool noodles, fly swatters or paper plate with a paddle pop attached). This game is more fun with two players. Place the two laundry baskets at either end of a room. Both players start in the middle and need to try to bat the balloon past their opponent to get a goal in their laundry basket.
Obstacle course – Obstacle courses are a ‘go to’ for gross motor practice! The great thing about them is that you can really use anything to make one.
To make a DIY home obstacle course simply get creative and use items from around the home. Here are some ideas of options you could create for your own course.
-Crawling under the dining table
-Zig zagging between dining room chairs
-Using mattresses for a crash mat or to roll across
-Lounge cushions and pillows to crawl across
-Tape on the ground as a stepping ladder
-Hula hoops to jump into
-Post its on the ground to act as ‘stations’, each of them can have a different action
-Bear walks down the hallway
-Tape on the ground to balance across a line
Throwing at a target – For this activity you will need a large box and socks. Simply cut some holes in the box and give each hole some points. Use rolled up socks to throw into the holes. Person with the largest score is the winner.
Dancing – There are so many fun and motivating dance clips on youtube now. ‘The fitness Marshall’ and ‘Just dance ‘are a heap of fun. Google some together and have a laugh trying to copy all the dance moves.
Bowling – Bowling is always a motivating game to engage in some gross motor skills. There are so many different materials that you can use to set up your own game. Water bottles, cut up pool noodles, paper towel rolls or Tupperware built up as the pins and then any type of ball.
Tug a war towel – This is a fun one that is bound to get everyone motivated to move. Simply grab a towel for some rounds of ‘Tug a war’ and put some tape or a pencil on the ground as the middle marker.
Balloon boxing – Hang some balloons from the ceiling using crepe paper or string as some little DIY speed boxers.
Plank skating – Have any bits of wood laying around? If so cut them up and add felt to the bottom to make some skates. An alternative to wood could be to use some paper plates.
Pool noodle painting – Get those shoulders working by using a pool noodle as a painting tool! Secure some butchers paper to the wall and have the child dip the pool noodle in paint to roll it up the wall above their head.
String trap – This is a fun one that will really test gross motor coordination!
You need a hallway and some string. Secure string with tape or blue tac to each side of the wall, repeat down the hallway ensuring that you make it at all different heights. The aim is to crawl under and hop over it without touching the string.
Giant driveway maze – Get creative and make a huge sidewalk maze using chalk. Time how long it takes them to get to the middle. Each time they need to complete it doing a different movement (run, walk, hop, walking backwards).
DIY twister – Use paper to cut coloured circles out to stick on the ground. Call out the actions that they need to perform. For example, “Place your right foot on a green circle and then your left hand on a yellow circle”.
Balloon volleyball – For this activity you will need some string, 2 dining chairs, a balloon and rackets (fly swatters, paper towel rolls with paper plates attached etc). Tie the string to the chairs, the players play on their knees and need to hit the balloon over the string.
Dice exercises – Make up some dice using some cardboard. On each side put on action. You could make two and one of them could be the action while the other one can say at what speed or how many times they need to perform the action.
Laundry basket balloon races – For this activity you will need some balloons and two laundry baskets (or large containers). Place the laundry baskets at one end and have all the balloons at the other end. The aim is to get the balloons all in the laundry basket as fast as possible, the tricky part is that the balloon has to stay in between the knees at all times. If it drops, they need to start back at the start.
Paddle pop stick exercises – Write a range of different exercises on paddle pop sticks, make some of them silly (jump through the house like a frog while barking like a dog). Have the child close their eyes and pick out one paddle pop stick at a time for 30 seconds each time.
Engaging in gross motor games is not only beneficial for physical benefits but it also has a positive impact on behaviour and mood. Encouraging your child to be active in a fun and playful way will enhance their overall wellbeing.