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Gross motor skills and low muscle tone


Gross motor skills and low muscle tone

By Rosemary Marchese, Physiotherapist and Schroth Physio for Scoliosis

Gross motor skills are the physical movements and skills that require whole body movement to perform functions such as sitting upright, standing, running and walking. Gross motor skills also include activities involving hand-eye coordination such as throwing, catching and kicking is also included. These skills are super important because it helps kids be able to participate in everyday life activities such as running, skipping, catching and generally playing sport.

Does my child have problems with gross motor skills?

Children with problems with gross motor skills will often present with one or more of the following:

  • Late to sit, crawl, walk, run and hop
  • Clumsiness and proneness to falls and injury
  • Preference for sedentary activities
  • Avoids sports and physical play
  • Gets tired easily
  • Falling asleep in class or struggling to sit up straight at a school table or dinner table
  • Difficulty with skills such as catching, hitting a ball or navigating an obstacle course
  • Difficulty with climbing.

Does gross motor skill development affect other skills?

Children with difficulty with gross motor skills may also have trouble with fine motor skills and other skills that require them to be able to hold their body upright. If they are getting tired or overstimulated then it is going to be harder for them to hold a pencil for longer, get dressed independently, use cutlery at the table. Chewing and swallowing food may even be tricky for them. They may also dribble or have difficulty manipulating small toys.

How do I help my child develop gross motor skills?

Children will need a step by step plan that incorporates ‘achievable’ milestones for them. They are not going to love climbing high ropes if they have little strength or endurance. Things to work on to set the foundation for improving gross motor skills include:

  • Muscle strength
  • Muscle endurance
  • Motor learning, so that past training translates into improvements in the future
  • Sensory awareness and awareness the sensory stimulation around them, e.g. negotiating how to catch a ball when it is windy compared to not windy
  • Body awareness where they know where their body is in space
  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Skills with crossing the midline
  • Muscle tone

Fun activities to help my child develop gross motor skills

  1. Obstacle courses
  2. Hop scotch
  3. Catching and throwing
  4. Simon Says so that they know where their body is in space
  5. Wheelbarrow walking
  6. Large and soft ball games and balloons
  7. Climbing
  8. Swimming
  9. Monkey bars in parks

Do I need help for my child?

Getting some therapeutic help can be beneficial for the child and also as a support for parents. Structuring a plan of action can be tricky and knowing when and how to progress children can be discussed. If you are struggling with a plan of action then that is a good time to get some help. If your child is refusing to participate in fun play or sport with friends, falling or injuring themselves or fatiguing quickly then acquiring extra help can also be beneficial.

If you have any questions feel free to call us on (02) 8914 0608 at Max Sports Physiotherapy Clinic. We work with lots of children in this area, plus we have a Kids’ Stretch and Strength program, making strength and flexibility super fun. We can also put you in touch with other professionals who may be able to support you if required. This may include a paediatrician (with specialties in relevant areas such as low muscle tone), psychologist (to ensure that nothing more can be done to help the child) and dietitian (to help with energy levels).

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