10 Exercises to Stimulate Your Baby's Gross Motor Skills

All babies are unique and each one has their own rhythm. These exercises to stimulate their gross motor skills can be a playful interaction that allow you to evaluate their muscular, cognitive, and affective development.
10 Exercises to Stimulate Your Baby's Gross Motor Skills

Last update: 14 October, 2021

The exercises that stimulate a baby’s gross motor skills are part of the care and attention that the parents give to their baby. Through games, they become aware of the muscles that participate in psychomotor and neurological development.

Routines that include activities with balls, rattles, and specific movements stimulate arm, hand, and leg dexterity, as well as hand-eye coordination. Babies are born prepared to learn at their own pace and rhythm.

However, early stimulation benefits bodily and affective development. Later, this is reflected in their academic performance. Gross motor skills, unlike fine motor skills, strengthen the legs, the torso, and the arms, which helps us develop the balance to sit, stand, and crawl.

What are gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills are the ability that children develop to do movements with several muscle groups. They help the body to perform many general movements in a coordinated way. Each time we do this, we gain a better command of balance and changes of position.

Although gross motor skills are more noticeable due to the body and spatial area it involves, fine motor skills complement it. Basically, as you’ll see below, it’s a muscle group that allows us to achieve a wide range of motions that our fingers, eyes, and tongue refine.

Head movement

Newborn babies can move their heads to the side, but they can’t control their necks and will need support to lift them. The eyes are one of the first body parts that the baby can move.

In fact, audio stimulation from voices or other general noises can cause the baby to move their head and direct their gaze to the source. During their second month, lying on their stomach, they’ll be able to lift their head, and even more so if there’s a stimulus.

mother holding child's head
Babies move their heads based on the external stimuli they receive. More than anything, these attract their gaze.

Using their arms

In the second month, the baby will shake their arms if they’re excited. This refers to gross motor skills, but we also see how they become curious about their own hands.

After trying many times, eventually, they’ll manage to get their hands to their mouths and suck on them; to start with it’ll be as a fist, but at some point, it’ll be a finger.

In the third month, the baby will kick so much that they’ll be able to turn around and start on their front and end on their back. Therefore, leaving them unattended on the changer or bed is a risk.

To do this, they’ve created a sensorimotor integration of the body parts that work together. For example, preparing themselves to move towards an object, a ray of light, or their mother’s arms. Their gross motor skills give them the impulse that their eyes and hands complete through the vestibular sense.

Following an object

This movement uses all of the above: neck control, use of the arms, and turning the body to get onto all fours towards an attractive element in their eye-line.

If they reach that object, they’re sure to take it in their hands, and from eight months, they can sit down to explore it. When interested enough, their eyes, mouth, tongue, gums, and teeth are activated. These are in charge of assessing and recognizing the world.

Catching a ball

All of the complicated processes that we can imagine happen when catching a ball. This skill begins to appear in babies at 24 months old. Keeping their balance with their arms outstretched and then catching a ball requires motor planning, hand-eye coordination, and bilateral thinking.

Exercises to stimulate gross motor skills

To do the exercises, the baby should be awake and calm. Also, you should do them in a musical, playful, and joyful environment, which you should reflect through your facial expression. Each achievement should be celebrated and applauded.

Gross motor skills: From 0 to 3 months

1. Lying on their back, allow the baby to hold onto your fingers and lift themselves slowly to sitting up for a few seconds. Then, make sure they lie back again. It’s not a good idea to keep them sitting. After two months, they’ll try to control their head doing this exercise.

2. In the same position, lying on their back, lift their arms to their chest for a few seconds and then outstretched. This routine favors their breathing and strengthens their upper limbs.

3. Put the baby on their stomach and allow their chin to rest on your arms. Or, simply put them in that position. Both ways help to tone their neck and shoulder muscles.

4. At three months, put the baby on their back and ring a bell on the opposite side of where they’ve been looking. The baby should turn their head to look for the source of the sound.

Gross motor skills: From 4 to 7 months

5. Lay the baby on their front and present it with a stimulus that makes them raise their head. They’ll try to help themselves with their arms and support themselves on their hands.

6. Now, we’ll see that one of the exercises to stimulate a baby’s gross motor skills consists of laying them on their back and holding onto their fingers, lift them up. In this stage, they’ll support their head. From 5 months they’ll be able to sit with a little support, and from six, they’ll be able to do so alone for a few seconds. When they can sit without help, they’ll try to move on their own. To motivate them, try to entice them to reach objects they’re interested in. After six months, if you drop a metallic object, they’ll look at it.

Gross motor skills: From 8 months to 1 year

7. The time for them to take their first steps has arrived! We suggest you put them in front of you, hold their hands, and lift them until they’re standing. Next, move one of their arms forward and then the other.

8. During this period, they’ll try to stand up when supported. Their spine needs to become more firm. So, you can hold them by their legs and lift them up completely for about two or three seconds. For their legs, place them on their back and grab them by their ankles to make them do a cycling movement.

baby walking with support from parent
A baby’s first steps are an achievement that the whole family can enjoy!

From 1 year on

9. Balance is essential in this intense stage. One exercise involves inviting them to collect toys from the floor, with the challenge of bending down and standing up with the object in their hands.

10. Another interesting exercise and game is rolling a ball. The idea here is that they receive it, watch it roll, roll it themselves and follow it with their body and their gaze. The interactive cycle is complete with them grabbing it and throwing it.

Exercises to stimulate a baby’s gross motor skills to strengthen the development stages

It’s essential not to force a baby’s musculoskeletal development. Every child is unique and each one has their own framework for learning. We recommend you manage expectations, statistics, and approximations. Overall, make sure your baby is healthy and happy.

Finally, don’t rush them to walk with devices like walkers; it’s better to allow them to crawl. Keep them on the floor for as long as possible and allow them to explore and discover their family territory. Crawling will help them to develop the sufficient necessary skills for their overall body balance.

It might interest you...
Are You Struggling to Bond with Your Newborn?
Step To Health
Read it in Step To Health
Are You Struggling to Bond with Your Newborn?

Struggling to bond with your newborn is normal so don't worry too much if it doesn't happen immediately after birth, it'll happen.