Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are fundamental abilities that allow individuals to perform everyday physical activities. These skills involve the use of large muscle groups, including those in the arms, legs, and torso. Developing gross motor skills is crucial for children’s overall growth and is a significant focus in therapies such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy. At Chicago ABA Therapy, we recognize the importance of these skills and integrate their development into our comprehensive treatment plans.

What Are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills refer to the abilities required to control the large muscles of the body for activities such as walking, running, jumping, and sitting upright. These skills are essential for everyday functions, including movement and coordination.

Importance of Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are vital for several reasons:

  1. Physical Health: These skills help children participate in physical activities, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and building strong bones and muscles.
  2. Cognitive Development: Engaging in physical activities that require gross motor skills can also enhance cognitive development. For instance, playing sports can improve problem-solving skills and strategic thinking.
  3. Social Skills: Many gross motor activities are social in nature, such as playing tag or team sports. These activities help children learn to cooperate, take turns, and develop other social skills.
  4. Independence: Proficiency in gross motor skills contributes to a child’s independence. Simple tasks like dressing, feeding oneself, and moving around independently are all facilitated by well-developed gross motor skills.

Examples of Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills encompass a wide range of activities, including:

  • Walking and Running: Basic locomotor skills that are typically developed in early childhood.
  • Jumping and Hopping: These skills require both strength and coordination.
  • Throwing and Catching: Activities that enhance hand-eye coordination and arm strength.
  • Climbing: This involves both upper and lower body strength.
  • Balancing: Activities like riding a bike or standing on one foot develop balance and stability.
  • Swimming: An excellent full-body exercise that enhances overall coordination and strength.

Developmental Milestones

Children typically develop gross motor skills in a predictable sequence, although the exact age at which these milestones are reached can vary:

  • Infants (0-12 months): Rolling over, sitting without support, crawling, and pulling to stand.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years): Walking independently, running, climbing stairs with support, kicking a ball.
  • Preschoolers (3-5 years): Hopping on one foot, catching a ball, climbing playground equipment.
  • School-age Children (5-7 years): Riding a bicycle, swimming, jumping rope, participating in team sports.

Assessing Gross Motor Skills

Assessment of gross motor skills is an essential part of understanding a child’s developmental progress. This can be done through:

  • Observation: Watching a child perform various activities can provide insight into their gross motor abilities.
  • Standardized Tests: Tools like the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales or the Bruininks-Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency offer structured assessments.
  • Parental Reports: Parents can provide valuable information about their child’s daily activities and abilities.

Enhancing Gross Motor Skills through ABA Therapy

ABA therapy can play a significant role in enhancing gross motor skills, especially for children with developmental delays or disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). At Chicago ABA Therapy, our approach includes:

  1. Individualized Assessment: Each child’s current abilities and needs are assessed to create a tailored intervention plan.
  2. Targeted Interventions: Specific activities and exercises are designed to improve the child’s gross motor skills.
  3. Reinforcement Techniques: Positive reinforcement is used to encourage participation and progress.
  4. Parental Involvement: Parents are involved in the process to ensure continuity and support at home.

Activities to Improve Gross Motor Skills

Several activities can help improve gross motor skills in children:

  • Obstacle Courses: These can be set up with everyday household items and can include activities like crawling under tables, jumping over pillows, and balancing on a line of tape.
  • Outdoor Play: Activities like playing at the park, riding a bike, or playing tag can naturally enhance gross motor development.
  • Sports and Games: Enrolling children in sports or organizing group games like soccer, basketball, or relay races can be beneficial.
  • Dance and Movement Classes: These classes not only improve gross motor skills but also boost confidence and social interaction.


Gross motor skills are a fundamental aspect of a child’s development, impacting their physical health, cognitive abilities, social interactions, and overall independence. At Chicago ABA Therapy, we are dedicated to supporting the development of these crucial skills through tailored, evidence-based approaches. By understanding and enhancing gross motor skills, we help children lead more active, independent, and fulfilling lives.

For more information on our services and how we can help your child develop essential gross motor skills, please contact Chicago ABA Therapy today.


  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from AAP website
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Important Milestones: Your Child By One Year. Retrieved from CDC website
  • Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process (3rd Edition). American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 68(Supplement_1), S1-S48.
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