Early Learning—Gross Motor Area

For most of us, our primary Gross Motor Area will be our outdoor playground which will, ideally, have a variety of hard and soft surfaces and a variety of stationary and movable materials.  As wonderful as the outdoor area can be, a Gross Motor Area inside can be very useful.  There are times when weather just doesn’t permit outdoor play and, of course, there are children who could use more gross motor time than you can provide outdoors. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a large, dedicated indoor Gross Motor area, you are in the minority.  So, we will talk about a Gross Motor Area within a classroom or Family Child Care Home.  Because of the activity level and noise level anticipated in this area, it should not be near any of your quieter areas.  Ideally, it will have a carpeted surface to provide some padding.  You will need to have mats around for any activities in which children are tumbling or off the ground in any way. 

Along with mats, you may want to include:

  • A balance beam or even just lines taped on the floor.
  • Balls of various sizes and textures.
  • Tunnels.
  • Large building blocks.
  • A small climbing structure.
  • Hula hoops.
  • Plastic cones.
  • A bean bag toss game.
  • Scarves or streamers.
  • A music player with some movement-type cds or mp3s.

Parents understand the need for children to get some extra energy out through gross motor play.  What we may need to help them understand is what their children learn through these types of activities.  Of course, there are the physical skills that are acquired, like hopping, skipping, bouncing a ball, balancing, etc.  But children can also acquire a sense of rhythm and the ability to move their bodies to rhythms.  Social skills are also huge in a Gross Motor Area.  Generally, this area won’t be big enough that everyone can do what they want at any given time, so they will have to learn skills like turn-taking and compromising; skills that will be important throughout their lives.

Misty