Wednesday 2 January 2013


Not really! Just thought I'd do a post about activities that practise "gross motor skills," (and I don't mean picking your nose in the car, although both mine are very accomplished at this!)
Having reminisced about our old mattress I was thinking of all the other physical things boys should do before they get to the slumping-infront-of-a-screen stage, (please let that not be just yet!!)
It seems being active is not just about being fit and healthy- although I reckon this is reason enough. I am no expert in physical development, or in the way the brain works, but two bits of information made me value the way kids jump, climb, balance along things etc much more than I might otherwise have done. One, which I found out about when I was teaching, was the connection between balance and dyslexia. I have taught a number of dyslexic children and each came with a range of different approaches to help them manage their learning difficulties and hopefully to improve them. One that came up a few times was the theory that dyslexia could be caused by the two different sides of the brain failing to communicate properly, and a therapy to improve the link between the two involved doing physical activities which promoted balance- like standing on wobble boards or lolo balls. Here's a bit of info if you're interested:
I don't know if this area of research will turn out to be a major factor in treating dyslexia but it is an interesting theory.
Some day you will be a great writer my son!
The other bit of information I read, which is a little more obvious, came in some information from "Tumble Tots", a fun, physical activity club which both my boys did when they were little. In order to develop the fine motor skills needed for writing, children first need to build up the strength in their arms and hands so they can comfortably grip a pencil. So swinging from trees and climbing frames etc is not just monkeying around, it's actually giving them the physical strength they need further down the line. Again, in my classroom I can clearly remember children saying, "I can't write anymore, my arm aches!" after a couple of sentences. I have to confess that at the time it sounded like a pretty lame excuse to me, but actually, since kids today are a lot less physically active, it is quite possible they hadn't developed the muscles they needed to use.

So here are a few pics to illustrate some of the physical things children can do without any expensive equipment or clever classes. These were all taken in our garden but we did spend a lot of time (literally)hanging about in all the local playgrounds too, which generally have great equipment and have the added bonus of teaching the young 'uns social skills- like waiting your turn for the slide or negotiating whose turn it is next on the zip wire!
Walking the plank.
Zac tackles the plank path.
For balancing we like planks! Martin made a little path of planks between tree stumps down the bottom of the garden that the boys learned to walk along, but a moveable plank is also good because you can put it between things or lean it to get a slope. They're wide enough for little people to manage but narrow enough to feel a bit risky, and you can vary the height as the kids grow- start with it lying on the grass and then move it higher. We also have a homemade climbing frame, and before the boys were strong enough to swing across the bars we had a plank to balance across:
Demonstrating a solid landing!

Jumping is also good for developing balance because you have to perfect the skill of landing. Danny always surprised me by being extremely good at landing on his feet and staying upright, even when he was tiny. Kids love jumping off things. In our garden, any piece of garden furniture becomes a launch pad, and the challenge to jump off higher and higher things seems eternally entertaining.

Climbing the lilac for a tight-rope challenge.

For building up strength swinging and climbing are great. We don't have any very mature trees to climb in our garden but there's a lilac and magnolia that have been challenge enough for the boys while they were small. As I mentioned, Martin also built us a climbing frame. Partly this was because making one out of a load of studwork timber was a lot cheaper than buying a ready made one, but also because a lot of modern climbing frames don't seem to give much opportunity to climb- there's one way up and a slide down, and I wanted them to have something where they could be a bit creative and be able to climb higher as their confidence grew. (There have been moments where I've regretted this as they clamber about, but so far- no serious accidents!)
Climbing high with the cousins.

So that's a few of my thoughts on getting the kids out and active, not only because it's good to be fit (and kids are lucky enough to be able to thoroughly enjoy getting fit through fun,) but also because physical activities may help the way your brain develops, and improve your ability to tackle fine motor skills such as writing when the time comes.
Strong enough to swing!

I haven't mentioned rolling, but you can start 'em young building up their spacial awareness!:


  1. Fantastic photos and a lovely video of the boys having such great fun together. I couldn't agree more with your views on getting children outdoors to explore their gross and fine motors skills and with six of my own that's exactly how they are growing up here on the farm. Thanks for linking up and sharing with Country Kids.

    1. Always jealous of your farm living! Ahh, that video clip makes me very nostalgic, they were so funny when they were little!

  2. Fantastic and interesting post. monkey loves Tumble Tots too and I love watching him learning these gross motor skills but it's good to remember that they also help his brain development etc. He can't jump yet bless him though he tries very hard! Lots of fun to be had outside in your garden, looks great! :) xx #countrykids

  3. Aah, it's a couple of years since we finished Tumble Tots but the boys still remember it fondly. They used to love sliding down the Big Cheese! I'd forgotten that magic moment when they first learn to jump both feet at the same time.

  4. I Love it! I especially love the logs and the balance beams and the homemade climbing frame and of course the rolling mound. I want to come and play! Our children love building things (and risk taking) with the "junk" in our garden. Sometimes, it's not so pleasing to the eye, but it makes me so happy to see them being inventive, being outdoors and getting physical. And working as a team:-)

    1. Haha, I had a conversation with my hubby only this week about the pros and cons of rolling a big tyre we found on a walk back home. Appearance value 0 Fun value 10.

  5. Great post! After a recent chat with our HV it's come to light that our youngest (born premature) is lagging behind a little on his gross motor skills so I'll be stealing some of your ideas to get him practising them whilst having fun :) x

  6. Hope you both have lots of fun.x