What are gross motor skills?

By Gail Belsky

Gross motor skills: What you need to know, gross motor skills, mother and daughter riding bikes, riding bikes

At a glance

  • Gross motor skills involve movements of the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso.

  • People rely on gross motor skills for activities at school, at work, at home, and in their everyday lives.

  • People who struggle with gross motor skills have trouble doing whole-body movements like running and jumping.

Gross motor skills are abilities that let us do tasks that involve large muscles in our torso, legs, and arms. They involve whole-body movements. We use gross motor skills for all sorts of physical activities, from running to raking leaves. 

Most people use these skills easily and automatically. But gross motor skills are more complex than they might seem.

They involve the coordination of the muscles and the neurological system. They impact balance and coordination. They also form the basis for fine motor skills that help us make small movements like using a pencil.

Gross motor skills are related to other abilities. These include:

  • Balance
  • Coordination
  • Body awareness
  • Physical strength
  • Reaction time

Having poor gross motor skills can impact people in all areas of life. It can make it hard to do key tasks and school, work, and home. Difficulty with motor skills can also take a toll on self-esteem.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gail Belsky is executive editor at Understood. She has written and edited for major media outlets, specializing in parenting, health, and career content.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.