Little boys tend to enjoy activities parents might find gross, such as hiding frogs in their pockets. This is not a gross motor skill, but the act of catching the frog is. Boys practice gross motor skills when they run, skip, jump, catch, throw and kick -- basically any move that requires their full arms or legs. Fine motor skills, on the other hand, are small, precise moves such as writing a letter or coloring.
Difference in Boys and Girls
Boys seem to excel in the gross motor skills department, often developing faster in this area than girls. Girls usually grow stronger fine motor skills first, such as painting or cutting. According to BabyCenter.com, boys tend to be more physical overall, whether it's running, balancing, throwing a ball or acting aggressively, such as play wrestling. Boys also use gross motor skills in anger, such as when they push a friend who won't play a certain game or throw toys when they don't get their way. Each child is different, but in general, young boys -- especially those 2 to 6 years old -- often have better gross motor skills than girls.
Your baby boy starts working on his gross motor skills early in life. By the time he's 1 year old, he should be able to sit up on his own, crawl, pull up on his feet and perhaps take a few steps. At 2, he should be walking on his own, picking up items off the floor without losing his balance and climbing stairs on his feet while holding your hand. By 3, he's mastered running as well as jumping straight up and kicking a ball. Age 4 usually brings the ability to pedal a tricycle, catching a ball bounced to him and hopping on one foot. When he turns 5, he should be alternating his feet as he climbs stairs independently and turning somersaults. When his sixth birthday rolls around, he might be jumping rope, skating, skipping and walking on a balance beam without assistance. All boys develop at slightly different rates, so don't worry if your son isn't quite where you think he needs to be, but talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about his gross motor skill development.
Helping Him Develop
Providing age-appropriate activities can help your son develop his gross motor skills successfully. Rolling him a ball and asking him to roll it back is ideal when he's 2, then move up to bouncing it to him between ages 3 and 4 and throwing it underhand to him by age 5. Encourage him to ride a tricycle or bicycle with training wheels to develop his leg muscles, starting at 3 or 4 years old, and roll balls to him so he can kick them back. When he's as young as 2, play games of follow the leader that let you model activities such as jumping, standing on one foot, walking sideways by crossing your feet over one another and swinging your arms across your body like a gorilla. Crossing the midline, which is an imaginary line that runs vertically down the center of your body, is an important development skill that helps your child with reading development and other key activities. Kicking across your body when you dance or hugging yourself are examples of crossing the midline.
When There's a Problem
It's normal for boys to miss a few milestones as they develop. Often, a boy might be ahead in one area, such as running, but be not quite caught up in another area, such as catching a ball. Sometimes, children have a motor skill disorder that causes them to miss a substantial amount of milestones and be constantly clumsy. Your child might be unable to walk and carry an item at the same time without dropping it -- this is normal through about preschool age, but he should develop the ability by kindergarten, or age 6. Or, he might constantly trip over his own feet or be unable to turn in a circle without losing his balance. The disorder is difficult to diagnose in children until age 5 because their balance and gross motor skills can vary widely, but talk with your pediatrician if you believe your son is missing too many gross motor milestones -- if he's more than a year behind where he should be on two or more milestones, for example. Only about 6 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are diagnosed with a motor skill disorder so it's likely that your son is progressing at his own speed, but a doctor can help you determine if a problem exists.
- BabyCenter.com: Raising Boys and Girls: Differences in Physical Development
- LD Online: Early Identification - Motor Skills Milestones
- School Sparks: Gross Motor Development
- Homeschool Your Boys: Improving Gross Motor Skills in Children
- Medscape: Motor Skills Disorder
- E-Medicine Health: Motor Skills Disorder
- Brooks Rehabilitation: A Guide to Your Child’s Gross and Fine Motor Development
- Cameron Spencer/Digital Vision/Getty Images