Kids & Company Blog

Building Gross Motor Skills Outdoors in Preparation for Kindergarten

This blog is written by our guest author, Kasha Pyka, who is a Pediatric Physiotherapist from Toronto Kids Physio. Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across the country; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way. If you have any questions or are in need of support connect with @kidsphysio on Instagram or visit

For most children, the transition into kindergarten is such an exciting milestone as it opens the door to making new friends, exploring new environments, and building on their gross motor skills! As parents, it’s often a time to reflect on our child’s development and make sure they are set up for success for a new year ahead - both mentally and physically. As children develop, the complexity of their gross motor skills increases — with movements requiring a greater degree of balance, strength, and coordination. For example, children learn to jump on two feet before they learn to jump on one foot. Though some gross motor skills are innate and develop naturally, other times children learn these skills through exposure. Child care, kindergarten, extracurricular classes, and public environments (such as playgrounds) are great places for children to develop these skills. Parents and caregivers can also help to provide opportunities to develop children’s gross motor skills — right from home! 

During the period of 4 to 6 years of age, children are learning how to move their bodies and are working on three basic fundamental movements:

Stationary skills

  • Movement skills performed “on the spot” without traveling across the floor or surface
  • This includes: balancing, bending, twisting, lifting

For stationary skills for children entering the kindergarten age range (i.e. 4-6 years of age), include being able  to stand on one foot for 5-10 seconds, which allows them to participate in games that involve kicking or “freeze”-type movements. Stationary skills also involve a lot of core strength, which they will also need in order to be able to sit up nice and tall at their desks for prolonged periods of time. To help progress their stationary skills, you can make things more fun at the park, such as:

  • Have your child stand on one foot and play “flamingo” where they have to stay in that position for a certain amount of time; or
  • Work on walking across stepping stones or surfaces further apart to improve single leg balance and core strengthening. 

Locomotion skills

  • Movement skills that incorporate traveling across the floor or surface
  • This includes: rolling, jumping, hopping, running, galloping

For locomotion skills, children should be able to jump forward, up in the air, and down surfaces by the time they enter kindergarten - ensuring that they’re pushing off and landing with both feet at the same time. This not only takes lower body strength, but also coordination - both of which need to be encouraged throughout play. To help progress these types of movements, the best option is to create obstacle courses in your home or backyard to incorporate multiple skills at a time. This can include making a “chalk obstacle course” on your driveway by:

  • Jumping on to different cement squares on the driveway;
  • Walking along a “line” drawn on the floor; 
  • Jumping on/off of small curbs at the end of the driveway; or
  • Single leg hopping on a homemade hopscotch board (chalk is your best friend!) 

Manipulative (ball) skills

  • Movement skills involving the control of objects, such as balls, primarily with the hands or feet; may also involve racquets or bats
  • This includes: bouncing, throwing, catching, kicking, striking

Children should be able to throw and catch smaller items; as well as kick balls with good contact and at targets. This can be tricky sometimes if your child hasn’t been exposed to ball-type games, which is totally okay, so starting slow and easy is the key! If your child has trouble catching a ball, you can play catch with larger stuffed animals, focusing on hugging the stuffie into their chest. Once they’ve mastered catching larger items, you can make the items smaller; and start having them “toss” them into laundry baskets to focus on targeting and hand-eye coordination. 

No matter where a child’s skills are compared to their peers, each child is on their own trajectory and as long as they’re making gains every 2-4 weeks (e.g. playing outside longer, not getting as fatigued, or building confidence to want to try new activities) then they are making great progress! The best way to support your child and their development is to get outside and be active, or you can try a few of these activities at home! If you notice differences between your child and their peers, or if you are curious about development, foot positioning, skills, posture, or just want to improve your child’s confidence, Physiotherapy is a great option to help them have fun - all while getting them stronger!

Kids Physio provides pediatric physiotherapy services across Canada; as babies, kids, and teens function differently from adults, and their spaces and team are equipped to provide the highest quality physiotherapy care, delivered in a FUN and engaging way.

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