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10 Utterly Amazing Gross Motor Activities For Infants!

By Paula McLaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH | Updated: 27 October 2021

We all know 3 things: 

  1. Infants have endless energy,
  2. Every infant wants to play all the time,
  3. Motor development is vitally important to the wellbeing of our children.

So how can we combine all three into the perfect scenario?

Gross Motor Activities For Infants

Well with a bit of determination, I've compiled 10 amazing gross motor activities for infants that will keep baby entertained for hours and developing properly whilst doing so!

It's what I like to call a WIN-WIN.

  • Baby has fun? Check.
  • Parent is satisfied they're developing properly? Check.
  • Everyone gets a mental break? CHECK.

10 Utterly Amazing gross motor activities for infants!

So, here are my top 10 gross motor activities for infants that you can do starting right now!

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Foot Rattles

1. Foot rattles

What Is It? These are rattles that are specifically designed to be worn on your little one’s feet. They are specially designed socks with tactile fabric and rattles attached.

Why Do I Like It? I love these foot finders that encourage your baby to lift their legs in the air and grab their feet. This in itself is a great exercise for those all-important leg muscles and your baby will also start to rock from side to side which will eventually develop into rolling over.

Suitable For? 0-6 Months

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Pushing and Pulling

2. Pushing and Pulling

What Is It? Babies love toys that they can push and pull either while on their tummy, crawling or finally walking.

Why Do I Like It? Push and pull toys are so versatile and can be used from early on during tummy time through to when your baby is taking their first steps. They will need your help, to begin with, but as they grow they will love playing with these toys independently. 

Suitable For? 6-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Activity Bag

3. Activity bag for sitting

What Is It? A sensory bag is a ziplock bag filled with clear gel (like cheap hair gel) with added items such as coloured pebbles, beads or pom poms, sealed with tape and stuck to a vertical surface for your baby to play with.

Why Do I Like It? Sensory bags are brilliant gross motor activities for infants because they make a great DIY activity for young babies that you can fill with a variety of objects to entertain your baby while they are in a seated position. In order to play with the sensory bag, your baby will need to keep their head upright and look straight ahead while reaching forwards and upwards, thus improving balance and strengthening their upper body.

Suitable For? 6-12 Months

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Baby Walker

4. Baby walker

What Is It? Baby walkers come in all shapes and materials but your basic wooden baby walker with wooden building blocks is my favourite. 

Why Do I Like It? A baby walker that encourages your baby to bend down and pick things up and fill it is the best and they must be weighty enough to support your baby while they are learning to stand and walk. Getting the right baby walker will go a long way in helping your infant develop strong gross motor skills.

Suitable For? 9-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Climb The Stairs

5. Climb the stairs

What Is It? As simple as it sounds, helping your baby to get on all fours and climb the stairs with you at hand to keep them safe, is a great gross motor activity for infants.

Why Do I Like It? While it is imperative that you keep stairs gated at all times, supervised climbing of the stairs is a great way to teach your little one to get up safely and will also help build muscle and coordination necessary for continued gross motor development.

Suitable For? 9-12 Months

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Tunnel Fun

6. Tunnel Fun

What Is It? Set up the tunnel inside or outside and encourage your baby to crawl through. Start by placing yourself at the one end and your baby at the other and get them to crawl to you. As they get older you can develop the game by giving them items to hold as they crawl through the tunnel and place in a container at the other end.

Why Do I Like It? This is a great activity for developing developmental skills across the board. Apart from the obvious gross motor development in crawling practice it also helps to develop balance and fine motor skills.

Suitable For? 9-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Ball Play

7. Ball Play

What Is It? Ball play offers endless developmental opportunities or baby and can be included in your infant's play from very early on. From pushing a ball and reaching for a ball whilst sitting, chasing a ball while crawling and kicking a ball when they start walking, you will never run out of ideas!

Why Do I Like It? A ball should always be one of your staple toys and can be used in all sizes and textures to provide stimulating play for your baby. From tummy time to when they get up on their feet, balls will play a fun and vital part in their development not only improving gross motor skills but balance, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination too.

Suitable For? 4-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Ride On Toys

8. Rocking and Ride-On Toys

What Is It? Once your baby is able to sit on a rocking or ride-on toy, give them plenty of opportunities to do so. They will need your help to move the toy at first but eventually, they will acquire the skills to move the toy independently and they will love it.

Why Do I Like It? What is there not to love about a ride-on or rocking toy? They require your little one to move their body in order to get the toy to move so once your baby has the balance to sit on a ride-on toy the developmental benefits are endless. Rocking and ride-on toys make great gross motor activities for infants as they help develop balance, strengthen large muscles, as well as encourage and develop a liking for physical activity. 

Suitable For? 6-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Dancing

9. Dancing

What Is It? Put on some music and get dancing with your infant. Even your newborn will benefit from you dancing with them in your arms. Start by carrying them around the room as you dance and then as they get older hold them upright and finally, get them to dance independently. 

Why Do I Like It? Dancing is such an easy and spontaneous activity to do with your infant and the benefits are huge. Once they are able to stand, you can hold their hands when dancing and eventually they will dance on their own. Dancing also helps with vestibular development (inner ear balance system), coordination and rhythm as well as developing a love of physical exercise and movement. As your toddler grows dance can prove to be a great outlet for encouraging creative development too.

Suitable For? 0-12 Months and beyond

Gross Motor Activities For Infants Tummy Time

10. Tummy Time

What Is It? Tummy time is exactly what it says on the tin. Time spent on the tummy and is, without doubt, one of the best gross motor activities for infants as it helps to strengthening baby's upper body, neck and shoulders in preparation for bigger milestones to come.

Why Do I Like It? Tummy time is the foundation on which rolling, sitting, standing and walking will be built. Your biggest challenge will be to keep your baby entertained while on their tummy, as many will not like it at first. So use props such as tummy time books, tummy time mirrors and toys designed to make your baby reach out and grab.

Suitable For? 0-6 Months

Top Tip

If your little one is struggling with tummy time, check out my post Baby Hates Tummy Time to learn how to navigate this tricky situation.

Here's a quick easy to read list of my top gross motor activities for infants that you can screenshot and save for later!
  1. Foot Rattles
  2. Pushing and Pulling
  3. Activity Bags for Sitting
  4. Baby Walkers
  5. Climbing the Stairs
  6. Tunnel Fun
  7. Ball Play
  8. Rocking and Ride-On Toys
  9. Dancing
  10. Tummy Time

8 gross motor milestones infants will reach

An infant is defined as a baby that is 0-12 months of age. During this first year of life, your little one will reach many important developmental milestones and when it comes to gross motor skills this is what you can expect from a newborn to a 1-year-old.

0-3 months

  • Is able to lift head when on stomach
  • Can push up with arms when on stomach

3-6 months

  • Rolls from back to front
  • Can raise head when pulled to a sitting position

6-9 months

  • Is able to sit alone
  • Can raise their chest and upper abdomen when on tummy

9-12 months

  • Crawls
  • Cruises around furniture

To discover every milestone your little one will reach in their first year, be sure to download my FREE Printable Developmental Milestone Checklist!

Designed to be a one stop shop for all baby's milestones, I also included a bonus 1st Year Milestones too. Simply enter your email at the top or bottom of this post and you'll have the milestone checklist in your inbox in minutes!

To learn more about child development checklists and how useful they are, check out this post: This Child Development Milestone Checklist Is A Game Changer

Why are gross motor skills important in infants?

Gross motor skills are hugely important as they are the means by which your baby will learn to sit, crawl, pull to stand and walk. In addition, gross motor development establishes the necessary strength and endurance required for the successful development of fine motor skills.

How Are Gross And Fine Motor Skills Different?

Gross motor skills involve large movements that involve using muscles such as crawling, walking, running and kicking.

On the other hand, fine motor skills involve ‘fine’ movement such as grasping or picking objects up between finger and thumb.

Gross and fine motor skills often work hand in hand and frequently need each other to work successfully.

What will gross motor development lead to?

Skills learnt through gross motor activities for infants are linked to your baby learning the skills of:

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

Developed gross motor skills also lead to your infant being able to: 

  • Roll-over,
  • Sit,
  • Crawl - which strengthens hands and fingers in preparation for drawing and writing,
  • Pull to stand - which also develops balance,
  • Cruise around furniture - which develops balance and planning ahead,
  • Walk - which also improves balance and planning,
  • Running and jumping,
  • Throwing and kicking - which develops hand-eye coordination.

For more information about the importance of understanding your infant’s development pop over to my Beginners Guide To Child Development post to learn more.

What to do if your infant shows gross motor skill developmental delays?

As with everything, babies develop at their own pace and some infants will sit, crawl and walk before others. 

Some infants will sit on schedule but not want to crawl for ages while others may speed through these stages and then take ages to learn how to walk.

However, if you suspect that your little one is really behind in their gross motor development then you should seek medical advice.

Your doctor or paediatrician may recommend that you see a physical therapist or they may even give you certain targeted activities that you can practise with your baby at home.

There are few rare conditions that affect gross motor development but in most cases, practise and ensuring you are giving your baby the opportunities to develop their gross motor skills is all that is required.

If you have any further questions about gross motor activities for infants, be sure to drop me an email at [email protected] and let me know! I'll be happy to help.

I hope you enjoyed this post and if you enjoyed this content, be sure to share it around as it helps me produce more content for you!And until next time, with love and support, Happy Parenting!

Teething to Tantrums Author

Paula McLaren is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the childcare industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

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